The 20 Most Electric NBA Slam Dunk Contest Performances

Slam Dunk 2018 560x315Did you know that before 1976 the NCAA did not allow dunking? The NBA was already allowing it since long before then, and so was the ABA. But in 1976, the slam dunk became one of the most popular and exciting plays in basketball because it was now allowed in all levels of competition.

In order to take advantage of this excitement, the ABA began the very first Slam Dunk competition in 1976 but it was also the last one ever for the league as it would merge with the NBA the following season. It took the NBA until 1984 before they decided to start their very own slam dunk contest and they were surprised as how quickly it became one of the most exciting events at every All-Star weekend.

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The 1984 Slam Dunk contest did not have the flash and the excitement of the ones that followed but it did showcase some of the leagues most incredible dunkers throwing down the most creative and unique dunks anyone had ever seen up until that point. Larry Nance won the competition after compiling 134 points in the Finals to defeat Julius Erving, whom only had 122 (but he did land a perfect 50).

Since 2011, the Slam Dunk contest has flatlined after multiple big name stars began turning down the invitation to participate for various reasons including the fear of losing. If that is not true than why hasn’t LeBron James entered when everyone knows he has insane hops for a man of his size?

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The NBA has even considered eliminating the contest because the crowds and viewers just do not care so much about it anymore. But until that time, we will continue to enjoy the contest and one way we can showcase our love for it is by ranking the 20 most exciting performances in it’s history. We are talking about one player and not the entire contest. This is focusing on the individual performances from the first to the last dunk of the night. Enjoy.

20) 1986: Spud Webb, Atlanta Hawks

  • Finish: Slam Dunk Contest Champion
  • Scores
    • 1st Round: 46, 48, 47 (141)
    • Semi-Finals: 50, 42, 46 (138)
    • Finals: 50, 50 (100)

19) 2008: Gerald Green, Minn. T’Wolves

  • Finish: 2nd Place
  • Scores
    • 1st Round: 46, 45 (91)
    • Finals: 22% – Finished in 2nd Place after the Fan Vote via Text Messaging

18) 2011: JaVale McGee, Denver Nuggets

  • Finish: 2nd Place
  • Scores
    • 1st Round: 50, 49 (99)
    • Finals: 32% – Finished in 2nd Place after the Fan Vote via Text Messaging

17) 1994: Isaiah Rider, Minnesota T’Wolves

  • Finish: Slam Dunk Contest Champion
  • Scores
    • 1st Round: 46.8
    • Finals: 49, 47 *Lowest Score was eliminated

16) 2000: Steve Francis, Houston Rockets

  • Finish: 2nd Place
  • Scores
    • 1st Round: 45, 50, 32 (95) *Lowest Score was eliminated
    • Finals: 43, 48 (91)

15) 2009: Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic

  • Finish: 2nd Place
  • Scores
    • 1st Round: 50, 50 (100)
    • Finals: 48% – Finished in Second after the Fan Vote via Text Messaging

14) 2005: Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks

  • Finish: Slam Dunk Contest Champion
  • Scores
    • 1st Round: 45, 50 (95)
    • Finals: 50, 50 (100)

13) 2006: Andre Iguodala, Philly 76ers

  • Finish: 2nd Place (Lost by One point after his third dunk in the final round)
  • Scores
    • 1st Round: 45, 50 (95)
    • Finals: 50, 44 (94)
    • Tie-Breaker: 46

12) 2003: Jason Richardson, G.S. Warriors

  • Finish: Slam Dunk Contest Champion
  • Scores
    • 1st Round: 50, 50 (100)
    • Finals: 45, 50 (95)

11) 2011: Blake Griffin, L.A. Clippers

  • Finish: Slam Dunk Contest Champion
  • Scores
    • 1st Round: 49, 46 (95)
    • Finals: 68% – Fan Vote via text messaging

10) 1985: Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls

  • Finish: 2nd Place
  • Scores
    • 1st Round: 44, 42, 42 (130)
    • Semi-Finals: 45, 47, 50 (142)
    • Finals: 43, 44, 49 (136)

9) 1988: Dominique Wilkins, Atlanta Hawks

  • Finish: 2nd Place
  • Scores
    • 1st Round: 49, 47 (96)
    • Semi-Finals: 49, 47, 47 (143)
    • Finals: 50, 50, 45 (145)

8) 2016: Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic

  • Finish: 2nd Place (Finished Second following two consecutive Tie-Breaking Dunks, losing by 3 points)
  • Scores
    • 1st Round: 45, 49 (94)
    • Finals: 50, 50 (100)
    • Tie-Breakers: 50, 47

7) 1987: Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls

  • Finish: Slam Dunk Contest Champion
  • Scores
    • 1st Round: 41, 47 (88)
    • Semi-Finals: 49, 49, 50 (148)
    • Finals: 48, 48, 50 (146)

6) 1985: Dominique Wilkins, Atlata Hawks

  • Finish: Slam Dunk Contest Champion
  • Scores
    • 1st Round: 47, 49, 49 (145)
    • Semi-Finals: 48, 45, 47 (140)
    • Finals: 47, 50, 50 (147)

5) 2016: Zach LaVine, Minnesota T’Wolves

  • Finish: Slam Dunk Contest Champion
  • Scores
    • 1st Round: 50, 49 (99)
    • Finals: 50, 50 (100)
    • Tie-Breakers: 50, 50

Just when the world thought the Slam Dunk contest was near it’s end, the 2016 contest happened and gave us two amazing dunkers battling like it was 1988. Aaron Gordon might have won had it not been for Zach LaVine’s insane hops. Three different times, LaVine jumped from the free throw line, adding new elements every time, including throwing down a windmill dunk on an alley-oop pass and also from between the legs. There might be two people in the world that can do those dunks and he was one of them.

4) 2008: Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic

  • Finish: Slam Dunk Contest Champion
  • Scores
    • 1st Round: 50, 50 (100)
    • Finals: 78% – Fan Vote via Text Messaging

At 6’11”, and with a vertical leap of 39.5″, Dwight Howard has an advantage that many fans considered to make him less exciting to watch. However, in 2008, he traveled down to New Orleans and proved that even the big men in the NBA could entertain in the dunk contest. Heading into the contest, he had become known by his nickname of Superman and Dwight took advantage of it by throwing down a dunk while wearing the Superman cape. He did not slam it, he did not even touch the rim, he jumped so high that he was able to throw the ball in from up high like a baseball and it was glorious.

3) 1990: Dominique Wilkins, Atlanta Hawks

  • Finish: Slam Dunk Contest Champion
  • Scores
    • 1st Round: 48.1, 48.2 (96.3)
    • Semi-Finals: 48.0, 49.7 (97.7)
    • Finals: 47.9, 49.7, 49.2 (146.8)

Unlike in today’s Slam Dunk contest, the earlier ones featured a few more dunks. Dominique Wilkins won the 1990 Slam Dunk contest after making seven dunks on the night, each one of them rated 47.9 or higher and each time he dunked, he put more and more distance from the rest of the field. Kenny Smith had a better Semi-Finals round than Wilkins but failed to beat him in the Finals after putting up a final dunk that was about two points less.

2) 1988: Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls

  • Finish: Slam Dunk Contest Champion
  • Scores
    • 1st Round: 47, 47 (94)
    • Semi-Finals: 50, 48, 47 (145)
    • Finals: 50, 47, 40 (147)

The 1988 Slam Dunk contest featured a star-studded cast. Besides Michael Jordan, the lineup included Dominique Wilkins, Clyde Drexler, the 1986 Slam Dunk Champion Spud Webb, and the runner-up from the 1987 Slam Dunk contest Jerome Kersey. But the only thing anyone remembers is Michael Jordan’s performance. It was the moment Air Jordan was born. Every single dunk electrified the crowd including the dunk he made from the free throw line that inspired the icon to the Jordan brand. How can this not be the top performance?

1) 2000: Vince Carter, Toronto Raptors

  • Finish: Slam Dunk Contest Champion
  • Scores
    • 1st Round: 50, 49, 50 (100) *Lowest Score was eliminated
    • Finals: 50, 48 (98)

At first glance, the 2000 NBA Slam Dunk contest could be considered the greatest contest of all time. Sadly, outside of the top three performances of the night (Vince Carter, Steve Francis, and Tracy McGrady), the competition was wasting time as we all awaited to see the next Vince Carter dunk because he truly owned the night. He threw down some of the most amazingly difficult dunks we had ever seen at the time and he did it with virtual ease. The thing that makes these contest great is when the champion excites the crowd, shows us his creativity, and does not miss, anything. Vince went 5-5 on the night, making it a tough act to follow. His 2000 performance will remain the greatest until the next big name star decides to join the event and amaze us all.