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NBA’s best in-game dunks of all time: Comparing Ja Morant’s insane slam to LeBron James, Michael Jordan, more

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As much as we love the NBA Dunk Contest, it just never compares to the excitement of a well-done in-game poster dunk. A brief moment of anticipation when you see the player loading in, hesitations when you think for a split second “He’s not really going to finish this”, and finally a spectacular explosion as the ball is thrown through the hoop. .

I’ve been a dunk connoisseur for most of my time on this earth. I rigorously reviewed my recorded VHS versions of (yeah, yeah… Gen Z laugh) Vince Carter, Steve Francis and Tracey McGrady. legendary 2000 NBA dunk competition and 2001 James White All-American Dunk Contest at McDonald’s. In 2004, I jumped out of a camping folding chair in my dorm room when Jason Richardson fell between his legs off the glass, forgetting that my Minolta digital camera was in my lap – it shattered on impact with the wooden floor, but I don’t regret anything. i stared at epic showdown 2016 between Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon alone on my tablet at the AirBnB in Paris at 4am while the rest of the family slept.

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This story explains why my reaction to Ja Morant’s poster dunk against the Indiana Pacers on Saturday was so eloquent. When the Memphis Grizzlies guard seemed to bounce off the trampoline, throw his full arm behind his head, and mimic poor Jalen Smith, I didn’t scream. I didn’t jump. I didn’t spit out my adult drink.

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Dank literally left me speechless. I leaned forward, gesticulating wildly with my fists, and looked around my empty house to see if any non-existent onlookers had seen what I had just seen. I was stunned, but my whole post-dunk celebration was on silent – silent movies. Soon after, I started screaming as I logged into Slack and my group messages to talk about what had just happened. When my wife got home from work, I dunked her about 50 times using a handy NBA “all around” post.

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Dunk of the year? How about the best in-game dunk of all time?

Competitive dunks obviously have the highest degree of difficulty. But the element of surprise from an incredible dunk in the middle of an NBA game is unbeatable. Thinking about the best ever, we should make a couple of caveats: First, wide open fast breaks don’t count. The guys were doing 360s, moving between the legs, doing windmills when they were alone in the transition – sorry, this looks too much like a top-down competition. The dunks that Morant encounters must take place during genuine game action. Second, it’s only NBA dunks, so unfortunately Carter literally killed Frederick Weiss at the 2000 Olympics will not be included in the list.

Here are some of the best game dunks of all time (I wouldn’t dare say they are ALL the best) and you can judge for yourself if you think Morant excels.

Julius Erving (1983)

We could start with the classics. Dr. J’s “Rock Baby” dunk is one of the most iconic in league history and has never been repeated. Not only was it one of the smoothest dunks we’ve ever seen, it was against the reigning champion and all-time defender Michael Cooper. This was punctuated by an incredible call from GOAT NBA broadcaster Chick Hearn, who came up with the idea of ​​”rocking the baby and putting him to bed” on the fly. It doesn’t get much better.

Dominic Wilkins (1984)

His nickname was “Human Highlight Film” for a reason. There are many potential representations of Dominic, but this one gets a nomination for sheer power and creativity. Nike not only pulled away from the double team, but also scored (mostly sideways) on Hall of Famer Bob Lanier, who didn’t speak to Wilkins for nine years after.

Tom Chambers (1989)

Poor Mark Jackson. Playing for the Phoenix Suns, the 6-foot-tall, 10-year-old Chambers climbed… and climbed… and climbed… until he was about elbow level with the ring, and threw a vicious two-handed placard over the future. NBA head coach and ESPN analyst. The side angle is the best representation of how high Chambers has climbed, but he could have some micro points deducted from him due to possible gain from Jackson’s hit.

Michael Jordan (1991)

You knew that MJ must be around here somewhere. This dunk is self-explanatory, but it got an extra boost because it was a playoff game and because of the way Jordan has blasted the Knicks multiple times throughout his career.

Shawn Kemp (1992)

Oh baby, Lister Blister. This dunk has it all: cuff, poster, point. Add to that the fact that it happened during a playoff game? Kemp is up there with the best of them.

John Starks (1993)

The Bulls beat the Knicks many times in the ’90s, but Starks will always have that dunk over Horace Grant and (kind of) Michael Jordan. A right-handed player, Starks lifts and curves his body to throw a stupid left dunk in the closing seconds of an Eastern Conference Finals game. It’s one of the great moments in Knicks history.

Ricky Davis (1999)

It’s a deep cut, but it deserves more love than it gets. Look how tall Davis is! His head is literally at the rim. When it comes to backstrokes and pure athleticism, it’s hard to beat.

Vince Carter (1999)

Carter took the NBA by storm on his way to winning Rookie of the Year in 1998-99, and it’s one of the dunks that made us realize we were dealing with no ordinary creature. In the 90’s it would have legitimately won a dunk contest and he did it mid game in traffic. Absolutely dirty.

Vince Carter (2005)

Lots of Carter dunks to choose from, but he called it his personal favoriteSo who are we to disagree? First, he dribbles smoothly from behind to dodge Jason Williams, then he reaches back and dunks Alonzo Morning, one of the best blockers in NBA history. If you are picking the best dunker, venture capital should be at the top of the list.

Baron Davis (2007)

The lasting memory of We Believe warriors is probably the most aesthetically similar to Morant’s dunk. Davis kicks back and unleashes 6’9″ Andrey Kirilenko, driving the Oracle Arena crowd crazy.

Blake Griffin (2010 and 2012)

We couldn’t choose just one. Griffin first created a new verb when “Brainball” a 7-foot Russian center. Then, the very next season, he arguably outdid himself by taking down another big man, Kendrick Perkins. Some argue that it is not technically a dunk because Griffin is not touching the rim. Get out of here with this. When you get high enough to throw the ball down over the net, you can come back to me with those arguments. Griffin has two extremely impressive nominees for the best game dunk of all time.

Gerald Green (2012)

Green is one of the best dunkers of all time, and this could be his ultimate gaming masterpiece. Yes, it’s a transition period, but there are enough defenders in the area to qualify. Even thinking about making a windmill in this situation is pure madness, but I think that’s what comes to your mind when you can raise your eyes to the level of the rim.

LeBron James (2012)

The King has a lot of NBA accolades – he’s about to become the league’s top scorer, for example – but he’s also one of the few players who’s ever jumped over a damn man to dunk. John Lucas III never knew what hit him because LeBron never hit him. He just ran over him, clearing him like a traffic cone on his way to the alley finish line.

DeAndre Jordan (2013)

Griffin deservedly gets the most flowers, but the DJ is not inferior to him in the best gaming dunks. If some of the dunks on this list are ballets, then this monster truck rally is pure, true carnage. This led to countless memes of poor Brandon Knight being slammed into the floor and into outer space. He even joked on himself after a catastrophic event. It was the Lob City Clippers in all their glory.

Giannis Antetokounmpo (2018)

Remember how LeBron jumped over a man? Well, Giannis jumped over an even bigger man, and it looked too casual. They don’t call him a Greek freak for nothing.

Aaron Gordon (2022)

Just to add a recent one, Gordon gets extra points for the context here. This happened not only during the exhibition Christmas game, but also in the last seconds of the game with one point in overtime. When you make someone one of the most important things in the game, it takes some confidence.

As I said, this is by no means an exhaustive list. Feel free to tweet me @ColinCBSSports I forgot about the dunks. No matter where you place Morant, he’s definitely joined the pantheon of NBA game dunkers.


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