There is no doubt the National Basketball Association has the best athletes in the world. There are athletes who can seemingly glide through the air as they make their way to the hoop or catch an impossible pass from a teammate for an alley-oop. Stephen Curry is known to be the NBA’s best 3-point shooter ever but can he dunk?
Steph “Chef” Curry can surely dunk. He has shown the ability to dunk with either one or two hands. He even made a bounce pass off the floor and caught it and threw down a two-handed slam. He is listed at 6’2” and has the athleticism to finish at the rim even with defenders.
Although Steph has the ability to throw one down every once in a while, he is more known as a shooter and bucket getter. The term dunker is reserved for those players who made their name with amazing aerial finishes. Let’s have a look at some of the game’s best.
Half man, half amazing
Vince Carter once stole the show in the 2000 NBA All-Star Weekend when he delivered one 50-point dunk right after the other. Fans and judges were delighted by the clean and innovative dunks he put forth.
He made it seem so effortless and he even once said in an interview that he did not have a prepared lineup of dunks to do. He won the dunk contest with no other player getting close.
This was no surprise as he had been electrifying crowds with his in-game and competition dunks during his high school days up until his college stint in North Carolina.
His cousin and former teammate, NBA great Tracy McGrady competed in the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest with Vince. T-Mac said, “Why the hell am I getting in this dunk contest if you’re in it?” in an interview with Darius Miles and Quentin Richardson for the Knuckleheads podcast.
Tracy was a good dunker himself but he fully knew what Vince was capable of doing after training daily with him throughout the season.
Vinsanity was drafted by the Toronto Raptors in 1998 and was the face of the franchise until he left for New Jersey in 2004.
Dunking in the NBA is synonymous with his Royal Airness, Michael Jordan. He won the NBA Slam Dunk Contest twice–in 1987 and in 1988.
In 1987, MJ displayed his ability to glide as he drove to the lane, one step into the paint, leapt with both feet, and leaned sideways for the slam.
In the 1988 contest, he battled Dominique Wilkins. They first faced each other in 1985 and Nique won over Jordan. Dominique was known to be a power dunker as he punished the rim and anyone who dared to block his attempt.
Michael however had a more complete dunk set. He was able to finish with power but can also glide and contort his body in the air. He also has the ability to palm the ball so that he has more control when flying in for the jam.
Jordan got his revenge and narrowly edged out Dominique by ’88.
The best modern dunk off since MJ and Nique
The 2016 Slam Dunk Contest is one of the best dunk contests ever. It featured a duel of the modern NBA’s best dunkers in Zach Lavine and Aaron Gordon.
Zach won the 2015 Dunk Contest and was back to defend his crown. He again displayed his aerial prowess with perfect dunks that he made look so effortless. He stands at 6’5” with long arms and has a measured vertical leap of 46 inches. He put up 50-point dunks on his opponents with ease.
Aaron Gordon was a sophomore representing the Orlando Magic. He came out aggressive and showed the most creative dunks ever done.
One of the most memorable dunks by Gordon was the one where Stuff the Magic Dragon, Orlando’s mascot, held the ball on top of his head and stood in the painted area.
Aaron ran to the mascot, in one motion grabbed the ball with his right and jumped over Stuff, put the ball under both legs, switched the ball to his left hand and finished with his back at the basket. A never-before-seen dunk.
Aaron Gordon would again compete in the 2020 NBA Slam Dunk Contest but would fail to capture the crown even after dunking over 7’6” center Tacko Fall. Derrick Jones Jr. won narrowly and with a little controversy.
Gordon expressed his frustration when he told reporters, “I feel like I should have two trophies.” Many players and fans would agree that Gordon should have at least one.