Do you want to know who is the best dunker in the NBA? The dunk is one of the most exciting plays in basketball. It has evolved into an art form over time. Personally, it’s my favorite play in basketball, and it was what got me interested in the game. Over time, dunking has evolved considerably, and when we think we’ve seen the pinnacle of dunking, someone always comes along to raise the bar. This is why it’s critical to consider history through the perspective of the surrounding times and attempt to fairly and honestly rank the best 10 NBA dunkers.
8. Shawn Kemp
The vicious dunk and point over Lister during a 1992 playoff game between the Seattle SuperSonics and Golden State Warriors is without debate Kemp’s most renowned achievement. Kemp was notorious for putting people on posters, and no player in history liked doing it as much as he did. Kemp, who seemed to enjoy interacting with people and would regularly participate in above-the-rim demolition derbies with wannabe shot blockers, had a flair for the dramatic. Kemp’s dunks were routinely ferocious, with few if any rivals in the league. The No. 8 dunker on this list could be the greatest ever performed by the legendary power forward in NBA history.
7. Darryl Dawkins
“Chocolate Thunder.” I refuse to believe that any other nickname could possibly encompass a player’s personality more effectively. Dawkins was well ahead of his time as a showman, having been the first preps-to-pros player. Before Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, and Charles Barkley, there was the thundering center who shattered backboards with each of his dunks.
6. Blake Griffin
This might be too low in our ranking list.
In other words, I’ll accept the fact that if he were two spots higher, it would be solely out of respect for two legends from the 1970s and 1980s who are significantly more important to the art of dunking.
It’s tough to believe there are two better in-game dunkers than LeBron James, who at times seemed to exist only for the sake of dunking anything and everything. Griffin on the other hand, was able to put together a solid video diary that focused entirely on reliving the greatest of the best via YouTube. The dunk over Timofey Mozgov is unforgettable, to say the least. But count me among the minority of the crowd in being more impressed with his yam on Kendrick Perkins.
5. Dominique Wilkins
From this point forward on this list, there are good reasons to choose each one over the others. Many hoops heads from the 1980s claim that Wilkins was a superior dunker than Michael Jordan, and that could be argued for years to come
Who knows… maybe if Wilkins had won the 1988 Slam Dunk Championship instead of Jordan, he’d be remembered even more fondly now.
Beyond his dunking in any competition, Wilkins is remembered for his high-flying in-game acrobatics. Do you want to spend some time lost in a sea of ‘Nique highlights… there’s lots to see.
4. Julius Erving
Undisputably Dr J is considered the most important dunker in history. Dr. J popularized the dunk in both appearance and substance, bringing style and depth to the game for the first time.
Although he had numerous rivals, Julius Erving was the first player to bring above-the-rim energy to the game that captured people’s attention and raised the league’s entertainment value to previously unseen heights.
Erving — like Stephen Curry — revolutionized the game simply by playing differently than anyone else had, and it’s hard to overstate what his dunking meant for the league’s advancement.
3. LeBron James
So I know what you’re thinking: I was just born yesterday.
While it may seem that LeBron James isn’t one of the greatest dunkers in history because he’s never done the event, this is not the case. In fact, as we’ll see below, he’s among the best to ever do it. The fact is that he makes it appear so simple at times that we take for granted how high he jumps and how hard he throws it down.
LeBron throws down a tomahawk like nobody else.
2. Michael Jordan
What is it about ‘The Last Dance’ that you enjoyed the most? Could it be the dunking montage near the beginning of Episode 3, which shows Jordan in the late 1980s just swooping in and dunking everything.
While he didn’t quite match the physical dunking of a Carter or a Wilkins, Michael Jordan appeared to hang in a way that made time stop and may be the greatest double-clutch dunker ever for his ability to move the ball in the air and around defenders.
His reputation as a dunker is naturally bolstered by his dunking accomplishments. However, I’d submit that the dunk competitions and his late-career transition into a league-wide fadeaway artist detract from his abilities as an in-game dunker. Jordan is the most creative and elegant of dunkers on this list, with the exception of one person ahead of him.
If you haven’t seen “The Last Dance” on Netflix, it’s very motivational and the series sheds more light on the basketball player who many say is the Greatest of all Time. The Last Dance even interviews the personal trainer Tim Grover and Grover’s book “Relentless” is a must read if you play any sports or work in any business — or you just need added motivation to reach and maintain your own personal success.
1. Vince Carter
Nobody would just spring up windmills on the road like Carter. He at his best could convert every NBA game into his own little slam dunk competition. Dr. J’s dunking helped to popularize the activity among NBA players. But Vinsanity brought it into the internet age as the first star to make a real mark on the YouTube generation.
Despite the fact that Zion Williamson may one day surpass him for dunking numbers, Carter has a far larger collection of slam dunks online than anybody else. There are mixtapes dedicated to his college years at UNC where he would dunk all the time.
There are full films dedicated to his leap over Frederic Weis at the Olympics. His best in-game dunks with the Raptors and Nets are available in 10-minute loops. Of course, none of this includes his performance in the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest, which — again — we’re not even discussing for this experiment.
It’s not easy being the best. Someone is always after you and trying to better your accomplishments. Seeing these top dunkers and learning what they did to be the best can add motivation to your daily life and for any thing that you want to accomplish.