The dunk is one of the most iconic parts of basketball⎯I find something entrancing about watching someone leap into the air with grace or power and pull off a perfect slam into the basket. It’s amazing, and what professional basketball players can do with their dunks has created some of the most memorable highlights in NBA history.
In this article, I have selected my all-time favorite dunks from the last few decades, including in-game slams and particularly nasty slams during the All-Star weekend Slam Dunk Contest. You may not agree with this list, and there are undoubtedly many that are equally as impressive, BUT these are the dunks that have stuck with me as an ardent NBA fan! As the 2023−24 season approaches and you can look forward to a little gambling fun and making NBA computer picks for your bets, it’s good to look back at these historic moments so you can set your standards for what is to come!
Michael Jordan⎯Free Throw Line Dunk at the Slam Dunk Contest
I don’t care what anyone says, this dunk is legendary. It’s one of the iconic moments that helped define Michael Jordan and showcase his talent. The double clutch, the takeoff, and the grace that he managed to put into this slam dunk contest dunk are immortalized as one of the greatest moments in NBA history.
Vince Carter⎯Reverse 360 Windmill at the Slam Dunk Contest
How could this dunk NOT be on the list? I rate this as arguably the best slam dunk contest dunk of all time, even though I’ve listed Jordan’s dunk first. The fact that he executed it in the fashion he did on the first attempt made it that much more special but the whole dunk was superb.
The complete spin, the huge windmill, and the fact that he did a reverse spin made this dunk in the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest that much more impressive.
Vince Carter⎯East Bay Off the Bounce at the Slam Dunk Contest
I mean I could have quite easily included Carter’s entire 2000 Dunk Contest package in this list as it was THE single greatest performance of all time and I don’t think it will ever be equaled in terms of perfection, dunk variety, and execution.
I actually prefer his first dunk, but the off-the-bounce from McGrady through-the-legs dunk was incredible too, the height he got on the jump looked fantastic.
Paul George⎯In-game 360-Degree Windmill
I don’t get how this dunk isn’t spoken about more⎯it’s arguably the best-executed in-game dunk of all time and shows some incredible basketball basics.
PG, when playing for the Pacers, sent the crowd into a frenzy when he stole the ball, shot off down the court, and obliterated the net with a gorgeous reverse 360-degree windmill. I’ve never seen this dunk performed as gracefully and with so much flair!
Scottie Pippen⎯Poster Dunk Over Patrick Ewing of the Knicks
Pippen had some epic dunks during his career but his disrespectful poster over Knicks center Patrick Ewing was legendary. Everything about this play was iconic⎯the dunk itself was powerful and he totally obliterated the Knicks All-Star big man.
However, the aftermath that added to it was that Pippen just floored Ewing, stood over him, and then of course showered some abuse at celebrity Knicks fan Spike Lee.
Shaun Kemp⎯Coast to Coast Against the Lakers
This is an underrated dunk and one that often flies under the radar but it’s one of my favorites and Shaun Kemp was one of my favorite players during the ‘90s. His explosive dunks and showboating were the stuff of legend in Seattle and it’s a shame he never won a chip with the Glove.
This epic dunk showcased his speed, agility, and power and it starts with him grabbing a rebound from a missed Lakers shot. He then proceeded to plow coast to coast, gather at the free throw line, and then explode for a one-handed tomahawk past Nick Van Excel⎯perfection.
Michael Jordan⎯Kiss the Rim Dunk at the Slam Dunk Contest
This slam dunk contest showing from Michael Jordan is often overlooked compared to his iconic free throw line dunk but it’s actually my favorite. This dunk is just so elegant, graceful, and skillful but it’s not really until you see the slow-motion replay that you appreciate it.
The kiss-the-rim dunk sees Air Jordan turn sideways, seemingly float towards the rim, perform a windmill, and bring it home with finesse⎯it’s a thing of beauty.
Will These Epic Dunks Ever Be Surpassed?
I hope that these don’t represent the best dunks of all time in the NBA as it would be a shame for more amazing highlights not to appear! However, as it stands, these dunks are truly iconic and will forever be remembered as explosive moments when superstars showcased their power, athleticism, skill, and creativity.