Orlando's reliable post man has displaced Shaq as the NBA's most prolific dunker -- as his league-leading 254 flushes last season would indicate. His Superman dunk in this year's dunk contest earned a rare perfect score and punctuated the first victory for a center in the competition's 24-year history.
2 of 17Manny Millan/SI
Jordan soaring toward the rim tongue extended remains one of the most enduring images in sport. Throughout his Hall of Fame career, His Airness set a standard for aerial proficiency that may never be surpassed, inspiring generations of younger players with his boundless creativity and competitive spirit. He earned a perfect score of 50 seven times during his three dunk contest appearances -- a record that stands to this day.
3 of 17Gary Cameron/Reuters
Carter first garnered national attention for his high-flying brand of play during his three years at North Carolina. NBA renown came with his novel "elbow dunk" to clinch victory in the 2000 dunk contest. But international acclaim would follow months later during America's run to the gold medal at the Sydney Olympics, where his eye-popping dunk over French 7-footer Frédéric Weis became known worldwide as <i>le dunk de la mort</i> ("the dunk of death").
4 of 17John D. Hanlon/SI
No player this side of Michael Jordan did more to innovate and revolutionize the art of the dunk. As the dominant player of his era, Erving pushed the limits of creative expression in flight -- executing moves in games that many wouldn't attempt in practice. His throwdown from the free-throw line during the 1976 ABA dunk contest remains a watershed moment in the slam's evolution.
5 of 17Walter Iooss Jr./SI
The prolific scorer and imaginative dunker won two dunk contests but remains best remembered for playing Frazier to Michael Jordan's Ali in the unforgettable 1988 contest. The Human Highlight Film wowed the Chicago crowd with his trademark windmill dunk and an off-the-glass, one-handed tomahawk -- but dropped a 147-145 decision to hometown favorite Jordan in the final round.
6 of 17John Biever/SI
Just six months removed from his 18th birthday, the greater Philadelphia product edged Chris Carr for the 1997 dunk contest title to become the event's youngest winner. The victory cemented Bryant's arrival as a pro and his legacy as one of the league's premier dunk artists.
7 of 17AP
During a time when critics openly debated the relevance of the dunk contest, the dynamic Richardson breathed new life into the seemingly antiquated event. The 6-foot-6 guard won the 2002 and 2003 competitions on a series of innovative jams, becoming the fourth player to win two titles. In fact, Richardson would have become the first player to win three crowns if not for his controversial defeat at the hands of Fred Jones in 2004.
8 of 17John W. McDonough/SI
Despite never putting it on the line in the dunk contest, King James has earned a reputation as one of the league's most impressive dunk artists -- leading the NBA last season in driving dunks (36). That skill took center stage in this year's All-Star Game, when his slash-and-flush during the final minute broke a 125-125 tie and sparked the East to a surprising victory.
9 of 17Walter Iooss Jr./SI
Kemp entered the NBA in 1990 as the league's youngest player and quickly captured the imagination of Seattle fans with his exciting style of play and violent dunks. The Reign Man famously battled weight problems during the latter stages of his 14-year career, but few stars burned brighter during their prime.
10 of 17Manny Millan/SI
One of the game's most colorful personalities during its most colorful era, Chocolate Thunder gained equal parts notoriety and respect for his ferocious dunks -- and their subsequent nomenclature. The eccentric big man famously gave his dunks names like the Go-Rilla, the In-Your-Face Disgrace, the Yo-Mama and the Spine-Chiller Supreme.
11 of 17John Biever/SI
In the 20 years since NBA stat guru Harvey Pollack started tracking dunks, the Big Aristotle's incredible 3,852 slams rank light years ahead of closest competitor David Robinson (1,654). Aesthetic critics might take objection to Shaq's inclusion among the greatest dunkers ever, as his artless, matter-of-fact dunks won't score too many points for creativity. But few athletes could rival the raw power of an O'Neal dunk during the big guy's physical prime. Just ask the two backboard support units Shaq ruined on national TV during his rookie season.
12 of 17John W. McDonough/SI
Known as Clyde the Glide for his extraordinary leaping ability and easygoing demeanor, Drexler remains one of just two players (along with Dominique Wilkins) to participate in five dunk contests. The University of Houston product first gained renown for his dunking skills playing alongside Akeem Olajuwon on the "Phi Slama Jama" teams that advanced to three straight Final Fours during the early 1980s.
13 of 17Rich Clarkson/SI
Nance was already known as one of the league's elite dunkers on the eve of the inaugural NBA dunk contest in 1984. But not until the Phoenix forward defeated the old guard -- dunk revolutionary Julius Erving -- would his legacy be secured. Nance rose to the challenge before the McNichols Arena crowd in Denver, throwing down a reverse jam, a wrap-around and a two-fisted reverse using a pair of basketballs to win the event.
14 of 17Walter Iooss Jr./SI
Nicknamed Skywalker thanks to his alleged 48-inch vertical leap, Thompson popularized the alley-oop during his legendary collegiate career at North Carolina State. To this day, the swingman often gets credited (erroneously) with the play's invention.
15 of 17Vernon Biever/Wireimage.com
His picaresque journey to the Hall of Fame included tours with the Harlem Globetrotters, the Pittsburgh Rens of the American Basketball League, the Pittsburgh Pipers of the American Basketball Association and three different NBA teams during his last seven pro seasons. But the legend of Connie Hawkins was forged on the playgrounds of Bedford-Stuyvesant, where his soaring, acrobatic dunks have entered Brooklyn folklore.
16 of 17AP
Long considered a prototype of the modern NBA player, Johnson earned the nickname Honeycomb at the University of Idaho due to his sweet style of play. One of the first players to adopt the dunk as a regularly used weapon, the swingman shattered three backboards during his decadelong NBA career.
17 of 17John W. McDonough/SI
The Phoenix Suns Gorilla
For the past 20 years, the iconic mascot of the Suns -- whose Homo sapiens identity remains a closely guarded secret -- has entertained fans with his acrobatic dunks between the third and fourth quarters of Phoenix home games. It's no surprise the Gorilla was a charter member of the Mascot Hall of Fame along with the Phillie Phanatic and the San Diego Chicken.
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