Dominique Wilkins fell to Michael Jordan in the 1988 dunk contest. (Walter Iooss Jr./SI)
By Ben Eagle
Twenty-five years ago, a young Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins went head-to-head in the greatest dunk contest of all time. The contest, held on Feb. 6, 1988, at Chicago Stadium, featured some of the most memorable dunks in the competition's history. But, according to a story in this week's issue of Sports Illustrated, those dunks required little-to-no preparation from Wilkins.
"I never prepared for a dunk contest," Wilkins told SI senior writer Lee Jenkins in an oral history of the '88 Slam Dunk Contest, which hits newsstands and the iPad on Wednesday. (Click here to subscribe to Sports Illustrated.) "The dunks just came. If I told you how I came up with the windmill, you wouldn't believe me."
The two-handed windmill Wilkins is referring to came in the last round of the contest. "I attacked the rim," he says. "It was powerful. It was ferocious. It was my best dunk." But it earned him only a 45, opening the door for Jordan to win the contest. The Bulls' guard went baseline to baseline, jumping from the free-throw line to earn a perfect 50 and his second straight slam dunk title.
"When you're in somebody's hometown, it's always tough," Wilkins said at the time of the controversial ending. "But he [Jordan] had a great dunk, you have to admit. If anybody's going to beat me, I'd rather have it be him."
To his credit, Jordan recognized the home-field advantage provided by Chicago Stadium.
"I felt if I wasn't in Chicago," he told reporters at the time, "it might have gone the other way."
Wilkins would return to the dunk contest in 1990 and defeat Kenny Smith for his second title. Jordan, on the other hand, retired from dunk contests after '88.