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The Top Five Alternative Dunk Contests In NBA History

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

As All-Star Weekend approaches, the hype surrounding the weekend continues to rise.

The NBA dunk contest has become a staple of the NBA All-Star break. Fans everywhere are eager to see if the renaissance brought on by Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine’s dueling dunks will stick, or if the dunk contest’s best days have already passed.

The long-standing tradition certainly has challenges to overcome. With players like Klay Thompson and Kyrie Irving facing off in the three-point shootout this year, some may argue that contest has usurped the star power of the dunk contest. Some fans view the competition as having declined since the 80s, when acrobatic wings like Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins put it all on the line. Even the reformatted rookie/sophomore game has garnered more attention with fans tuning in to see the league’s rising international players take on domestic talent. 

So why should you tune in on Saturday?

The answer is simple, you will see things that only a select few on this planet can do. Think about LeBron sprinting down the court on a fast break. Would it be the same if he didn’t bring out his trademark tomahawk? Would the Clippers have earned the Lob City moniker if Chris Paul’s passes were finished with layups? The dunk is synonymous with excitement and energy. There have been over twenty competitions, and no one can argue that they aren’t trending up given the display we were treated to last year.

We all know about the instant classics that gave the contest its fame. However, there are contests that have fallen through the cracks that have moments that demonstrate the greatness of the event.

#5 1996 Dunk Contest: Brent Barry

While the names of this contest were not making major headlines, Brent Barry’s dominance of this contest was memorable. A rookie at the time, no one knew what Barry was bringing to the table. Keeping with the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality, Barry showed off his skill with the signature 90’s dunk, jumping from the free throw line. However, what made Barry’s attempts was the element of surprise. He was more or less the only entertainment of the night and came away with the title easily.

#4 2008 Dunk Contest: Dwight Howard Becomes Superman

It seems nearly impossible that this contest was nine years ago. In what was his fourth season in the league, Howard seized the opportunity to be in the spotlight and stole the show. This contest ascended Howard into a face of the league, as he adopted the Superman title. Howard became one of the most beloved young stars in the NBA at the time and cemented his place that night as one of the better personalities in the NBA.  

#3 2003 Dunk Contest: Jason Richardson v Desmond Mason
This contest had the marquee that some of the other contests on the list did not. With the likes of Jason Richardson, Amar’e Stoudemire, Richard Jefferson, and Desmond Mason, this one looked good on paper. Reigning champion Richardson looked to defend his title against the field. As the contest went on, Richardson proved why he was worthy of hoisting the Sprite Slam Dunk trophy for the second time. His ability to hit the rim with authority adds another level of entertainment that hadn’t really been seen in a long time. Every time Richardson went up for a dunk, you could just hear the crowd go “oh!”  

#2  1991 Dunk Contest: Dee Brown

The number of contestants was very different compared to today’s contest. Eight fairly recognizable names appeared in the contest: Dee Brown of the Boston Celtics, Shawn Kemp of the Seattle Supersonics, Rex Chapman of the Charlotte Hornets, Kenny Smith of the Houston Rockets, Kenny Williams of the Indiana Pacers, Blue Edwards of the Utah Jazz, Otis Smith of the Orlando Magic, and Kendall Gill of the Atlanta Hawks. The headliners, Dee Brown and Shawn Kemp, did not disappoint.

Brown and Kemp would fight to the finals of the contest. The 6’0 guard popped up from just past the free-throw line to bring it down but added a twist. The entertainment that even a casual fan of the NBA gets from witnessing a dunk like the “no look” dunk is riveting. You have a point guard doing a task that already seems impossible, by jumping to a 10-foot rim and dunking a basketball, and then for good measure, he blinds himself.


#1 2014 Dunk Contest: John Wall
This contest came in thick of when All-Star Weekend’s image was at its low. Adopting the what was then the current trend of molding All-Star Weekend into a fantasy draft, the East squared off against the West. The East was headlined by John Wall, Paul George, and Terrence Ross. While the West featured Harrison Barnes, Damian Lillard, and Ben McLemore.

The team strategy of this contest received negative reviews across the league, but the dunks themselves were quite good. The team style allowed for quick paced rounds, as all three players would rotate in the “freestyle round”. The contest progressed into the usual format, where Wall and McLemore squared off in the final of the contest. McLemore went for more of the theatrical side of the contest, as he brought out a Jester and partial owner of the Sacramento Kings Shaquille O’Neal to “crown” himself the king of the dunk contest. McLemore leaped over O’Neal (who sat in a royal chair) and successfully threw down the dunk. After the dunk, Shaq prematurely crowned McLemore the King of the contest.

The NBA was doing its best to get the entertainment portion of the contest back to its glory days. While that may not have happened in this contest, you still had well-scripted dunks that provided quality entertainment. Wall’s dunk over “G Wiz” is one of the better dunks in the 2010 era. After the dunk, Wall “nae-naed” with the Wizards mascot, which always provides great entertainment as well. 

Edited by Brian Kang, Peyten Maki.

Who has the most dunk contest titles?
Created 2/15/17
  1. Michael Jordan
  2. Nate Robinson
  3. Vince Carter
  4. Blake Griffin

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