The other night, Michael Kidd Gilchrist threw down this absolutely enormous dunk on Greg Monroe. Monroe is 6’11”, so this is no mean feat. This got me thinking about where this dunk ranks in the pantheon of great NBA and NCAA dunks. After the jump, there’s video of what I consider to be the greatest dunks in basketball history.
With no further adieu, and in no particular order:
Up first, the Tom Chambers Dunk over Mark Jackson. You wouldn’t necessarily know it by looking at him, but Tom Chambers could throw it down with authority from time to time. The great thing about this one is the way that he seems to hit Jackson and then continue elevating. I’m sure it’s just an illusion, but it is pretty cool nonetheless. Also note that Chambers’ forehead seems to be about level with the rim. Also, Chambers used to rock this haircut, which seems worth mentioning in and of itself.
Up next, we have what is probably my favorite dunk of all-time: the Jerome Lane dunk. This one has everything. A fast break. A broken backboard. The classic Bill Raftery call “Send it in Jerome!” According to Wikipedia, Jerome Lane ended up having a 12 year career (most of it overseas). I don’t recall any of it, but I will never, ever forget this dunk. Also, Bill Raftery is the best. ONIONS!
This is going to be a controversial pick: Larry Bird. I can hear you right now: “Despite being 6’9″, Bird couldn’t jump and his dunks were almost always terrible.” Here’s my response: “Sure, but only in real life.” See, the real life Larry Legend was somewhat slow and earth-bound. His Atari counterpart (from the classic One on One: Dr. J vs. Larry Bird) could throw it down with the best of them. In case my embed code didn’t work, skip forward to 1:33. I used to love playing this game, and I used to love when the janitor would yell at you for breaking the backboard.
Shifting back to real life, I don’t think you can make any list of the best dunks without including Dr. J. The good doctor was probably the original high-flying dunker, and he had a hell of an afro to boot. There’s a lot of material to choose from, but I think this one is typically acknowledged as one of his best.
Remember the Shawn Kemp, the Reign Man (I never really understood the use of “reign”. I get played for Seattle, where it rains a lot, but I’m not sure what the royal connection is. I digress)? The guy had some of the biggest dunks I can remember, including this dunk on Alton Lister in the 1992 playoffs. If I were to play against 4th graders on an 8 foot rim, I think the results might look something like this. Side note: in college I had a roommate who would routinely score 70+ points on me with Shawn Kemp in NBA Live ’98. He was literally unstoppable. How I hated that.
Vince Carter’s early career is somewhat overshadowed by the litany of injuries he would suffer when he got older. Still, this dunk over the hapless Frederic Weis in the olypmics is unforgettable. Two things about Frederic Weis: his drafting by the Knicks may have prompted some of the most irate calls to Mike and the Maddog I can ever recall, and his Wikipedia page has a whole section dedicated to this dunk. Evidently the French call is “le dunk de la mort,” which is fantastic. I imagine it will be the first paragraph in his obituary.
Here’s what I know about Kenny “Sky” Walker: he had one of the all-time great late-80s haircuts, and his hands were supposedly too small to palm the ball which was the reason he cradled when he dunked. I have no idea if this last thing is true, but I don’t want to Google it and sully this fond childhood memory. Anyway, Kenny Sky Walker dominated the 1989 dunk contest. Instead of a single dunk, I present all of it:
The Human Highlight Reel, Dominque Wilkins. Also possessing a great late 80s haircut (not as good as Kenny Walker’s), ‘Nique has an absolutely impressive body of work. His dunks from the dunk contest against Jordan may be better in some ways, but I like this one that he threw down over Larry Bird.
Kevin Johnson was a little underrated. This dunk over Hakeem Olajuwon was not. I have nothing more to say about Kevin Johnson
I feel like it is easy to forget how awesome Clyde Drexler was. Check out this dunk that he threw down over Andre Turner when he was with Phi Slamma Jamma. Just devastating.
Darryl Dawkins was great. And he had one of the best nicknames of all-time (Chocolate Thunder*). Here he does some serious damage to some backboards.
*On the jumbotron in the stadium it shows his nickname as being “Dr. Dunk,” which is exceedingly lame. If you have a nickname like “Chocolate Thunder,” you stick with it. If that were my nickname, I would insist people refer to me as Mr. Thunder.
Was there anything greater than when Shaq pulled down the whole basket? Yeah, there was, but it’s still pretty fantastic.
I don’t know who “Victor Dukes” is either. Frankly, it sounds made up. Still, this dunk is positively Chambers-esque, and deserves our attention.
“Thunder” Dan Majerle (or “Thunder Tan” as my friends and I used to call him) is probably one of the more marginal players on this list. In fact, this dunk wasn’t really all that great, but it was over Manute Bol, who was gigantic (he was also a really nice guy that I met several times when I worked at a casino. RIP). To be perfectly honest with you, I really just wanted an excuse to see the words “Thunder Tan” in print, and that’s why this is getting included. Sadly no video (that I can post) exists.