The NBA’s Top Dunkers: Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and more…
What’s good, basketball fans?
We continue the Articles that Diminish My Credibility as a Writer series with a look at the league’s top dunkers, from the finesse finishers to the players that pack it in with power. Since all dunks are worth two points (excepting those in the contest), this is a highly subjective topic, so I’m not pretending to have devised a formula for measuring the high-flyers against one another, which is why the following list is in no particular order. That said, style, elevation, creativity and the ability to jam over defenders will all be considered as factors. The only other point to note is that these players have been chosen for their in-game dunking, which is why some dunk contest entrants have been omitted.
Let’s get it going.
“Who slams harder: Onyx or Vince Carter? Onyx!”
Slam Harder – Onyx
I beg to differ. Vince might have his haters, but he still has his hops, even if he does break them out less often now. In terms of consistently finishing dunks that cause me to drop whatever it is I’m holding or cough up anything I’m eating, Vince might be the best ever. As a young ‘un, he pulled the rabbit out of the hat on a nearly nightly basis, completing the type of plays that few other athletes would attempt to perform even in an empty gym. With the perfect physique for the task and the creativity of a musician (he played the saxophone in high school and was even offered a scholarship as a result), Vince is, to many, the ultimate dunker. Whether or not that is the case, there’s little doubt that he takes the title for the greatest facial ever. If you can throw down a tomahawk so filthy that your victim becomes famous as a result, you might just be the best that ever did it.
Although a little longer than your average leaper, Smith is still capable of jamming with the best of them. His dunk contest performance is obviously what first comes to mind for most, but many forget some of the monster stuffs he produced during the season. His being a lefty benefits him here as he often catches defenders by surprise as they position themselves to block a right-handed shot and find themselves on a poster a split second later. With a vertical which must be approaching forty inches and a wingspan that allows him to hold the ball away from anyone who comes between him and the goal, Smith is one of the few athletes in the league who regularly takes off with the intention of simply going over any obstacles in his path.
While Ricky might be most famous for a jam he didn’t complete (the through-the-legs tomahawk he blew on the break), he still deserves a mention among the league’s elite dunkers for the scalps he has taken through the years. Many swingmen prefer to finish with twisting layups and gentle floaters in the lane, but Tricky has a thing for slamming it home in traffic, whether he has a clear look at the basket or not. Perhaps the best example of this came when he broke free on the baseline against Detroit and was met by Mehmet Okur at the bucket. Instead of lofting the ball over the defender or attempting to shoot around him as any normal player would, Ricky decided instead to cock it back and wait until Okur had run out of hang-time before throwing it down his throat. Also noteworthy was the breakaway spike against the Mavericks which saw him nearly clear Steve Nash, who, despite having made a career out of good judgement, thought it a good attempt to try to take a charge.
With the development of his mid-range game and the addition of a number of pull-up and turnaround moves to his arsenal, it looked for a brief while as if Kobe’s best dunking days were behind him. However, two vicious, gravity-defying reverse double-handers (against New York and Utah, if memory serves) were enough to remind us why he won the dunk contest all those years ago. Then, to confirm that he was still as bad as ever, he served fellow prep-to-pro player Dwight Howard a testicle sandwich, welcoming the young player to the league with one of the highlights of the year.
The only big besides Big to regularly dunk over multiple defenders from a stationary start, Amaré finishes from above the rim as often as any player in the league. With the exuberance that you’d expect from a young millionaire with the legs of an impala and enough upper body strength to clear out all but a few of the league’s forwards and centres, STAT is a regular in the nightly highlight reels, where he can be seen abusing the rim while the mere mortals sent to defend him watch in awe.
He may only be able to jump double-footed, but that doesn’t stop him putting down some of the meanest windmills you’ll ever see. While he doesn’t often replicate his dunk contest form during the regular season, it’s spectacular when he manages it. Another player cast in the mould of the classic dunker (6’6’’, 220-something), he’s at his best when he finds himself alone on the break, where he’s not afraid to get a little creative. If only he could learn to jump off one leg, we could have seen him serve up far more facials than he has in his career.
For a man who stands around 6’1’’ tall in his socks, Steve Francis is a true anomaly. Even though we’ve seen him do it countless times before, it still comes as a surprise whenever he ends up on the rim. Despite his stature, it’s not uncommon to see him challenge the trees down low, and more often than not he comes off victorious, leaving a bewildered giant wondering how exactly he ended up on the floor with a pair of Reeboks swinging above his head.
D-Mase is one of those who seems to go quiet for a while only so as to make more of a commotion when he bursts back onto the scene. A former dunk contest champion, he occasionally comes up with a play so ridiculous that I refuse to believe the tape is genuine. If anybody saw his alley-oop last year (and if you did see it, you’ll know which one I mean), you’ll be wondering why he wasn’t mentioned earlier.
Two words: Boston Nachbar. Ugh.
The King may not be the most creative of the bunch (I can’t have seen more than three types of dunkfrom him), but he more than makes up for this by rising high enough that you really begin to think it might be the shoes. Furthermore, if you’ve seen what he did to Damon Jones, you’ll be wondering why I’m bothering to justify his inclusion at all.
That’s all there is for now, but check back soon for the next edition of The Blog. Until then, take it easy.