Bill Trikos 10 best NBA dunk contests: The 2020 slam dunk contest was a neck-and-neck affair, combined with a little sprinkle of nostalgia. Dwight Howard paid homage to his victory at the 2008 Slam Dunk contest. But more importantly, he also gave a nod to former Slam Dunk contest winner and Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant. But in the battle for dunking supremacy, after registering 50-point dunks, both Derrick Jones and Aaron Gordon faced off. Unfortunately, the Dunk Contest championship remained elusive for Gordon as Jones tallied the better the dunk by scoring 48-47 in the final frame. See extra details about the author on Bill Trikos.
Carter took over the league and put the Toronto Raptors on the map. However, it wasn’t until the 2000 Slam Dunk contest that the whole basketball world took notice of Air Canada. Half-man, half-amazing, Carter put together the greatest individual performance in Slam Dunk Contest history. Vinsanity knocked everybody off their feet with a 360 windmill dunk. Then, his signature elbow dunk was even more impressive. Carter was so spectacular that most people don’t even remember that Steve Francis and Tracy McGrady also had some dunks for the ages.
When it comes to dunking, Vince Carter needn’t save his best for last. Nor did he during his appearance at the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest in Oakland, California. In truth, Vinsanity might’ve peaked at the outset. He wowed the crowd at Oracle Arena from the get-go with a reverse 360-degree windmill. What’s more impressive is he didn’t have any clue he would do it until he stepped on the court for his first run. As he recounted to Sportsnet’s Dave Zarum: Right before I grabbed the basketball from the referee for my first dunk, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I really didn’t know. So I thought, What do I want to accomplish with the look? I’m looking for creativity, hang time, and all the things I had been studying many years before. All of these years are coming into one night, one moment. And here I am, minutes before it’s my chance to show the world, and it’s just like, Oh gosh, what should I do here?
A 360 dunk is impressive by itself. But a 360 dunk by someone who’s 5-foot-6? Spud Webb did the unthinkable in the 1986 contest, dethroning reigning champion and then-Atlanta Hawks teammate Dominique Wilkins. Webb threw down a variety of great dunks, but his 360 one-handed jam was the best of the bunch. At 5-foot-6, Webb is the shortest player to ever win the Slam Dunk Contest. Maybe it’s a bit of recency bias, but three dunks from the epic Zach LaVine-Aaron Gordon showdown in 2016 crack the top five. The first comes from LaVine, who was the reigning champ at the time. The then-Timberwolves guard grabbed the ball off one bounce with his left hand, put it behind his back in mid-air and then flushed home a reverse dunk with his right. The more I watch it, the more I think it might have ranked it too low.
“Spud kind of duped him,” then-Hawks head coach Mike Fratello said, per Yahoo Sports’ Jay Busbee. “He told Wilkins he never had anything prepared, didn’t practice for it. So, Wilkins maybe thought his normal assortment would be good enough to get through.” Not against Webb, who, at 5’6″, still stands as the shortest person to ever be the league’s slam dunk champion. With one inspirational slam, Dee Brown may have set off two cultural phenomena.
We’ve seen players throw the ball off the glass and go through the legs. We’ve seen players jump over people and dunk. Until this moment, we had never seen a player jump over someone, throw the ball off the glass and put it between their legs for a dunk. Nash deserves as much credit as Stoudemire here, but the timing and precision of this dunk help it crack the top 10. Stoudemire threw the perfect pass off the backboard and Nash delivered an even more perfect header for the 360. The Slam Dunk Contest had never seen anything like this before. All you can do is laugh when you see this dunk. Webb is 5’7. You are not supposed to be able to do 360 dunks off of a lob at that height. It looks like a video game glitch the way Webb rises up to finish this one.
In truth, the tougher task for all involved will be coming up with—and pulling off—a move worthy of all-time consideration. Scroll through the history of the dunk contest—which began in 1984 and took a break in 1998 and 1999—and you’ll see just about every shape and style of slam imaginable. How, then, could the latest quartet of entrants hope to break new ground? It’s a question fans have asked every year, and it’s been answered affirmatively just as often. So long as there’s fresh blood in the field, there will always be something new, different and downright unbelievable to behold.