Top 5 NBA Dunk Contests Of All Time

The 2019 NBA dunk contest is upon us. The dunk contest has been hit or miss but fans tend to remember great contests as good, good contests as average and average contest as bad. This year we have some explosive athletes in the field with Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins, New York Knicks guard Dennis Smith Jr, Charlotte Hornets forward Miles Bridges and Oklahoma City guard Hamidou Diallo.

This is not a star studded field but we haven’t had a field like that since “the good old days”. Hopefully this year’s dunk contest is one that we will remember with love like so many that we have had in the past. What are the best dunk contests of all time?

5.) 1990

(photo via Sports Illustrated)

The 1990 NBA dunk contest was one for the ages with a star studded field that included Dominique Wilkins, Kenny Battle, Rex Chapman, Scottie Pippen, Kenny Smith, Billy Thompson and Kenny “Sky” Walker. This contest had so many memorable dunks: Kenny Smith turning his back to the goal at the free throw line and bouncing it between his legs, off the floor, off the backboard, then running catching it and dunking it backwards. Scottie Pippen dunked from the free throw line, which is always impressive. Smith had an awesome performance but fell short to “The Human Highlight Film” Dominique Wilkins.

4.) 2003

(photo courtesy of Uproxx)

The 2003 NBA dunk contest had some of the most explosive dunks NBA fans have ever seen due to the extremely athletic field of Jason Richardson, Desmond Mason, Amare Stoudemire and Richard Jefferson. Stoudemire and Jefferson had good showings but were outplayed by the duel between Mason and Richardson. Mason may have completed the nastiest between the legs dunk ever but it wasn’t enough as Richardson had a series self-alley dunks, that end with 360s, between the legs, windmills, and backwards between the legs to win the contest.

3.) 1988

(photo via

The 1988 NBA dunk contest had a pretty stacked field but is remembered for the duel between Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins. Michael Jordan with grace, style and elegance in the air versus Wilkins with his pure explosiveness and power. A lot of NBA fans still believe that Wilkins was robbed because the all star festivities were in Chicago, where Jordan made his legacy. No matter the outcome, the fans won because they were able to witness a display that is still debated more than 30 years later.

2.) 2016

(Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)

In 2016, NBA fans didn’t know much about the contestants in the dunk contest but two of the contestants put on a show that will be remembered for ages. Aaron Gordon and Zach Lavine went at it, getting perfect score after perfect score, even needing extra dunks to break the tie. It was a classic battle of power versus grace. Zach Lavine came out on top after a series of free throw line dunks, catching a alley oop from the free throw line, going between the legs and doing a windmill from the free throw line.  A lot of NBA fans believe Gordon was robbed as he did some dunks never seen in the contest before. This is another one that will be debated 30 years from now.

1.) 2000

(photo courtesy of Sportsnet)

It’s hard to believe that it has been 19 years since Vince Carter electrified the NBA universe with his performance in the dunk contest. In the contest you had Vince Carter, Steve Francis and Tracy McGrady, among others. McGrady and Francis both had some amazing dunks but Carter put on a show that has and will stand the test of time. Carter started the night with a never before seen reverse 360 windmill and followed it up with a 180 windmill from the baseline. The third dunk was assisted by his cousin McGrady as he bounced the ball off the floor and Carter put the ball between his legs for the dunk. The fourth dunk was one that left the audience silent as Carter put his entire forearm in the rim. No one knew what had just happened. The dunk is now known as “the honey dip”. Carter’s performance made the 2000 NBA Dunk Contest the best of all time.


Damian Adams

San Diego, California

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