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The Best Dunkers I’ve Ever Seen

Who sits in your top 3?

Kawhi Leonard Dunk by Jose Garcia is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Best Dunkers I’ve Ever Seen


Estimated Reading Time: 4 Minutes

When I went back to watch the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest, it kicked off a conversation with a buddy of mine about our top three favorite dunkers of all time. I’ll be honest, look at the word dunkers makes me think of Oreos or Dunkaroos. It doesn’t feel like it belongs here, but it’s the word I’m using nonetheless.

So down the rabbit hole I went. To be clear, I already knew who my top three were, but I wanted to solidify my order. And with that needed to add an Honorable Mention. No, I’m not giving out participation trophies, I’m just acknowledging I needed to actually do a top four.

Honorable Mention goes to…Shawn Kemp

Shawn Kemp was an absolute beast. That Supersonics team in the 90s was one of the nastiest teams to not win a damn thing. Kemp went from not playing a single minute of college ball to making defenders run when he approached the bucket. This guy was a MONSTER.

Don’t believe me, or simply don’t remember because you were living under a rock? Ask Alton Lister.

3. Dominique Wilkins

‘Nique spent the majority of his career in Atlanta, but of course my brain remembers him playing for the Celtics for that one year he was there. But that’s irrelevant to this conversation. Over the course of his career, The Human Highlight Film did not disappoint.

Honestly, it’s insane some of the stuff he did in-game. Down to the chest before a behind the head slam. A full windmill. Simply driving for a one-handed hammer. It’s a sight to behold.

2. Vince Carter

When I asked around, Vince is the only guy who landed on everyone’s list. He had some unreal showings in dunk contests, but also knew how to drop one over someone, regardless of where played or how old he got. I’m still disappointed we’ve likely seen the last of him.

Vince’s power and control is out of this world. His awareness was insane. Take a look through some of these and tell me how he finds himself in the positions he does, some with so little time, and still pulls off the unthinkable.

1. Michael Jordan

Of course, in my mind, Michael is the undisputed number one. Despite my love of the Celtics, I grew up with the Bulls, emulating Mike on my bedroom door hoop. Got myself nearly injured and into a lot of trouble with that one.

I mean, come on. There’s a reason Space Jam exists. And The Last Dance is a (perfect) thing. His Airness is it for me.

What did some of our other writers think?

Justin White

  1. Vince Carter
  2. Blake Griffin
  3. Dwight Howard

Matt Branigan

  1. Vince Carter
  2. Dominique Wilkins
  3. Michael Jordan

Andrew Mark Wilhelm

Kobe was the most underrated dunker of all time. And LeBron would be on that list if he did a contest. And as good as MJ was at dunking I leave him off the list, because he was even better at flashy layups.

  1. Vince Carter
  2. Blake Griffin
  3. Dominique Wilkins

Justin Colombo

The fact that no one has mentioned Dr. J on this list is not only disgraceful, but it’s unsettling. (AUTHORS NOTE: I never saw Dr. J play, and that’s my criteria. I’ll die on that hill.) Dr. J all day, because we would be having this conversation without him. Shaquille O’Neal, solely because you could feel his dunks in your soul. The man would dunk on you and leave a physical and emotional mark. And finally, Vince Carter because the 2000 Dunk Contest could hang in the Louvre, and that’s a fact. Honorable Mention: Spud Webb. Come on, the guy was 5-7 and was getting UP THERE.

  1. Vince Carter
  2. Shaquille O’Neal
  3. Julius Erving

Honorable Mention: Spud Webb

Ryan MacPherson

So I struggle with this one a little bit. There’s obviously recency bias, not only because of the players I knew and grew up with, but also the elevated role dunking as taken in the game. The stuff guys can do today totally surpasses anything people thought imaginable 30 years ago. That said, here’s where I’m landing for a Top 3:

  1. Michael Jordan
  2. Vince Carter
  3. Dr J

Each of these guys defined dunking – their images/silhouettes of them flying are some of the most iconic images in sports.

Kevin is an actor, director, playwright, and musician who works in tech and lives in Brooklyn. He is die hard New England sports and an avid Tottenham supporter. His qualifications include scoring 1 point in his elementary school basketball career, 4 years of mixed little league results, and breaking his arm with a skip-it days before pre-season workouts started for Freshman football.

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