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NBA’s greatest in-game dunks of all time: Evaluating Ja Morant’s insane slam to Blake Griffin, Michael Jordan, extra

As a lot as we love the NBA Dunk Contest, it’ll merely by no means evaluate to the exhilaration of a well-executed in-game poster dunk. The transient second of anticipation once you see the participant load up, the hesitation once you suppose for a split-second, “there isn’t any means he is really going to complete this,” and at last, the thrilling explosion when the ball is thrown by way of the rim .

I have been a connoisseur of dunks for the higher a part of my time on this Earth. I religiously re-watched my recorded VHS variations (yeah, yeah … snigger it up, Gen Z) of Vince Carter, Steve Francis and Tracy McGrady’s legendary 2000 NBA Dunk Contest and James White’s 2001 McDonald’s All-American Dunk Contest. In 2004, I jumped out of the camping-style folding chair in my school dorm room when Jason Richardson went between-the-legs off the glass, forgetting that my Minolta digital digital camera was in my lap — it shattered upon affect with the hardwood flooring, however I’ve no regrets. I gawked on the epic 2016 showdown between Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon alone on my pill in a Paris AirBnB at 4 am, whereas the remainder of the household slept.

This historical past is why my response to Ja Morant’s face-melting poster dunk in opposition to the Indiana Pacers on Saturday was so telling. When the Memphis Grizzlies guard seemingly bounced off a trampoline, cocked his fully-extended arm behind his head and posterized poor Jalen Smith, I did not scream. I did not soar. I did not spit out my grownup beverage.

The dunk really, actually, left me speechless. I leaned ahead, gesticulated wildly with my fists and regarded round my empty home to see if any non-existent spectators noticed what I simply noticed. I used to be flabbergasted, however my total post-dunk celebration was on mute — a silent film. Shortly afterward I began shouting, going into Slack and my group messages to relay what had simply occurred. When my spouse acquired dwelling from work, I confirmed her the dunk about 50 occasions, utilizing the handy “each angle” put up from the NBA.

Dunk of the 12 months? How about greatest in-game dunk of all time?

Contest dunks, clearly, have the best diploma of problem. However the component of shock from an unbelievable dunk in the midst of an NBA recreation is unimaginable to high. When fascinated by one of the best ever, we’ve got to make a pair caveats: First, wide-open quick breaks do not depend. Guys have accomplished 360s, gone between the legs, accomplished windmills when alone in transition — sorry, that is simply an excessive amount of like a dunk contest. The dunks that Morant is up in opposition to have to be throughout real recreation motion. Second, these are NBA dunks solely, so sadly Carter actually dunking over Frederic Weis within the 2000 Olympics will not make the listing.

Listed here are among the greatest in-game dunks of all time (I would not dare say these are ALL of one of the best), and you’ll choose for your self whether or not you suppose Morant’s tops them.

Julius Erving (1983)

Would possibly as properly begin with a traditional. Dr. J’s “rock the infant” dunk is among the most iconic in league historical past, and has actually by no means been duplicated. Not solely was it one of many smoothest dunks we have seen, nevertheless it additionally got here in opposition to the reigning champs and an all-time defender in Michael Cooper. It was punctuated by the unimaginable name from GOAT NBA broadcaster Chick Hearn, who got here up with “rocks the infant, and put it to sleep” on the fly. Would not get a lot better.

Dominique Wilkins (1984)

His nickname was the “Human Spotlight Movie” for a motive. There are many potential Dominique submissions, however this one will get the nomination for sheer energy and creativity. Not solely does ‘Nique spin away from a double group, however he additionally dunks (mainly sideways) on Corridor of Famer Bob Lanier, who did not communicate to Wilkins for 9 years afterward.

Tom Chambers (1989)

Poor Mark Jackson. Whereas taking part in for the Phoenix Suns, the 6-foot-10 Chambers rose … and rose … and rose … till he was about elbow degree with the rim, and threw down a vicious two-handed poster over the long run NBA head coach and ESPN analyst. The facet angle greatest reveals simply how excessive Chambers acquired, however he may get some micro-points deducted due to a potential enhance after hitting Jackson.

Michael Jordan (1991)

You knew MJ needed to be right here someplace. This dunk speaks for itself, nevertheless it will get some further juice as a result of it was a playoff recreation, and due to how Jordan repeatedly devastated the Knicks over the course of his profession.

Shawn Kemp (1992)

Oh child, the Lister Blister. This dunk has all the pieces: The cuff, the poster, the purpose. Add in the truth that it got here throughout a playoff recreation? Kemp is up there with one of the best of them.

John Starks (1993)

The Bulls beat the Knicks lots within the 90s, however Starks will at all times have this dunk over Horace Grant and (type of) Michael Jordan. A right-handed participant, Starks elevates and contorts his physique to throw down a sick lefty dunk within the closing seconds of an Jap Convention Finals recreation. This is among the standout moments in Knicks historical past.

Ricky Davis (1999)

This can be a deep reduce, however deserves extra love than it will get. Have a look at how excessive Davis is! His head is actually on the rim. Relating to put-back dunks and sheer athleticism, that is arduous to beat.

Vince Carter (1999)

Carter took the NBA by storm en path to successful Rookie of the 12 months in 1998-99, and this is among the dunks that made us understand we weren’t coping with an extraordinary being. This might have legitimately received a dunk contest within the 90s, and he did it mid-game in site visitors. Completely filthy.

Vince Carter (2005)

Loads of Carter dunks to select from, however he ranked this as his private favourite, so who’re we to disagree? First he hits the graceful behind-the-back dribble to evade Jason Williams, then he reaches again and dunks throughout Alonzo Mourning, probably the greatest shot-blockers in NBA historical past. In case you’re selecting one of the best dunker ever, VC must be on the high of the listing.

Baron Davis (2007)

The lasting reminiscence of the “We Imagine” Warriors might be most much like Morant’s dunk aesthetically. Davis cocks it again and unleashes over 6-foot-9 Andrei Kirilenko, sending the Oracle Area crowd into insanity.

We could not decide only one. First Griffin created a brand new verb when he “Mozgoved” the 7-foot-1 Russian middle. Then, within the very subsequent season, he probably outdid himself by destroying one other large man, Kendrick Perkins. Some will argue that these aren’t technically dunks as a result of Griffin does not contact the rim. Get out of right here with that. While you’re excessive sufficient to throw the ball downward by way of the web, you’ll be able to come again to me with these arguments. Griffin has two extraordinarily spectacular candidates for greatest in-game dunk of all time.

Gerald Inexperienced (2012)

Inexperienced is among the greatest dunkers of all time, and this can be his crowning in-game masterpiece. Sure, it is in transition, however there’s sufficient defenders within the space for this to qualify. To even consider doing a windmill on this scenario is pure lunacy, however I assume that is what goes by way of your head when you may get eye-level with the rim.

The King has loads of NBA accolades to his identify — he is about to grow to be the league’s all-time scorer, for one — however he additionally is among the few gamers to ever soar over a complete rattling human being for a dunk. John Lucas III by no means knew what hit him, as a result of LeBron by no means really hit him. He simply went over him, clearing him like a site visitors cone on the best way to this alley-oop end.

Griffin deservedly will get a lot of the flowers, however DJ is correct up there with him for greatest in-game dunks. If among the dunks on this listing are ballets, this one is a monster truck rally — pure, unadulterated carnage. It led to numerous memes of poor Brandon Knight getting pounded into the ground and into outer house. He even poked enjoyable at himself after the catastrophic occasion. This was the “Lob Metropolis” Clippers at their most interesting.

Bear in mind when LeBron jumped over an individual? Effectively, Giannis jumped over an excellent greater individual and made it look means too informal. There is a motive they name him the Greek Freak.

Aaron Gordon (2022)

Simply to throw in a latest one, Gordon will get further factors for context right here. Not solely did this happen throughout a Christmas Day showcase recreation, nevertheless it additionally got here within the ultimate seconds of a one-point recreation in additional time. While you physique any individual one probably the most essential possessions of a recreation, that takes some confidence.


As I mentioned, that is certainly not a complete listing. Be happy to hit me up on Twitter @ColinCBSSports with the dunks I forgot. Regardless of the place you place Morant, he is actually joined the pantheon of in-game NBA dunks.

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