Read the first half of Sid’s countdown here
By Sidney Brown (@sidkid80)
Boy, it would be nice to see the video above be extended with dunks from the remainder of the 2019-20 season.
Unfortunately, this current NBA season coming to a proper close is something that’s very much up in the air now, much like the most athletic ballers as they smash down on the hoop and a helpless defender below.
As sports fans are reduced to watching classic games, movies and the like until the return of live events (and other such things where more than a handful of people can get together at once), yours truly has decided to compile a list that should definitely get basketball fans talking and debating.
Yes, there’s nothing like a good old fashion debate — from who’s the greatest team ever to who’s the greatest player of all time, some of the best exist in regards to the NBA. The slam dunk has long been the most exciting play in the game of basketball, getting fans out of their seats with excitement and joy and providing athletic feats of legend on the highlight reels of many of the GOAT-level players in the league.
Compiling a list like this wasn’t easy, but it sparked a lot of pleasant nostalgia while tripping down memory lane.
I’m sure that I’ve left some memorable dunks off this list, perhaps even some of your favorite all-time dunks. Feel free to offer any dunk you feel rocked your world in the comments below. Sit back and enjoy the top 10 facial dunks ever in the NBA!
10) 1993 – Shaquille O’Neal over Alonzo Mourning: Both rookie centers who would come to help define their eras, Mourning and O’Neal were expected to lead their teams to respectability during the 1992-93 season. Their debut match-up in Charlotte was anticipated and Shaq made the most of the spotlight, delivering a thunderous facial dunk off a pick and roll, capping it off with a quick, imposing stare. Shaq would lead the league with 322 slams that season while winning Rookie of the Year running away.
9) 1989 – Michael Jordan over Bill Laimbeer: After stealing the opening game of the 1989 Eastern Conference Finals, the Bulls were looking to build momentum against the rival Detroit Pistons.
The Pistons had established themselves as Bad Boys by ’89, but late in the 2nd quarter, Jordan proved who was really bad with a posterizing break away dunk over Laimbeer. Yet another highlight for the Jordan collection, but the Pistons would have the final advantage both in this game and the series.
8) 2010 – Derrick Rose over Goran Dragic: In his second season, point guard Rose was in the process of trying to revitalize the Chicago Bulls franchise from mediocrity but on a Friday night in January of 2010 at Phoenix, he just had some fun at Dragic’s expense. Throwing down a show-stopping, two-handed slam over the would-be “Dragon” left everyone in amazement whether in the building or simply seeing the top-flight boof in Chicago and beyond. Perhaps the best call ever from Bulls TV analyst Stacey King as well.
7) 1977 – Julius Erving over Bob Gross: Game 6 of the 1977 Finals will be remembered for the Portland Trail Blazers winning the NBA title over the Philadelphia 76ers but the series would be remembered for the iconic moments displayed by firmly in his prime 76ers superstar Julius Erving, including a stunning crossover and one-handed slam over Blazers forward Bob Gross. The Blazers may have won the tile, but Dr. J won the hearts of fans that and set the standard for big dunks in big games.
6) 1994 – Kevin Johnson over Hakeem Olajuwon: During Game 4 of the Houston Rockets-Phoenix Suns series these Western Conference rivals got real riled up when Suns all-star point guard Johnson showed out with a baseline slam over Olajuwon, adding another highlight dunk one of the better high-risers of his era.
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5) 2013 – LeBron James over Jason Terry: With his first championship under his belt, James was on the hunt to repeat while also looking to add more memorable moments along to prove the league was in his control.
On the road against the Boston Celtics, James would add another notorious moment to arguably the hottest rivalry at the time with a perfect poster dunk over Terry on an alley-oop from Norris Cole, almost sending Boston fans to the gates, those who weren’t already in a daze anyway.
4) 1999 – Vince Carter over Dikembe Mutombo: During the lockout-shortened 1999 season, Toronto Raptors rookie forward Vince Carter was on the hunt for high-profile dunk victims and he scored with the NBA’s most intimidating post presence. On this night against the Atlanta Hawks, Carter tried and succeeded over Mutombo with an over the top slam with elevation. There would be no finger-wagging on the soon-to-be known “Half-man, Half-amazing.”
3) 1997 – Kobe Bryant over Ben Wallace: During a preseason game in Las Vegas to enter his second NBA season, the young star Bryant was taking no prisoners against the newly-named Washington Wizards.
After a devastating crossover left Antonio Daniels in the dust, Kobe got off a one-handed beauty of a slam over future defensive star Ben Wallace, sending a sellout Las Vegas crowd up in a craze along with his teammates. This early career moment set the tone for a career filled with one-of-a-kind highlights that we’ll always remember from the dear, departed legend.
2) 1992 – Shawn Kemp over Alton Lister: Then a rising star in Seattle Shawn Kemp developed a reputation for throwing down thunderous dunks on his opponents early in his career.
This 1992 Western Conference playoff series featured the Sonics and the favorited Golden State Warriors, who fumbled away Games 3 and 4 in Seattle. The moment where Seattle knew it struck fear in GSW’s heart came when Kemp unleashed a one handed slam over Alton Lister followed by a double taunt pointing at Lister with the Key Arena crowd rising as one. This particular Kemp highlight would be used in league reels throughout the ’90s as he would become a national household name with a perfect nickname — “The Rain Man.”
1) 1994 – Scottie Pippen destroys Patrick Ewing: After losing a heart-breaker in Game 5 of that year’s Eastern Conference Semifinals at Madison Square Garden, the Chicago Bulls were looking for revenge on their hated rivals the New York Knicks. Scottie Pippen was the leader of the Bulls-post Michael Jordan and had struggled with his authority in the wake of his infamous 1.8 second sit-out.
Pip turned things around and set an everlasting message to the Knicks and all of his detractors with a devastating dunk over Patrick Ewing that sent fans at the old Chicago Stadium in a frenzy.
All the imagery has become iconic in the last 25 years — Pippen’s airtime, which seemed impossible over the incredibly tall Ewing, his standing over Ewing while the franchise Knick splayed out under the rim, his taunting and obvious “friendly” message for NY super-fan Spike Lee — creating maybe the most proud Bulls moment that didn’t in any way include Michael Jordan. A special moment that stands as Pippen’s biggest single highlight and the final play of note in the basketball history of old Chicago Stadium.
Sidney Brown is WARR Media's resident Chicago sports historian