The 8 Debate

April 01, 2013

Greatest NBA In-Game Dunks

A banner year for dunks—celebrated by just about everyone except Pistons guard Brandon Knight, who had the unfortunate duty of trying to stop a soaring, 6' 11" DeAndre Jordan of the Clippers and became a punch line for his troubles—got even better last week when LeBron James threw down over Celtics guard Jason Terry. As dazzling as those slams were, neither quite rises to the level of these.

8 Tom Chambers over Mark Jackson

Jan. 27, 1989

There's being posterized, then there's being bronzed. Knicks point guard Jackson served as both victim and springboard for Chambers's two-hander, a dunk so iconic that a statue of it was presented to the 6' 10" Chambers when he was inducted into the Suns' ring of honor.

7 Vince Carter over Alonzo Mourning

Nov. 8, 2005

Carter's masterpiece married style (a behind-the-back dribble) with power (throwing down on the Heat center, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year).

6 LeBron James over Kevin Garnett

May 12, 2008

The King's dunk in the Cavaliers' 2008 second-round series against Boston was summed up best by TNT's Kevin Harlan: "LeBron James, with no regard for human life!"

5 Darryl Dawkins over Bill Robinzine

Nov. 13, 1979

The first of Dawkins's two backboard-shattering dunks in the '79--80 season came at the expense of Robinzine and the Kansas City Kings, prompting the 76ers' center to dub it the Chocolate-Thunder-Flying, Robinzine-Crying, Teeth-Shaking, Glass-Breaking, Rump-Roasting, Bun-Toasting, Wham-Bam, Glass-Breaker-I-Am-Jam.

4 Kevin Johnson over Hakeem Olajuwon

May 15, 1994

Score one for the little guys. The 6' 1" KJ was giving up 11 inches, but that didn't stop him from elevating over the Dream—who compounded the embarrassment by picking up a foul.

3 Julius Erving over Michael Cooper

Jan. 5, 1983

A slam that wouldn't have looked out of place in a dunk contest: Erving picked up a loose ball, loped toward the hole, cuffed the rock and windmilled over one of the game's best defenders. The slam is now known as the Rock the Baby Dunk.

2 Shawn Kemp over Alton Lister

April 30, 1992

The top choice of many readers on SI's Facebook page ("Kemp over Lister—sick" wrote Samuel Yu), the Reign Man sent Warriors center Lister to the floor, then taunted him with a double-barrel point. Sportsmanlike? Not really, but fitting.

1 Michael Jordan over Patrick Ewing

April 30, 1991

Some may argue that Scottie Pippen had the best dunk by a Bull over Ewing (in the '94 playoffs), but Jordan's stuff in the first round of the '91 postseason tops the list for the complete play: a baseline spin to get away from two Knicks, then the flush on the 7-footer.

Clippers 6'10" forward Blake Griffin was far and away the NBA's leading dunker at week's end (178, 22 more than Nuggets center JaVale McGee). Only one player under 6'6" was in the top 50: 6'4" Heat guard Dwyane Wade (left), who ranked 16th with 91 dunks.

Who should be on the list? Join the debate.

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PHOTOJOHN W. MCDONOUGH/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (WADE) PHOTO ILLUSTRATIONPHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY TREVOR LAZARUS: VICTOR BALDIZON/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (CARTER)VINCE CARTER TWO PHOTOS

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