By C.W. Sesno
February 13, 2013

NBA Dunk Contests Ben Golliver breaks down the best and worst NBA Dunk Contests over at The Point Forward. (Greg Nelson/SI)

With the 2013 NBA Slam Dunk Contest approaching, the good folks over at's Point Forward blog have gone to great lengths to rank the best and worst dunk contests since its inception in 1984. Sure, everyone remembers Michael Jordan flying from the free-throw line in one of the most iconic dunks in history, but where does that rank against Dwight Howard's Superman or Vince Carter dunking his forearm through the rim?

How about the worst? Few have made a bigger mess of a dunk contest than Chris Andersen in 2005. Who can forget the Birdman's painful attempt (after attempt after attempt ...) to complete his first-round dunks. But how did that debacle affect where the '05 contest stacks up as a whole?

Here's the 10-point scale Golliver uses to determine the rankings:

1. Star presence: Did big names participate? Did they do well?

2. “Wow” moment: How good was the best moment from the dunk contest?

3. Rivalry: Was there a back-and-forth between at least two of the competitors to build the drama?

4. Variety: How many unique or cool dunks did the various competitors attempt?

5. Legacy: Will the dunk contest be remembered for positive reasons?

So how did everything stack up? It's well worth your time to check out the complete lists (find the best here and worst here), but let's take a look at how Golliver ranks our favorite moment of each as outlined above.

The Best

Headlined by Jordan's seemingly effortless free-throw dunk and Dominique Wilkins' raw power, the 1988 dunk contest had it all, scoring a 50/50 on Golliver's scale. He writes:

As good as it gets. The staying power of this dunk contest is amazing. Jordan’s charisma is so far ahead of its time and Wilkins’ power is on par with anything going today, Griffin included. No gimmicks, no props, no teammates, no cumbersome rules, no overly annoying commentators. Just dunks. The mano-a-mano battle was on such a high level that all the other contrivances and distractions that came in future dunk contests were necessary because this one wasn’t going to be topped without them.

Watch these highlights and there's no question Golliver is spot on.


The Worst

Rather than looking at the lamest overall contest, let's just stick to Birdman's dismal effort in '05 as that remains the worst moment in dunk contest history. Fifteen tries to hit two dunks? Dude, after a few tries you really gotta switch it up. The result was equal parts painful and hilarious (especially in montage form below).

Golliver gives this a 27 out of 50, making the the contest the fifth worst in history. He writes:

Never has a non-finalist so stained a dunk contest. All-Stars were openly laughing at Andersen from the sideline. Gilbert Arenas and LeBron James giggled from behind a Handicam. A mascot buried its giant head in its hands in shame. TNT’s Kenny Smith cracked, “He’s on TV more than Friends.” This was the most cringe-inducing episode in dunk-contest history.


Best NBA Slam Dunk Contests | Worst Dunk Contests

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