The NBA Slam Dunk Contest
The NBA Slam Dunk Contest is an annual competition held during NBA All Star Weekend where the best dunkers in the league are chosen to show off their talents. The contest did not start in the NBA however, as it originally developed in the American Basketball Association (ABA).
The first professional slam dunk contest occurred during the ABA All Star game in 1976 in Denver, Colorado. The winner of this contest was Julius Erving better known as Dr. J. The slam dunk contest, however, would be short lived as the ABA and NBA merged the following year.
The Best Ever?
Wilkins v. Jordan
Early Dunk Contests
Realizing the popularity of the slam dunk, the NBA reintroduced the Slam Dunk Contest in 1984 at its birthplace in Denver. Larry Nance won the event but Julius Erving gave the event its most memorable moment with a dunk from the free throw line. Dominique Wilkins of the Atlanta Hawks won the next year. In 1986, Spud Webb, all of five foot seven, defeated Dominique Wilkins for the championship becoming the shortest player to ever win the slam dunk contest. Webb’s record holds to this day.
The most memorable slam dunk contests, however, were the contests between Dominique Wilkins and Michael Jordan in 1987 and 1988. These two players faced off two years in a row with Michael Jordan winning each year. Jordan solidified his rank as the world’s best dunker with a dunk from the free throw line.
The 1990s proved to be an unmemorable time for the slam dunk contest. Interest in the contest waned as the slam dunk superstars did not participate in the contest due to concerns over injuries. Lesser named players competed in the contest and fans complained that the winners were winning the contest with unoriginal and boring dunks. As a result, the 1998 All Star Weekend did not even feature a dunk contest replacing it with a "2 Ball" competition. In 1999, there was no All Star Game at all due to the NBA lockout.
After the two season layoff, the slam dunk contest returned to All Star weekend in 2000 in Oakland, California. That contest was one of the best ever. Participants included Steve Francis, Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter. Carter won after electrifying the crowd with a 360 degree windmill dunk and a between the legs dunk off an alley-oop. Jason Richardson won the slam dunk contest in 2003 and 2004.
In 2005, the slam dunk contest was reborn again in Denver, Colorado. The competition between Amare Stoudemire, J.R. Smith and Josh Smith brought a new buzz and popularity to the contest not seen since the 1980s. Josh Smith won that year after performing an alley oop dunk over his teammate Kenyon Martin.
In 2006, Nate Robinson of the New York Knicks conjured up images of Spud Webb when the five foot nine guard to the title with a high flying dunk over Spud Webb.
The slam dunk contest has been one of the most popular events during the NBA All Star weekend. However, it struggles to keep its popularity as the fans’ expectations grow each year and in many ways surpass what is possible. That being said, it still is an amazing example of athleticism and power.
- The NBA Three Point Shootout
The NBA’s All Star weekend showcases the leagues best talents. The Three Point Shootout allows the best long range shooters in the league to face off to determine the best three point shooter. The three...
NBA Slam Dunk Contest Winners By Year
2009 (Phoenix) Nate Robinson, New York Knicks
2008 (New Orleans) Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
2007 (Las Vegas) Gerald Green, Boston Celtics
2006 (Houston) Nate Robinson, New York Knicks
2005 (Denver) Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks
2004 (Los Angeles) Fred Jones, Indiana Pacers
2003 (Atlanta) Jason Richardson, Golden State Warriors
2002 (Philadelphia) Jason Richardson, Golden State Warriors
2001 (Washington D.C.) Desmond Mason, Seattle Supersonics
2000 (Oakland) Vince Carter, Toronto Raptors
1997 (Cleveland) Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
1996 (San Antonio) Brent Barry, Los Angeles Clippers)
1995 (Phoenix) Harold Miner, Miami Heat
1994 (Minneapolis) Isaiah Rider, Minnesota Timberwolves
1993 (Salt Lake City) Harold Miner, Miami Heat
1992 (Orlando) Cedric Ceballos, Phoenix Suns
1991 (Charlotte) Dee Brown, Boston Celtics
1990 (Miami) Dominique Wilkins, Atlanta Hawks
1989 (Houston) Kenny Walker, New York Knicks
1988 (Chicago) Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls
1987 (Seattle) Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls
1986 (Dallas) Spud Webb, Atlanta Hawks
1985 (Indianapolis) Dominique Wilkins, Atlanta Hawks
1984 (Denver) Larry Nance, Phoenix Suns