NBA All-Star weekend is upon us, which means the Slam Dunk Contest is back. From Michael Jordan to Vince Carter and Dominique Wilkins, many have electrified the stadium crowd for one of the best nights in sports history. The contest temporarily lost its juice in recent years, until Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon put on a show to revive the competition in 2016. After sifting through 17 contests from this millennium, relive VIBE’s top 10 slams from the NBA Dunk Contest since 2000.
10. J.R. Smith – 2005
A teenage J.R. Smith made his dunk contest debut back in 2005, as a member of the New Orleans Hornets. Earl’s hops used to be insane, and he showcased them here with a lot less tattoos than he currently boasts. Smith only received a 45 score from the judges for this high difficulty behind the back slam because he could not flush it clean on the first attempt.
9. Fred Jones – 2004
Freddy won the 2004 Dunk Contest against two-time defending champ Jason Richardson. Jones threw down an epic tomahawk slam off the bounce for a 50 point score, which is the highest you can receive. The 6’4″ guard showed that the underdog sometimes comes out on top.
8. Josh Smith – 2005
J-Smoov may be out of the NBA, but he was one of the most enigmatic dunkers of the last generation. In 2005 Smith paid homage to Atlanta Hawk legend Dominique Wilkins, who is one of the best dunkers ever in his own right, by bringing out a jersey of the “Human Highlight Reel” and throwing down an epic windmill slam, earning a 50 point score and taking home the 2005 contest title.
7. Amar’e Stoudemire – 2005
STAT came in to the league as one of the most athletic big men the NBA has ever seen, and went on to dominate the paint with his Suns pick and roll partner Steve Nash, who assisted him in the 2005 Dunk Contest. Nash channeled his soccer skills for a header pass to Stoudemire, netting him a 50 from the judges, but went on to lose to Josh Smith in the finals.
6. Dwight Howard – 2008
“SUPERMAN is here.” I can still remember Kenny Smith bugging out about this “dunk,” which Howard actually somehow threw through the hoop. He was literally flying, a 6’11” 265 pound man is not supposed to move like Howard used to. His “Superman” special catapulted him to a 50 score and the 2008 contest champion.
5. Nate Robinson – 2006
There’s something special about seeing the little guys dunk, at least short by NBA standards. Nate Rob carved out a nice career for himself as an energetic role player that could get up with the best of them. He even blocked 7’6″ Yao Ming in a game, a true sight to behold. Nate took his first of three Dunk Contest championships in 2006, the only player to ever win three times, by just edging out Andre Iguodala. He called on fellow little man Spud Webb for help, as Nate dunked over the 5’7″ Spud, who won the Dunk Contest back in 1986, paving the way for guys like Robinson.
4. Andre Iguodala – 2006
Even though as a Knicks fan pulling for Nate, I really felt that Iggy got snubbed out of the title after witnessing one of the most improbable dunks of all-time. The Arizona Wildcat had fellow Sixer Allen Iverson throw a pass from behind the backboard where Iggy soared through the air and dunked the ball on the total other side of the rim. It was absolutely jaw-dropping. What a freak athlete Andre was, as he went on to lose the contest to Nate in controversial fashion, by one point in the finale. Even Warriors head coach Steve Kerr called it, “the most underrated in the contest’s history.”
3. Aaron Gordon – 2016
Another high-flying Arizona Wildcat went toe-to-toe with the defending champ Zach LaVine in the 2016 Dunk Contest. His under the legs slam was something that’s never been done before, launching him to the top of this list. It’s mind boggling how he leaped over the Magic mascot for such a smooth transition. Gordon ended up losing out to LaVine by three points in a debatable decision, but nonetheless made the competition interesting once again.
2. Jason Richardson – 2003
When you think of the best dunkers of the modern era, two people come to mind. Jason Richardson is definitely one and you probably know the other guy who is coming up next. J-Rich defied all laws of physics in the 2003 Dunk Contest, leading him to win back to back in 02-03. The slam that had Kenny Smith claiming “it’s over,” was his through the legs dunk from the baseline, sending the crowd into a frenzy. How could anyone forget J-Rich in that shiny Warrior jersey with his hands up.
1. Vince Carter – 2000
Vinsanity, the best to ever to do it in a Slam Dunk Contest. The new millennium put the competition back on the map, as you can see the early 2000s era of dunk contests was a lot more impressive than recent years. Air Canada put on such a show that it wouldn’t be fair to select just one dunk from the five he put down in Oakland, Calif., that night to beat out his cousin Tracy McGrady, who helped him with the slam to seal his victory, and Stevie Francis. Half-Man, Half-Amazing did not disappoint with the most epic collection of dunks in one exhibition. Relive the moment below. It’s astonishing VC is still chugging along in the league now at 40-years-old.
Enjoy the dunk contest Saturday (Feb. 18), as well as the rest of your All-Star weekend! For all your historical dunk contest information, click here.