The NBA is an ever-changing league, but the lack of enthusiasm behind the slam dunk contest may be the strongest indication that things are different. With the lack of innovation and star power that it once had, we can only reminisce about the best slam dunk contests in NBA history.
I Can Be Your Superman: Dwight Howard Outlasts Gerald Green
There was a time in the NBA when the center position mattered, and Dwight Howard was the most dominant one in the game. Howard showed his high-flying capabilities with a Superman cape when he defeated Gerald Green at the 2008 Slam Dunk Contest.
Howard’s highlight was viciously throwing one down from the foul line. Although Howard’s free-throw line jam was more of a throw since he didn’t touch the rim, it’s one of the best dunks ever.
Defying the Odds: Spud Webb’s Stunning Showcase
People often forget how tall NBA players truly are. Typically, we consider anyone over six feet tall in the everyday world, even though this height in the NBA is well below average.
So, a 5′7″ Spud Webb participating in the slam dunk contest isn’t something in the sports world you would place your bet on.
Nevertheless, the Atlanta Hawks guard—who couldn’t even palm a basketball—outdueled his highlight reel of a teammate, Dominique Wilkins. Webb had a solid 13-year career, averaging nearly 10 points per game for a handful of teams, but the dunk contest is something he could always hang his hat on.
I’m Him: Michael Jordan Arrives
Two years after Webb bested Wilkins, the “Human Highlight Film” ran into the buzzsaw known as Michael Jordan. Jordan’s All-Star weekend was among the greatest performances in NBA history, considering his 40 points led the Eastern Conference to a 138-133 victory over his Western counterparts.
Still, the dunk contest is all that anyone remembers.
Watching Jordan jump from the free throw line and glide to stuff the ball in the hoop was a harbinger for things to come as the game’s best player. And there’s no need to feel bad for “‘Nique” because he did win two competitions in 1985 and 1990, respectively.
Believe the Hype: Vince Carter’s Masterpiece
Whether it’s an athlete’s sky-high expectations or a movie that comes with the highest of recommendations, not everything lives up to the hype.
However, Vince Carter’s participation in the 2000 NBA Slam dunk contest was highly anticipated and did not disappoint. From the first dunk, it was a foregone conclusion that Carter was in a class by himself.
After all, his forearm-inside-the-rim dunk seemed mundane compared to the rest of his repertoire.
A Battle for the Ages: Zach LaVine Fends Off Aaron Gordon
Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine were as close to a perfect dunk contest as possible. Out of the 300 combined points they could have scored on their dunks, LaVine got 299 and Gordon 291.
It’s a big enough feat to do one thing no one has seen before, but the pair continued to trade blows that stunned the crowd. The NBA should have retired the dunk contest after their efforts because there was zero chance anyone could make it that magical again.
The best slam dunk contests in NBA history saw these gifted athletes jump out of the gym and go between their legs better than anyone else. We’d be hard-pressed to get a fraction of the action we saw in these with any competition going forward.