Over the next few days, NBA.com will run a three-part series from the latest edition of Inside Stuff magazine highlighting the top dunks and dunkers in the game today. Starting off the dunk-fest was a look at the top five dunks of all-time. Now, we'll move on to the top 10 dunkers on the court today. Check out photos of some of the highlight-reel dunks. Finally, Vince Carter will provide the keys to being a good dunker as well as what it feels like to dunk on somebody.
Don't look away when these high-fliers take the court. They can all get up, stay up and get the crowd up with their aerial supremacy. Every basketball fan has their favorite dunker. Some prefer players who dunk with raw power, some prefer players who dunk with balletic grace and some prefer a little bit of everything. After pouring over hours of footage and debating the merits of the tomahawk versus the reverse versus the alley-oop among other things, we've arrived at the following list of our favorite dunkers in the L today. We understand our top 10 might not be your top 10, and gladly invite your comments... By #2, #4 and #6.
At No. 10 we find the NBA's reining MVP Kevin Garnett. At 6-11 plus some, KG is large and most definitely in charge. So much so, in fact, he personifies his moniker of Big Ticket, giving fans a super sized show of points, boards, blocks, steals and assists on a nightly basis. But he also gives NBA fans a regular dosage of dunks, even though there's no stat to record the hardest of his hardcore highlights. The Timberwolves' top dog has made himself a staple of SportsCenter recaps over the years with his sick slams that come out of nowhere. His kicks loaded like pogo sticks, Garnett can spring up and drive one down on ya at any moment.
Defining Dunk: In a game against Sacramento several seasons ago, KG flew from the middle of the lane and threw in a crazy, one-handed tip dunk which the disbelieving announcer described as "special effects."
KG on his dunking frequency: "It's like a volcano. You never know when I'm going to explode."
If anybody knows Desmond Mason's dunk style, it's his former Sonics teammate, close friend and part-time prop Rashard Lewis. In the 2001 dunk contest, Lewis filled the role of human hurdle for the then-rookie Mason, who jumped over his back for a jam, en route to the trophy. "He attacks the rim aggressively," says Lewis. "You've got to have that 'dawg' attitude to be a top dunker. You've got to be a physical player and don't care about getting hit. You've got to be one of those guys that give up your body." Mason is definitely one of those guys. The 6-5 Milwaukee Bucks swingman, who finished second to Jason Richardson in a memorable dunk showdown in '03, has never been afraid to be banged around or to bang on opponents from way up.
Defining Dunk: Mase's two-handed kiss-the-rim dunk from the '01 dunk contest is a highlight-reel regular, but many people remember the two games during the '00-01 season he sent into overtime with last-second left-handed tip dunks. Ridiculousness.
What the League is saying: "He can fly. It must be nice to know how to jump like that."
LeBron James threw down this dunk in his first regular season game against the Sacramento Kings.
No disrespect to Fred Jones -- we're not putting an asterisk by his '04 dunk title. In fact, we're guessing even he would agree that the most entertaining throwdowns of All-Star 2004 came during the Rookie Challenge. Towards the end of the game, the challenge evolved into an impromptu dunk contest with Amaré Stoudemire leading the sophomore slammers and LeBron James rockin' the rim for the rooks. Although James chose not to compete in the official dunk contest in L.A. due to a sore ankle, he put on a heck of a show for the Staples Center crowd the night before, catching and hammering several alley-oops, and even putting one down off the glass. None of his highlights from All-Star Weekend or even his rookie run, for that matter, compare to his personal favorite.
Defining Dunk: In his first regular season game, LBJ took a steal at midcourt and elevated for a unique, Statue-of-Libertyesque one-handed throwdown that we would go on to see several times during the season. But we're waiting for his signature dunk to evolve ...
LBJ begs to differ: "My most memorable dunk was back in the 8th grade at Readinger Middle School, during a teachers vs. students game. I threw it down hard."
No one will ever accuse Amaré Stoudemire of lacking in confidence. The 6-10, 245-pounder can go between the legs or behind the back like a small forward, or drop the two-handed hammer, with his knees in your face, like his boyhood hero Shaq. While his position among the game's best is debatable -- sorry, Amaré, we tabbed you seventh -- no one will argue against Amaré as one of the most forceful dunkers today. Just ask Tim Duncan, KG, Yao Ming, Karl Malone or especially Michael Olowokandi. [Ed. Note-read on)
Defining Dunk: Then-teammate Stephon Marbury ran a pick-and-roll with Amaré, delivered a perfect bounce pass to a cutting Stoudemire who caught it in stride and had only Olowokandi between him and the basket. Guess who caught the wrong end of the play? Steph's facial expression afterwards was almost as good as Stoudemire's dunk.
Amaré's disagrees with us: "I'm going to go with myself at No. 2. I think my dunk style, with my body English in the air, is pretty unique. And also I bring the power when I do go up to dunk."
Picking the best little man dunker is no easy task. The list includes Baron Davis, Allen Iverson and Stephon Marbury. While all can get up, we choose the Franchise as our fave. Steve is well known for his habit of climbing the trees in the middle and chopping them down with the double ax handle or the one-handed chainsaw.
Defining Dunk: In the '00 contest, Stevie bounced it, caught it, double-clutched it and reversed it home, his head at rim level.
On Cuttino Mobley's Alley-oops: "I always know when Cat's going to throw an alley-oop. He looks away when he's dribbling, puts it up there, and I just go get it."
Jason Richardson's best dunk came during NBA All-Star 2004, but he failed to win his third dunk title.
Andrew D. Bernstein
No one's ever won three NBA dunk crowns and it doesn't look as though J-Rich will be the first, but what a treat it was to witness his first two. Jason, who grew up idolizing Dominique Wilkins, won the '02 crown with a bounce, catch and reverse windmill jam, and the '03 title with a bounce, catch and between-the-legs, over-head flush. But he missed his final attempt in '04 -- which would have locked up the threepeat -- and subsequently announced his retirement from the dunk contest. Of course, J-Rich could always change his mind ... but in the meantime, you can catch his anti-gravity ways in an arena near you.
Defining Dunk: Ironically enough, Richardson's best dunk came in the contest he didn't win: '04 in L.A. With a similar approach to his previous dunks, he ooped it to himself, caught it, took it under his left leg and slammed it left-handed -- sending the crowd into a tizzy.
J-Rich on dunk creativity: "You have to think of a different way to separate your dunk from other dunks. Like the dunk I did [in Atlanta]. Everybody knew J.R. Rider did the between-the-legs dunk, so I just switched it around and went behind my legs."
Tracy McGrady tried to tell us he's not in the upper echelon of dunkers in the League today. Yeah, right. For those of you who followed T-Mac in high school, you remember earlier than that as he stood head and shoulders ... check that, knees and ankles above his prep counterparts. As a relative unknown in Toronto, T-Mac lurked quietly behind VC but when he showed, it was usually in the form of a jarring dunk. Now no one sleeps on this graceful and nasty aerial Rocket.
Defining Dunk: We were there. All-Star Game 2002 in Philly. About 10-rows behind baseline. McGrady drove upcourt, flipped the ball up with his left hand off glass, weaved mid-air through the West and threw it down with his right hand. Hard.
T-Mac on dunking: "Elevation. Creativity. First of all, you've got to get up high enough to put the ball in. Second of all, you've got to have some style with your dunk. You can't be plain. You've got to have some type of creativity because that's what people want to see. That's what describes your personality, the type of person you are."
Ricky Davis can do a little bit everything-shoot pass and score. But Davis doesn't do anything quite as well as he does dunking, particularly scaling over dudes for demoralizing jams. Although he struggled in the '04 dunk contest, the Celtics' forward could compete with just about anyone with the wide assortment of slams in his arsenal. All of which he feels comfortable going to during games.
Defining Dunk: His nastiest number came in '02-03. Flying up court, he took it strong and full-speed to the rack, with then-Mavs guard Steve Nash waiting underneath in search of a charge. We don't actually remember whether or not he got it, but we're thinking Nash still has a bump on his forehead from Davis' knee.
Ricky's keys to dunking: "The key element is to be able to dunk when the light's on -- you know, dunking on people, finishing, keeping the attitude of dunking."
Kobe Bryant took flight during The Finals in June 2004 against the Detroit Pistons.
Andrew D. Bernstein
Considering how much he's accomplished over eight years, it's easy to forget Kobe Bryant won the NBA Slam Dunk as a rookie during the '97 All-Star Weekend in Cleveland. The then-18-year-old flexed his biceps after scoring 49 out of 50 on his crown-clinching under-the-leg jam. It was only a taste test of what was to come, though, as his traveling dunk show, like his game, got better by the year. With a delicious recipe of speed, athleticism, hops and body control, No. 8's dunks are at times things of beauty and power.
Defining Dunk: The downright ugly baseline facial he gave Yao Ming in February 2003.
What Kobe's teammate thinks: "If someone's dominating the middle, Kobe will come over and say, 'Next time I get in the lane I'm going to dunk on that person.' And most of the time he'll make it happen."
Picking Vince Carter's best dunk is kind of like picking da Vinci's best painting or the Biggie's best song. They're all classics. We're sure you've got your own favorites, perhaps one of his many 360s, windmills, alley-oops or up-and-under reverse jams. All of which, no doubt, were followed up by a punch to the air, pound of the chest or a head-shaking growl. There's a reason he earned the nickname "Vinsanity," you know.
Defining Dunk: Our favorites are from the 2000 dunk contest -- pick one -- and, of course, Carter's leapfrog throwdown over France's 7-2 center Frederic Weis in the '00 Olympics
What the League is saying: "People never thought they'd see anybody jump higher or better than Jordan or Dr. J, or Dominique. Jordan and all those guys were some great dunkers, don't get me wrong, but you can't compare them to Vince."