Friday , Feb , 12 , 2010 Christopher Sells

Jason Richardson: Best Dunker Ever?

The title asks the question, the answer is provided here: Jason Richardson is indeed the best dunker ever. Better than Michael Jordan. Better than Vince Carter.

Now that you’ve had time to calm down, let me throw in some qualifiers. J-Rich is the best NBA Dunk Contest dunker. Still think I’m crazy? First take some time to watch this video showing most of Jordan’s contest dunks…


… and this one showing Vince’s…


… then  these two showing Richardson’s…



Now that you’ve seen the visual evidence, allow me to concede a few advantages Richardson has over Jordan and Carter. First, he had three contests to choose from to show his body of work. Jordan had that many, Carter had one. Both had the opportunity to participate in more– particularly Vince– so I can’t give them a pass there. Also, J-Rich came after those two guys and had the benefit of building on what they had already accomplished. But there’s nothing wrong with progress or innovation. The rules were a bit more relaxed as the years went on to account for all the suckage, which didn’t involve Richardson. So yes, I know these things. Thanks for bringing them to attention.

Richardson’s dunks are just plain better than Jordan’s. Looking at them, I don’t think there’s much that has to be said there. Jordan always went to the free throw line dunk when he needed to pull out a victory. In fact, one of his wins is a result of him doing the same dunk twice. Why the judges allowed that, we’ll never know. Anyway, Jordan’s dunks are just less difficult than the things Richardson did. 

This is not to say that Jordan was a slouch. Almost no one was dunking from the free throw line back then. Jordan’s hangtime is unparalleled. He was jumping higher than most people were then. It would be fair to say that as a dunker, Jordan was ahead of his time. He would have been before Carter and Richardson’s time, though.

Carter easily has the highest percentage of great dunks. Since he never defended his crown, we never got to see if he could top his 2000 performance. He should have come back; that’s his own fault. But Richardson took most of Vince’s dunks and made them better. Progress. Innovation. Quantity. It’s close here, I won’t act as if Richardson’s performance is better by a landslide.

There’s an easy way to judge this. You’ve heard of the eye test, no doubt. Try the jaw test. How many dunks did the person do that left you with your mouth hanging open the first time you saw them? With Vince, I count three. The 360 windmill, the between the legs alley-oop and the elbow dunk. With Richardson– keeping in mind that he was subject to the rules of that stupid wheel in 2002– I count the mid-air turn dunk in ’02, the reverse between the legs off the bounce in ’03 and the off the backboard between the legs in ’04 as jaw-droppers. That would leave them even.

Where Richardson gets the edge is in the dunks he missed. A couple of inches here or there and we’d give this man the title without needing to defend ourselves for doing so. The first one is the between the legs 360 off the bounce that he needed a little more height on. The second is the 360 elbow dunk off the bounce. i realize now that we’ve seen both of these dunks completed on lower levels, but in 2004 they were brand new. They were fresh. And, quite frankly, they were ridiculous. No, he didn’t finish them. He did show up and try them though, which is more than you can say for Vince.

So there’s my case. Richardson is the best, if you ask me, by the slimmest of margins. But when you look back on things, no one remembers how much you won by, only that you were better. Richardson is better in my mind. You may disagree. That’s your right. But try some of that stuff on your own– on a lowered goal, with a Nerf ball, using a trampoline, whatever– and you’ll see what’s what. And after you’ve done that, come back to me and I’ll ask you a simple question:

You still think I’m crazy?