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NBA’s finest in-game dunks of all time: Evaluating Ja Morant’s insane slam to LeBron James, Michael Jordan, extra

As a lot as we love the NBA Dunk Contest, it should merely by no means evaluate to the exhilaration of a well-executed in-game poster dunk. The temporary second of anticipation whenever you see the participant load up, the hesitation whenever you assume for a split-second, “there is no method he is really going to complete this,” and eventually, the thrilling explosion when the ball is thrown by means 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 … chortle 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 digicam was in my lap — it shattered upon influence with the hardwood ground, 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 towards 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 bounce. I did not spit out my grownup beverage.

The dunk really, actually, left me speechless. I leaned ahead, gesticulated wildly with my fists and appeared round my empty home to see if any non-existent spectators noticed what I simply noticed. I used to be flabbergasted, however my whole 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 obtained house from work, I confirmed her the dunk about 50 occasions, utilizing the handy “each angle” put up from the NBA.

Dunk of the Yr? How about finest in-game dunk of all time?

Contest dunks, clearly, have the best diploma of issue. However the factor of shock from an unbelievable dunk in the midst of an NBA recreation is unattainable to high. When fascinated by the most effective ever, we have now to make a pair caveats: First, wide-open quick breaks do not depend. Guys have achieved 360s, gone between the legs, achieved windmills when alone in transition — sorry, that is simply an excessive amount of like a dunk contest. The dunks that Morant is up towards should 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 below are a few of the finest in-game dunks of all time (I would not dare say these are ALL of the most effective), and you may decide for your self whether or not you assume Morant’s tops them.

Julius Erving (1983)

May as nicely begin with a traditional. Dr. J’s “rock the infant” dunk is likely one of 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, however it additionally got here towards the reigning champs and an all-time defender in Michael Cooper. It was punctuated by the unbelievable 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 significantly better.

Dominique Wilkins (1984)

His nickname was the “Human Spotlight Movie” for a purpose. 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 enjoying for the Phoenix Suns, the 6-foot-10 Chambers rose … and rose … and rose … till he was about elbow stage with the rim, and threw down a vicious two-handed poster over the long run NBA head coach and ESPN analyst. The aspect angle finest exhibits simply how excessive Chambers obtained, however he would possibly get some micro-points deducted due to a potential increase after hitting Jackson.

Michael Jordan (1991)

You knew MJ needed to be right here someplace. This dunk speaks for itself, however it will get some additional 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 every part: The cuff, the poster, the purpose. Add in the truth that it got here throughout a playoff recreation? Kemp is up there with the most effective of them.

John Starks (1993)

The Bulls beat the Knicks loads within the 90s, however Starks will at all times have this dunk over Horace Grant and (sort 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 likely one of the standout moments in Knicks historical past.

Ricky Davis (1999)

This can be a deep lower, however deserves extra love than it will get. Take a look at how excessive Davis is! His head is actually on the rim. On the subject of put-back dunks and sheer athleticism, that is onerous to beat.

Vince Carter (1999)

Carter took the NBA by storm en path to successful Rookie of the Yr in 1998-99, and this is likely one of the dunks that made us notice we weren’t coping with an peculiar being. This could have legitimately gained a dunk contest within the 90s, and he did it mid-game in 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. Should you’re selecting the most effective 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 just 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 means of the web, you’ll be able to come again to me with these arguments. Griffin has two extraordinarily spectacular candidates for finest in-game dunk of all time.

Gerald Inexperienced (2012)

Inexperienced is likely one of the finest 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 means of your head when you will get eye-level with the rim.

The King has loads of NBA accolades to his title — he is about to turn into the league’s all-time scorer, for one — however he additionally is likely one of the few gamers to ever bounce over an entire 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 visitors cone on the way in which to this alley-oop end.

Griffin deservedly will get a lot of the flowers, however DJ is true up there with him for finest in-game dunks. If a few of 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 area. He even poked enjoyable at himself after the catastrophic occasion. This was the “Lob Metropolis” Clippers at their most interesting.

Keep in mind when LeBron jumped over an individual? Effectively, Giannis jumped over an excellent larger particular person and made it look method too informal. There is a purpose they name him the Greek Freak.

Aaron Gordon (2022)

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


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

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