The dunk, the most spectacular play in basketball. There are all kinds of dunks: reverse, 360, windmill, tomahawk, double pump, etc. And there’s even combinations between them.
I’ve always thought of dunking as making a statement. If you go back to the most fundamental objective in basketball that would be making the ball go through the hoop. When you dunk is as if you were saying: “Ok, so I have to put the ball through the ring? There you go, try and stop this from happening.” While you throw down with force the ball.
Here I list the top 5 best dunkers in the league. Rating a dunk is a matter of perspective and opinion. So to be clear, I’m basing my ranking on in-game dunking and how effective, powerful and thrilling are each player’s dunks.
Russell Westbrook - Oklahoma City Thunder
Westbrook is arguably the most explosive player in the league. And for a 6 ft 3 point guard, he’s got an amazing vertical jump and strength. When driving to the basket, “Beastbrook” is virtually unstoppable. Even more, when given a little bit extra space he normally ends up with a monster slam plus a free throw. He also likes to turn on the crowd with emphatic dunks on fast breaks.
My favorite Westbrook dunk took place during the 2014 Western Conference finals against the Spurs. San Antonio was playing a 2-3 zone at the moment when Westbrook drove past Leonard with ease and finished with a tomahawk before Splitter could even react.
Larry Nance Jr - Los Angeles Lakers
Nance is the son of former Slam Dunk Contest winner Larry Nance Sr., so you could say dunking is in his blood. What I love about Nance’s dunks is how unreachable he puts the ball when grabbing it single-handedly and rising into the air. He is also a fast decision maker; he never hesitates and explodes to the rim immediately. These factors combine to create insane poster dunks. Nance is still young (24 years old), maybe with more playing time we’ll get more of these amazing moves.
Top 5 In-Game Dunkers
5. Aaron Gordon - Orlando Magic
What’s special about this kid it’s how he manages to finish strong in spite of taking off far away from the rim. Gordon has proven that he’s able to dunk in every variation possible. Not only did he put on a show on the 2016 Slam Dunk Contest but he’s also done it during games. Reverse, two-handed, windmill, you name it! He’s done everything.
My favorite dunk it’s in a home game vs. the Warriors. It occurs after a midcourt turnover. Gordon ends up on a one-on-one against Draymond Green. For a split second Green really thinks he’s going to contest the shot. But before he even notices, Gordon takes off one step after the free throw line, soars through the air and reaches the rim one-handed. Staggering!
4. LeBron James - Cleveland Cavaliers
LeBron is one of the most complete players in NBA history. He executes every move with excellence, but if there is something he does better, it’s dunking. After all, you can’t spell “dunking” without “king” on it, if you know what I mean. Remember when he was playing high school basketball for St. Vincent-St. Mary and made a between the legs dunk on a fast break? Well, he was 17 at the moment.
As an offensive player, LeBron is nearly unguardable, even more when dunking. Lastly, it’s impossible not to mention his one-handed trademark dunk. Every basketball fan that’s seen it has to love it (yes, even if you hate LeBron).
There are too many plays were to choose from, but here’s my favorite LeBron dunk.
3. DeAndre Jordan - Los Angeles Clippers
With DeAndre, it’s all about length and pure athleticism. After all, he’s 6 ft 11 and dunking it’s pretty much all he does on the offensive end. Although he had a disappointing participation in this year’s Slam Dunk Contest, we’ve seen his game time dunks and there is absolutely no doubt he belongs in this top 3. The thing with Jordan is that he reaches the ball were defenders just can’t (7' 6" wingspan). That makes him arguably the best alley-oop finisher in the league. And when you have CP3 throwing the ball to you it’s hard not to show off your prowess.
I think it’s obvious which is my favorite “DeAndre 3000” dunk. Sorry, Brandon Knight, I’m looking at you.
2. Blake Griffin - Los Angeles Clippers
Monstrous. That’s how I would describe Griffin’s dunks. Since his postponed rookie season Blake has gotten us used to his big-time poster slams. There was a time when delivering a jaw-dropping dunk seemed to be a nightly duty for BG32. Griffin always finds a way to finish on top, in front, beside or even across defenders. He’s so mighty and so athletic it’s tough for opposing players not to bend their head and submissively let Griffin arrive to his date with the rim.
He’s recently been bothered with injury after injury and that’s a shame. The league deserves (needs) a healthy Blake Griffin who reminds us of the guy who jumped over a car and completed a two-handed alley-oop dunk.
It was difficult to make a decision but…
1. Zach LaVine - Minnesota Timberwolves
LaVine it’s either from another planet or is using Flubber on his shoes because this kid can fly! Out of UCLA he recorded a 41.5in max vertical jump before the draft. LaVine gets so high and he does it so smoothly it’s inevitable not to pause and rewind what you just saw. I seriously doubt someone could actually block him on a dunk attempt. It would require perfect timing, a crazy vertical and a sackful of courage. That last one would be the hardest o find.
LaVine is one of four players (among Michael Jordan, Jason Richardson and Nate Robinson) to win the Slam Dunk Contest back-to-back. Quite a company huh? The Timberwolves’ youngster (21 years old) has a whole career in front of him. And if everything goes as expected, he will delight us with more stupendous dunks for many more years to come.
This is my absolutely favorite LaVine dunk. Alex Len had zero chance on that one.