Best dunks of all time in the NBA: Compare Ja Morant’s insane dunks to LeBron James, Michael Jordan and more

As much as we love the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, it will never match the excitement of a well-executed poster dunk during a game. The momentary anticipation when you see the player loaded, the hesitation when you think for a second, “He can’t really pull this off,” and finally, the thrilling explosion when the ball is thrown into the hoop.

For most of my life on earth, I’ve been a dunk connoisseur. I religiously re-watched the VHS versions of Vince Carter, Steve Francis and Tracy McGrady’s legendary 2000 NBA Slam Dunk Contest and James White’s 2001 McDonald’s All-American Slam Dunk Contest (yes, yes …laugh, Gen Z). In 2004, Jason Richardson jumped off the glass from a camping style folding chair in my college dorm, forgetting that my Minolta digital camera was in my lap – it shattered on impact with the hardwood floor, but I don’t regret it. It’s 4 a.m. and I’m watching the epic 2016 showdown between Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon alone on my tablet at an AirBnB in Paris while the rest of the house is asleep.

That history is why I reacted so strongly to Ja Morant’s dunk on Saturday against the Indiana Pacers. I didn’t scream when the Memphis Grizzlies guard seemed to bounce off a trampoline, throw his fully extended arms behind his head and throw the ball at poor Jalen Smith. I didn’t jump. I didn’t spit out my adult drink.

In fact, the dunk left me speechless, literally. Leaning forward, gesticulating frantically with my fists, I look around my empty house for any non-existent bystanders seeing what I just saw. I was flabbergasted, but my entire post-slam dunk celebration was on mute—a silent movie. Not long after, I started yelling, going into Slack and my group messages to communicate what had just happened. When my wife came home from get off work, I showed her about 50 dunks using the NBA’s handy “Every Angle” post.

Dunk of the Year? How about the best in-game dunk ever?

Obviously, the game dunk is the most difficult. But the element of surprise that comes with an incredible dunk in an NBA game can’t be topped. When considering the best ever, we must offer a few caveats: First, full-court fast breaks don’t count. Guys did 360 turns, tucked between legs, did windmills while one was in transition – sorry, it was so much like a slam dunk contest. The dunk Morant faced had to be in a real game. Second, these are just NBA dunks, so unfortunately Carter’s actual dunk at the 2000 Olympics, Frederick Weiss, won’t make the list.

Here are some of the best in-game dunks of all time (I dare not say they are the best), and you can judge for yourself whether you think Morant’s dunk is the best.

Julius Erwin (1983)

Let’s start with the classics. Dr. J’s “Rock Baby” dunk is one of the most iconic in league history and has never been duplicated. Not only was it one of the smoothest dunks we’ve ever seen, but it was against defending champion and all-time best defensive player Michael Cooper. There was an incredible phone call from GOAT NBA announcer Chick Hearn, who came up with the idea of ​​”rocking the baby to sleep” mid-flight. Not much better.

Dominic Wilkins (1984)

There’s a reason he’s nicknamed “Human Movie Highlight.” There are plenty of potential Dominique submissions, but this one gets a nomination for sheer power and creativity. Not only did ‘Nique get out of a double-team, but he dunked (essentially sideways) over Hall of Famer Bob Lanier, and he didn’t speak to Wilkins for 9 years after that.

Tom Chambers (1989)

Poor Mark Jackson. Playing for the Phoenix Suns, the 6-foot-10 Chambers rose…rise…rise…until he was at elbow level with the rim and dropped a vicious two-handed poster about the future of the NBA. Coach and ESPN analyst. The side corners best show Chambers’ height, but he might be deducted some differential for the boost he might get after hitting Jackson.

Michael Jordan (1991)

You know MJ has to be here somewhere. The dunk speaks for itself, but it gets some extra momentum because this is a playoff game and because Jordan has destroyed the Knicks so many times in his career.

Sean Kemp (1992)

Oh baby, Lister Blister. This dunk has it all: cuffs, posters, accents. Plus it came during the playoffs? Kemp is with the best of them.

John Starks (1993)

The Bulls beat the Knicks a lot in the 90s, but Starks will always dunk on Horace Grant and Michael Jordan (the kids). A right-handed player, Starks lifted and contorted his body in the final seconds of the Eastern Conference Finals game to throw a sickening left-handed dunk. It was one of the greatest moments in Knicks history.

Ricky Davis (1999)

It’s a deep wound, but one that deserves so much more love. Look at how tall Davis is! His head is actually on the edge. It’s hard to beat when it comes to dunking and sheer athleticism.

Vince Carter (1999)

Carter took the NBA by storm en route to winning Rookie of the Year in 1998-99, and it was one of those slam dunks that made us realize we weren’t dealing with normal people. That would have legitimately won a slam dunk contest in the ’90s, and he did it in traffic midway through the contest. Absolutely dirty.

Vince Carter (2005)

Carter has a lot of dunks to choose from, but he lists this as his personal favorite, so how can we disagree? First, he dodges Jason Williams with a smooth behind-the-back dribble, then he reaches back and dunks on Alonzo Mourning, one of the best shot-blockers in NBA history. If you’re going to choose the best dunker of all time, VC has to be at the top of the list.

Baron Davis (2007)

A lasting memory of the “We Believe” Warriors may be most aesthetically similar to Morant’s dunk. Davis pulled the ball back and sent the 6-foot-9 Andrei Kirilenko on the run, sending the Oracle Arena crowd into a frenzy.

We cannot pick just one. First Griffin coined a new verb when he “Mozgov” the 7-foot-1 Russian center. Then, next season, he might get ahead of himself by beating another big man, Kendrick Perkins. Some will argue that these weren’t technical dunks because Griffin didn’t touch the rim. leave here. When you’re high enough to throw the ball down over the net, you can come back to me with those arguments. Griffin has two impressive all-time dunk candidates.

Gerald Green (2012)

Green is one of the best dunkers of all time, and this might be his crowning achievement in the game. Yes, it’s in transition, but there are more than enough defenders in the area to be competent. Even thinking of making a windmill in this situation is pure madness, but I guess that’s what goes through your head when your eyes are level with the rim.

King’s name has a lot of accolades in the NBA — he’s about to become the league’s all-time scorer, one of them — but he’s also one of the few players to skip the entire damn dunk. John Lucas III never knew what hit him because LeBron never actually hit him. He just goes over him, clearing him like a traffic cone on the way to the open end of this alley.

Griffin deservedly got most of the flowers, but it was DJ who had the best dunk of the game with him. If some of the dunks on this list were ballet, this one is a monster truck rally—pure, unadulterated carnage. This led to countless memes about poor Brandon Knight getting knocked to the floor and sent into outer space. He even made fun of himself after the disastrous event. This is the pinnacle of the “Lob City” Clippers.

Remember when LeBron jumped over a guy? Well, Giannis skipped over a bigger guy to make it look too casual. There’s a reason they called him a Greek freak.

Aaron Gordon (2022)

Just throwing out the most recent one, Gordon gets bonus points for context here. Not only did this happen in an exhibition game on Christmas Day, but it happened in the final seconds of an overtime game. It takes some confidence when you’re putting someone on one of the most important possessions in a game.

As I said, this is by no means a complete list.Feel free to connect with me on Twitter @ColinCBSSports I forgot to dunk. No matter where you place Morant, he’s sure to join the pantheon of dunks in the NBA.

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