NBA Players

15 Best Dunkers Ever To Grace The Basketball Court

By Salim Prajapati / 22 December 2023 08:38 AM

Source : forbes

Basketball, characterized by athleticism, skill, and finesse, has consistently embodied these qualities throughout its history.

The breathtaking and visually spectacular act of a powerful dunk stands out as one of the most thrilling moments on the court. Dunking has evolved into a crucial aspect of the game, captivating the imaginations of fans and impressing opponents with its sheer excitement.

Over time, numerous impressive dunks and dunkers have graced the basketball scene, with a notable group of exceptional performers.

This compilation will mainly concentrate on the most outstanding dunkers in NBA history, showcasing their consistent ability to deliver impactful plays during games, especially in crucial moments.

1. Vince Carter

Source : twitter

  • Position: SG, SF
  • Playing Career: 1998-2020
  • 2000 NBA Slam Dunk Contest champion

Vince Carter, also known as "Vinsanity", "Half-Man, Half-Amazing," and "Air Canada" soared through the NBA for over two decades, defying gravity with his electrifying dunks.

Standing at 6-foot-6 with a 43-inch vertical leap, Carter could yam on anyone, anywhere. His iconic 2000 Slam Dunk Contest performance cemented his legacy, featuring the mind-bending "elbow dunk" where he contorted his arm to windmill the ball through the hoop.

He threw down vicious reverse slams, tomahawks from the free throw line, and even dunked on 7-foot-2 Yao Ming twice.

2. Dominique Wilkins

Source : slamonline

  • Position: SF
  • Playing Career: 1982-1999
  • 2x NBA Slam Dunk Contest champion (1985, 1990)

Dominique Wilkins, also known as "The Human Highlight Reel," was a high-flying forward who dominated the NBA in the 1980s and 1990s.

Wilkins was known for his incredible athleticism, particularly his powerful dunks. He achieved victory in the Slam Dunk Contests not once, but twice, claiming the title in both 1985 and 1990.

His dazzling dunks consistently captured the attention of fans with their electrifying and seemingly gravity-defying nature. Wilkins was a nine-time NBA All-Star from 1986 to 1994.

3. Julius Irving

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  • Position: SF
  • Playing Career: 1971-1987
  • 1976 ABA Slam Dunk champion

Erving popularized the dunk from the foul line on a broader scale by showcasing the skill during the 1976 ABA All-Star Game Slam Dunk Contest.

Likewise, during Game 6 of the 1977 NBA Finals, Erving executed a powerful slam dunk over Bill Walton's extended arms while Walton was positioned in the post. Many regard this particular dunk as one of the most forceful attempts in basketball history.

He also dunked Michael Cooper which radio broadcaster Chick Hearn best explained as a "Rock the Baby" dunk.

4. Darryl Dawkins

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  • Position: Center
  • Playing Career: 1975-1996, 1999-2000

Darryl Dawkins gained notable recognition during his time in the National Basketball Association (NBA) with the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Nets.

However, he also had brief stints with the Detroit Pistons and Utah Jazz towards the end of his career. Standing at 6'11" and weighing 265 pounds, he was a powerful presence in the paint.

Dawkins became renowned for his formidable dunking abilities, prompting the NBA to introduce breakaway rims after he shattered a backboard twice in 1979. He consistently scored in double figures in nine out of his 14 NBA seasons.

5. Shawn Kemp

Source : ebay

  • Position: PF
  • Playing Career: 1989-2003

When Shawn Kemp charged toward the basket, the smart move was to step aside because he slammed the ball down harder than anyone else.

His nickname "Reign Man" came from not just being super athletic and fast on the court, but also from how aggressively he dunked, making him one of the best dunkers ever.

After making defenders look silly with his high-flying alley-oops or powerful two-handed dunks, he'd often tease them afterward, making them feel even more embarrassed.

In a 1992 playoff game against the Golden State Warriors, Kemp pulled off a legendary dunk over center Alton Lister.

6. Michael Jordan

Source : britannica

  • Position: SG, SF
  • Playing Career: 1984-1993, 1995-1998, 2001-2003
  • 2x NBA Slam Dunk Contest champion (1987, 1988)

An essential aspect of Michael Jordan's playing style involved his remarkable skill in driving toward the hoop, and his unparalleled vertical jump set him apart from everyone else.

When Jordan leaped into the air, everything seemed to freeze. Spectators anxiously awaited the outcome, capturing the moment with rapid camera clicks.

Opponents prepared for a challenging situation, anticipating the worst. Yet, Jordan remained composed, casually sticking out his tongue, embodying the tranquility preceding an impending storm.

Suspended in mid-air, he adeptly absorbed contact before elegantly and stylishly slamming the ball through the hoop.

7. Blake Griffin

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  • Position: C, PF
  • Playing Career: 2009-present
  • 2011 NBA Slam Dunk Contest champion

Blake Griffin, the high-flying forward, is not just a dunker, he is an aerial assault.

Standing at 6-foot-9 with a chiseled frame and athleticism that defied gravity, Griffin redefined what a dunk could be. His slams were ferocious two-handed throws, rim-rattling tomahawks, and audacious windmills that seemed to mock the very limitations of human vertical leap.

Moreover, Griffin initiated a fundraising campaign named "Dunking for Dollars," pledging to contribute $100 for each successful dunk he achieves throughout the season to combat childhood obesity.

8. Clyde Drexler

Source : reddit

  • Position: SG, SF
  • Playing Career: 1983-1998

One of the most befitting monikers in NBA history, Clyde “The Glide” Drexler captivated audiences with his mesmerizing ability to effortlessly glide towards the basket and culminate each play with remarkable style.

Drexler displayed a diverse array of awe-inspiring dunks, showcasing his capacity to finish with finesse using either one or two hands amidst heavy traffic or on fast breaks, solidifying his status as one of the league's preeminent entertainers.

In 1989, Drexler achieved a Portland Trail Blazer milestone by slam dunking on a rim that measured 11 feet 1 inch, setting a new record for the team.

9. LeBron James

Source : pinterest

  • Position: SF, PF
  • Playing Career: 2003-present

LeBron James has been throwing down thunderous dunks since his high school days, and he has continued to amaze fans with his aerial assault well into his 20th season.

The 6-foot-9 small forward with a chiseled physique, James possesses the strength and athleticism to power through defenders and elevate for rim-rattling slams.

His signature tomahawk dunk, where he windmills his arm back before spiking the ball through the hoop, is a thing of beauty, and his chase-down blocks often end with him throwing down an emphatic dunk on the other end.

10. Shaquille O'Neal

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  • Position: Center
  • Playing Career: 1992-2011

When Shaquille O’Neal rose for a dunk, it elicited sympathy for anyone assigned to thwart him.

Not only would the defender end up featured on highlight reels, but they would also frequently find themselves dealing with the formidable 300-pound Shaq.

O'Neal displayed overpowering skills and asserted dominance from the beginning. In addition to his already uncommon size, his agility and athleticism set him apart even within the select group of players of his stature.

11. Kobe Bryant

Source : twitter

  • Position: SG, SF
  • Playing Career: 1996-2016
  • 1997 NBA Slam Dunk Contest champion

Kobe Bryant, a Bleacher Reports honorable mention on the list of greatest game dunkers, possessed the skill to elegantly slam dunk, often leaving spectators in awe as he soared to the basket, whether during a fast break or amidst congestion on the court.

Standing 6'6", he defied limitations with explosive leaps and body control, throwing down thunderous dunks in traffic, defying taller defenders with one-handed jams, and even finishing reverse windmills with acrobatic flair.

His 1997 Slam Dunk Contest victory showcased his smooth crossovers and hangtime, while his in-game dunks often punctuated intense moments, leaving crowds roaring.

12. Tracy McGrady

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  • Position: SG, SF
  • Playing Career: 1997-2013

Tracy McGrady, often shortened to T-Mac, was not just a silky smooth scorer, he was a dunk artist in his prime. McGrady possessed ferocious athleticism and a diverse dunk package.

He could soar for thunderous one-handers, rock the rim with authority, and leave defenders posterized with baseline slams. His dunk over 7'6" Shawn Bradley in Game 2 of the first round of the 2005 playoffs remains legendary, while his windmill and tomahawk repertoire kept crowds gasping.

McGrady's aerial assault was a sight to behold, etching his name among the NBA's best dunkers in the early 2000s.

13. Gerald Green

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  • Position: SG, SF
  • Playing Career: 2005-2022
  • 2007 NBA Slam Dunk Contest champion

When Gerald Green propels himself off the ground, it appears as though he continues ascending higher and higher, undoubtedly gazing down at the basketball hoop during some of his dunk shots.

Green emerged victorious in the 2007 NBA Slam Dunk Contest on February 17, outperforming Nate Robinson, Tyrus Thomas, and Dwight Howard.

In addition, his in-game windmill alley-oop dunk against the Houston Rockets on March 10, 2012, was described as one of the most impressive and spectacular in NBA history.

14. David Thompson

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  • Position: SG
  • Playing Career: 1975-1984

One of the best dunkers in NBA history, David Thompson frequently employed his impressive 44-inch vertical jump to gain an upper hand, delivering powerful slam dunks on those daring to stand beneath the basketball hoop.

Thompson was renowned for his extraordinary leaping ability, which not only distinguished him as one of the game's most exceptional dunkers in the 1970s but also garnered him the iconic nickname "Skywalker".

He secured the second position behind Julius Erving in the first Slam-Dunk Competition, which took place during the 1976 ABA All-Star Game.

15. Jason Richardson

Source : twitter

  • Position: SG, SF
  • Playing Career: 2001-2015
  • 2x NBA Slam Dunk Contest champion (2002, 2003)

Jason Richardson is said to possess an impressive 46-inch vertical jump, enabling him to reach greater heights than the majority of individuals.

This led to numerous impressive slam dunks throughout his career, and he demonstrated no reluctance in attempting 360-degree spins, windmills, and alley-oops during games.

The two-time Slam Dunk winner displays a unique dunking style characterized by a blend of strength, style, and athleticism. Notably, he exclusively executes dunks using a two-footed approach.