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NBA All-Star Weekend features many exciting events, but the Slam Dunk Contest typically takes the cake.
Since 2000 alone, the showcase has produced legendary moments from Vince Carter and Jason Richardson, as well as a memorable battle between Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon.
In the last two decades, the dunk contest has undergone several format changes to increase viewership. Some tweaks worked, while others failed miserably.
B/R parsed through the last 20 editions of the contest and identified seven that stood out the most. Each of these showcases had several jump-out-of-your-chair dunks and, in most cases, multiple players providing the mayhem.
Yes, this is a heavily subjective exercise. Your favorites may be considerably different, and there isn’t a wrong answer—unless you’re hoping to see 2014.
Down with the team format, forever and ever.
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During the 2007 contest, Gerald Green bounced his way past Dwight Howard, Nate Robinson and Tyrus Thomas.
Along the way, Green displayed his vertical when catching an alley-oop off the side of the backboard and later jumping over Robinson. Green’s windmill from the front of the free-throw circle won the competition.
Robinson attracted praise for his powerful oop and 180 during the first round, largely because of the explosiveness he showed at 5’9″. Howard also impressed with a windmill and touching a sticker near the top of the backboard while dunking.
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One year before Green leaped over Robinson both physically and metaphorically, “KryptoNate” grabbed his first of three career trophies in the dunk contest. Although the result was controversial, both Robinson and Andre Iguodala put on a show.
Among other dunks, Robinson had a reverse 360, a between-the-legs slam and jumped over Spud Webb. Iguodala treated the crowd to a windmill and a behind-the-backboard oop from Allen Iverson.
Hakim Warrick added an impressive reverse, and Josh Smith jumped from just inside the free-throw line.
From top to bottom, 2006 was a rock-solid dunk contest.
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If you’re a regular NBA viewer, you probably remember when Dwight Howard threw the ball through the net while wearing a Superman cape in 2008. While somewhat controversial—he didn’t touch the rim—that’s merely one moment from a memorable dunk contest.
Gerald Green jumped so high that he blew out a candle on a cupcake. He also went between the legs twice, including once after he took off his shoes.
Howard also managed a below-the-backboard windmill. Later, he tipped the ball off the backboard with his left hand before following with a right-handed jam.
Jamario Moon and Rudy Gay also had quality first-round performances, but Howard and Green overshadowed them.
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The 2011 dunk contest lands this high not only because of Blake Griffin‘s winning dunk. He jumped over a car—which is exceptionally difficult—but that wasn’t close to the best slam of the night.
DeMar DeRozan threw down an absurd reverse windmill. JaVale McGee dunked two basketballs in different hoops and broke out a cradle reverse in the finals. Serge Ibaka jumped from the free-throw line and later snatched a stuffed animal hanging from the rim with his teeth.
Griffin also had an emphatic 360 in the first round and windmill off the side of the backboard, along with his winner.
“Like, if you really watch that dunk contest and just watch dunk after dunk after dunk, you’ll truly be amazed,” McGee told Blake Murphy of Dime in 2018.
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After the dunk contest had six-plus competitors for nearly two decades, the 2002 edition dropped the field to four. Jason Richardson won that event, but he wasn’t finished.
The next year, he returned to unleash one of the best jams in the history of the dunk contest.
Leading up to that final slam, he threw down a windmill, a 360 pump and a pump reverse. Then, needing 49 points to win, Richardson busted out an off-the-bounce between-the-legs reverse. That 50 propelled him past Desmond Mason.
The Seattle SuperSonics guard provided strong competition, rocking the cradle, soaring for a left-handed jam and going between the legs with his left hand.
Throw in Amar’e Stoudemire’s between-the-legs dunk, and 2003 had both a memorable winner and superb depth in the field.
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Zach LaVine took home the hardware in 2016, but he and Aaron Gordon put together an eye-popping display that evening.
Gordon opened with a calm between-the-legs dunk. LaVine went behind the back and under the rim. Gordon jumped over a mascot. LaVine caught an oop from inches in front of the free-throw line. And to think that was merely the appetizer.
The finals were absurd.
Gordon and LaVine both started with 360s. Gordon followed by jumping over a mascot while putting the ball under his legs, and LaVine answered the 50 with a windmill from the free-throw line. In the first tiebreaker, both Gordon and LaVine throw down 50s.
Finally, in the fourth dunk of the championship round, LaVine bested Gordon to win a legendary competition.
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Although the 2000 dunk contest also featured Tracy McGrady and Steve Francis, Vince Carter stole the show.
During the first round, “Vinsanity” broke out a reverse 360 windmill, a 180 windmill from underneath the rim and a between-the-legs slam. In the finals, Carter showcased the unforgettable honey dip—sticking his right arm into the basket up to his elbow—and ended with a two-handed slam after taking off near the free-throw line.
That sequence could’ve claimed the No. 1 spot.
Throw in McGrady’s 360 pump and Francis’ reach-back dunk, and the 2000 contest is clearly atop the rankings.