The NBA Slam Dunk Contest used to be the highlight of an NBA season, a rite of passage for many of the most dynamic players in the league’s history.
Michael Jordan participated. So did Clyde Drexler, Vince Carter, Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady. And in the ABA, Dr. J and George Gervin put their kicks to the hardwood in the inaugural event in 1976.
This year, the star power will be provided by Minnesota’s Zach LaVine, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, Orlando’s Victor Oladipo and Brooklyn’s Mason Plumlee.
So as you unleash a sigh of disappointment over the descent of the event that has been spurned by LeBron James and has become an insult to our slam dunk heritage, take a little encouragement from this year’s upcoming event — airing Saturday night on TNT — as the event returns to the ‘old school’ rules and scoring of yesteryear. Also take a look at Metro’s most underrated contest dunks of all time:
1. Andre Igoudala (2006)
The Sixers’ star was absolutely robbed in 2006 by the smaller and untiringly-persistent Nate Robinson (who needed enough re-dos to put the crowd to sleep). Igoudala gave himself an alley-oop before passing the ball to himself behind his back en route to a thunderous slam. He would finish an undeserving runner up that contest.
2. Larry Johnson (1992)
Grandmama had one crack at the dunk contest and dominated in 1992 with 98’s in the first and second rounds before losing steam to Cedric Ceballos in the final round. His failure to seal the deal makes him overlooked by dunk historians, but his thunderous 180-degree power dunk that saw him bring the ball all the way down to his knees was an impressive performance.
3. Michael Jordan (1987)
Everyone remember’s Jordan’s seemingly effortless and never-ending flight to the bucket from the free throw line during his first of two back-to-back contest wins in 1987, but many overlook another incredible slam from His Airness that year. Jordan took off from the baseline, floated under the basket while narrowly avoiding a collision with the rim to finish the dunk on the other side of the hoop.
4. Terrence Stansbury (1987)
This unsung dunk contest hero participated in three straight contests from 1985-1987, never finishing higher than third. He had the unfortunate task of trying to out dunk Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins and Spud Webb those All-Star breaks. But his one-handed 360-dunk that saw him glide through the air with ease has been forgotten all-too quickly.
5. Amare Stoudemire and Steve Nash (2005)
The soccer-loving Nash set Amare (then a force of nature with the Suns) up with a perfect head butt to set up an authoritative 180 degree high-flying slam in his 2005 runners-up finish to Josh Smith.