After a lackluster showing from the 2014 participants, despite the best efforts of Flavor Flav inspired hype man Kenny Smith, it seemed necessary to look back down memory road when the Dunk contest warranted live viewing.
Mix in the new trend of creating a Rushmore for any subjective topic, it seemed fitting to tumble down the YouTube rabbit-hole to look at the signature dunk contest champions that helped transform the event over its first 30 years.
Michael Jordan - Air Jordan... images of him at the dunk contest are iconic and will live on forever in NBA mythos. You can argue that he isn’t the greatest dunker of all-time but he needs to be on the list. There isn’t anything else to say. His foul line dunk is still the standard.
Dominique Wilkins - The only 5-time participant, 2-time champ, the oldest ever champion and two foot leaper. No other player’s legacy is more linked to the dunk contest than ‘The Human Highlight Film’. Most players see the dunk-contest as a career springboard to bigger and better things for their brand, but Dominique embraced his role and skill set. Seeing the event as a service to the fans and to quote Jalen Rose "Gotta give the people what they want". Something Wilkins was always game for.
Vince Carter - No player in the NBA owes as much to the dunk as VC, his high flying antics and performance in the 2000 slam dunk competition turned him into the face of the league for a few years. He only participated once but delivered arguably the greatest showing ever which has cast a shadow over the event ever since.
Jason Richardson - Richardson was the perfect combination of height/size/coordination and athleticism... his playing career never really reach its potential but his back-to-back titles were both creative and explosive. Never really getting the appreciation he deserved, or getting out from the shadow Vinsanity left over the exhibition, but the last dominating pure dunker we’ve seen. J-Rich didn’t need tricks or props, he just threw down monster dunks.
Dwight Howard - When it comes down to it, the dunk contest is an exhibition and is designed to be entertaining so there is value in gimmicks and fun factor. The Superman cape, coming out of a phone booth, great gimmicks that played up to the audience but doesn’t put you on Rushmore. Not to mention his first Superman cape dunk wasn’t actually/technically a dunk. Dwight’s sheer size and athleticism was a nice change and brought a breath of fresh air into the competition that been feeling tired.
Nate Robinson - Same kind of thing...lots of props, charisma and showmanship. First and only 3-time champ but he didn’t have the best competition during in his run as champion. The 5-9 is a fan-favorite and that always helped him, If anything he gets more points for being an ambassador for the contest than his actual merits in the competition.
Gerald Green - One of the hidden gems of the dunk contest, his lack of celebrity has always hurt him and, until this season, he was a fringe NBA player (shifting between the D-league, Europe and numerous NBA teams). His creativity was always on display and constantly evolving. He blew out a candle, even though he didn’t win that year. Still his most memorable dunk and remains the only use of a pastry in the dunk contest.
Blake Griffin - There is a difference between in-game dunking and dunk contest dunking. Griffin is one of the best in-game dunkers ever. His combination of height, athleticism and power is unmatched. However in his sole appearance his creativity was limited and relied on over-the-top props including a hometown choir and embarrassing product placement. There are also reports that the NBA announced Griffin as the winner an hour before the event began. Conspiracy???