Every year the NBA All-Star Weekend draws millions of extra eyes to the league’s superstars around the midway mark of the season. The Sunday All-Star Game itself is of course the headline event, but there’s nothing quite as entertaining as the Slam Dunk Contest. More so than any other NBA showcase, the Dunk contest has been a consistent platform for some of the league’s most iconic moments.
In a few days, the 2015 All-Star Game Weekend will bring out another batch of the league’s best dunkers, and fans will no doubt size them up against their favorites from decades past. With that in mind, and in no particular order, here’s a rundown of the best moments from all the Slam Dunk Contests through the years.
Julius Erving’s Free Throw Line Dunk
Before Michael Jordan did it, Dr. J stunned a crowd in 1976 by taking off from the free throw line…almost. Footage of the dunk is grainy, choppy, and still every bit as impressive.
Dee Brown Steals The Show In 1991
Dee Brown put together a handful of memorable dunks during his appearance at the 1991 contest, but two moments stick out the most. First, ahead of his first dunk of the night, Brown “pumped up” his signature Reebok sneakers, a moment that the brand capitalized on with recent reissues of the silhouette. Later though, Brown inspired our next entry with a no-look dunk that helped him win the contest.
Cedric Ceballos Dunks Blindfolded
Most people who know of this dunk are also aware that Cedric Ceballos could see through his blindfold at the 1992 Dunk Contest in Orlando. Still, this “blind dunk” helped usher the contest into a new over-the-top and prop-friendly era.
Dominique Wilkins Windmills
Dominique Wilkins is now a regular pundit at the annual Slam Dunk Contests but his expertise dates back to 1985 when he popularized his “power windmill” style with this particular attempt.
J.R. Rider’s Between-The-Legs Dunk In 1994
Between-the-legs dunks now seem like old news, but in 1994, after predicting he’d win the contest the day he was drafted, J.R. Rider brought his signature style to the main stage and has since inspired decades of ball players with this trick.
Andre Iguodala’s Alley Oop From Allen Iverson
Some fans will never forgive the contest for not making Andre Iguodala the champion following this absurd off-the-glass, Allen Iverson-assisted alley-oop in 2006. Either way Iguodala and Nate Robinson helped push the Dunk Contest back into mainstream relevance with an extended showdown that is often remembered for this moment right here.
Gerald Green Blows Out A Candle
On face-value this doesn’t look like a greatest-ever dunk, but in 2008 Gerald Green showed that sometimes comedic value and creativity matter more than the actual acrobatics.
Vince Carter’s 360 Windmill Dunk
Sometimes an athlete comes along and makes everything that came before them seem antiquated. In 2000, Vince Carter did just that with a reverse 360 windmill dunk that made it seem like we were living in the future.
Michael Jordan’s Iconic Free Throw Line Dunk
Transcending the Dunk Contest, Michael Jordan’s from the free throw line throw-down in 1988 has become one of the most iconic moments in NBA history. Many forget that his second consecutive contest win that year was actually widely disputed given Dominique Wilkins’ strong performance, but this semi-final dunk has rightfully endured as one of the most admired ever.