Quick question: What’s the dunk that makes you close your eyes, look down and shake your head in disbelief? Is it Shaq crippling an entire backboard? Vince Carter being half-man, half-amazing? Or Giannis straight hurdling a guy the other day?
Maybe you can’t get a dunk-contest moment out of your head, like Aaron Gordon jumping over his own mascot, or Jason Richardson’s seemingly impossible 360 windmill. (Although Shaq did tell us his kid can do a 720.) Perhaps it’s Brittney Griner thundering to the rim, or Blake Griffin leaping over a freakin’ car. Hell, maybe you remember Michael when he became the Jumpman...or at least Dwight back when he was Superman. (But he can still posterize, too.)
Such is the magical effect of the slam dunk: Even when you know it’s coming, it takes your breath away. Even when Steph’s step-back threes are coming for Vince’s honey-dip throne, a dunk can stretch the imagination with a mix of athleticism, artistry and authority. It can test the limits of humanity, gravity and swagger all at once, just like that.
Have you watched that video up there? 👆B/R invited Vince Carter himself—the man who evolved the dunk like no other—to guide us through five hall-of-fame slams with the help of 5-star high school prospect and jump-out-the-gym Instagram sensation Cassius Stanley.
We’ll get to those—and more of the greatest dunks in NBA history—as we celebrate the slam in the words of 18 connoisseurs, from OGs like Dominique Wilkins and Spud Webb to the likes of Gordon and Zach LaVine...plus this year’s All-Star Slam Dunk participants: Larry Nance Jr. Donovan Mitchell, Victor Oladipo and Dennis Smith Jr.
But first, another quick question: Why does a great dunk matter, anyway?
It’s more than just two points. “It can get the crowd into the game,” says Richardson, the two-time Slam Dunk Contest champion. “It can motivate your team, get your team excited and get yourself going when you have one of those big dunks—especially if you’re dunking on somebody. Those are game-changers, momentum-changers. You see that at every level, no matter if it’s high school, college or professional.”
To hear legends and legends-in-the-making tell it, there is no GOAT dunker—no best or worst slam, no first dunk ever and certainly no end in sight. To answer questions about the best play in sports, you gotta watch the top 10 (or so) dunks of all time, in no particular order. You gotta let the past meet the present. Because the slam dunk has always kinda been from the future to begin with.
Let’s start with the ultimate poster, shall we? 👇