Five Former NBA players Who Are Primarily Remembered For Their Victories In the NBA's Slam Dunk Contest.
The NBA's Slam Dunk Contest
The National Basketball Association(NBA) is one of the most popular and well known sports leagues known throughout the world. The NBA hosts a number of events during its annual 'NBA All-Star Weekend', which is held every February during the league's annual All-Star Break. One of the events that many fans look forward to during all-star weekend is the NBA's 'Slam Dunk Contest'.
The slam dunk contest is a competition where the NBA's highest fliers showcase their amazing leaping abilities. It gives players the chance to add their own creativity to their high flying acrobat dunks to entertain the fans. There have been a number of NBA legends and superstars to participate in the slam dunk contest. Familiar names like Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, Julius Erving, and Kobe Bryant have all participated and won the event at one point their careers.
While legends and future legends have cemented their mark on the dunk contest, the event has also given lesser known players the opportunity to leave their own personal mark on their career. While most of these players aren't remembered for their achievements on the court, their victories in the dunk contest has allotted them a place of remembrance among fans. The following paragraphs will highlight five NBA of those former players that left a mark on the dunk contest.
Spud Webb's victory in the 1986 slam dunk contest will always be a memorable highlight of NBA All-Star Weekend for many. Born Anthony Jerome Webb, Spud first played college ball at Midland College. Webb led the Midland Chaparrals to the junior college national title in 1992. He would later transfer to North Carolina State University in 1983.
Webb was selected in the 4th round (87th overall) by the Detroit Piston in the 1985 NBA Draft. Webb played the majority of his career with the Atlanta Hawks, and this would be the team he played for when he claimed his victory in the dunk contest. Webb would later play for the Sacramento Kings, Minnesota Timberwolves, and the Orlando Magic.
The 1986 NBA All-Star Weekend was held in Webb's hometown of Dallas, Texas. What made Webb's participation in the contest so unique was the fact that he only stood at the height of 5'7. This made him the shortest player to ever participate in or win the contest.
Webb's participation alone in the contest surprised the media and even his then teammate, Dominique Wilkins. Wilkins, who was the defending champion at the time, had never seen Webb dunk before. Spud Webb retired from the NBA in 1998. He finished his career with 8,072 total points, and 4,342 assists during his twelve year career.
Born Kenneth Walker, he was known as "Kenny Sky Walker" during his playing years in the NBA. Walker attended the University of Kentucky after being named 'Mr. Basketball' in the state of Georgia during 1982. During his collegiate career, Walker was named to the All-American team twice. He was also named to the All-SEC team four times.
Walker was selected 5th overall in the 1986 NBA Draft by the New York Knicks. Walker first participated in the dunk contest in 1989. This particular NBA All-Star Weekend was held in Houston, Texas. Fellow contestants in the contest for that year included Clyde Drexler, Spud Webb, Shelton Jones, Tim Perry, Jerome Kersey, Ron Harper, and Chris Morris.
Walker made it to the finals in the event, and would go on to defeat Clyde Drexler to win the contest. What made Walker's victory even more significant is that he participated in the event three days following the death of his father. Walker later participated in the event again in 1990, and would finish in third place.
Walker's NBA career never took off due to plaguing knee injuries. Walker had a two year stint with the Washington Bullets, and played for several teams overseas. He finished his NBA career with an average of 7.0 points per game, and 4.0 rebounds per game.
Harold Miner is a two time winner of the slam dunk contest. Miner won the contest in 1993 and 1995. Miner defeated defending champion, Isaiah 'J.R.' Rider in 1995. Miner, a native of Inglewood, California, attended USC(University of Southern California) from 1989-1992. He declared himself eligible for the 1992 NBA Draft, and was selected 12th overall by the Miami Heat.
There were extremely high expectations for Miner coming into the NBA. Miner was given the nickname, 'Baby Jordan' due to his bald head (similar to Michael Jordan), along with his powerful dunks and jumping ability. However, despite being a very talented and highly touted player, Miner received very little playing time during his tenure in Miami.
Miner was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers after the 1995 season. The trade to Cleveland sparked a downward spiral to Miner's still young career. After only averaging 3.2 points per game, along with 7.2 minutes per game for the Cavaliers, Miner was traded to the Toronto Raptors in 1995. The trade ended up being rescinded after a failed physical from a Toronto player.
After being waived by the Cavaliers in 1996, Miner tried out for the Raptors, but would be cut during the preseason. Miner retired from the NBA in 1996 after only four season in the NBA. Miner's head coach at USC, George Raveling has been quoted saying; "I always felt the worst thing to happen to Harold was the "Baby Jordan" tag".
Isaiah Rider was known by his nickname, 'J.R.' during his career. Rider played most of his career with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but also played for the Portland Trailblazers, Atlanta Hawks, Los Angles Lakers, and Denver Nuggets . Rider attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas(UNLV) before entering the the 1993 NBA Draft.
Rider was the 5th pick overall in the draft, and was selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves. After being drafted by the Timberwolves, Rider promised in his draft night interview with TNT's, Craig Sager saying that he would Take it all" if he's in the dunk contest. Rider finished the 1993-94 NBA season as a member of the NBA's All-Rookie First Team.
Rider made his first big splash in the NBA during the 1994 NBA All-Star Weekend. The event was held in Minneapolis, which made Rider the crowd favorite to win. Rider won the contest by performing a dunk he called "The East Bay Funk Dunk".
Rider took off from the baseline, and performed the dunk by putting the ball between his right leg, and finishing the dunk with his right hand. At the time, NBA great Charles Barkley said "That might be the best dunk I ever seen". Rider later won an NBA Championship with the Lakers in 2001, but was never able to get his career going outside of the dunk contest. He finished his NBA career playing 563 games, and scoring 9,312 total points during his nine year career.
Brent Barry was the winner in the 1996 NBA Slam Dunk contest. Barry was a member of the Los Angeles Clippers at the time he won the event. The event was held in San Antonio, Texas the year Barry won. Barry would later play for the San Antonio Spurs in the latter part of his career. Other teams that Barry would play for included: the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, Seattle Supersonics, and Houston Rockets.
Barry is the son of former NBA Hall of Famer, Rick Barry. Barry attended college at Oregon State, and was the 15th overall pick in the 1995 NBA Draft. He was selected by the Denver Nuggets. Upon being drafted by the Nuggets, Barry would immediately be traded to the Clippers. During his rookie season, Barry broke the rookie record for three pointers made(123) in a single season.
Barry competed against fellow NBA players including: Michael Finley, Greg Minor, Jerry Stackhouse, Doug Christie, and Darrell Armstrong in the 1996 dunk contest. Barry won the event by performing a dunk from the free throw line, a dunk originally performed by the first dunk contest champion Julius 'Dr. J' Erving.
Barry's victory made him the first white NBA player to win the competition. Barry is a two time NBA champion as a member of the San Antonio Spurs. He was a member of the 2005 and 2007 Spurs teams that won the championship. Barry's career ended in 2009 when he was cut by the Houston Rockets at the end of training camp. Barry ended his career with averages of 9.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg, and 3.2 apg.
Although the NBA Slam Dunk Contest has gone through a variety of changes over the years, it still remains a fan favorite of NBA All-Star Weekend. Although none of these former players mentioned in this article will be thought of as superstars, they all provided great entertainment in their respective years of the slam dunk contest.
Every professional athlete wants to be remembered as being when their careers end. Unfortunately that isn't always the case for many, but that doesn't mean that an athlete can't leave a lasting mark on their respective sports. There have been various other players who left a lasting mark on the NBA through the dunk contest. There will most likely be more articles in the future that will point out some of those players. Thanks for reading.