Julius Erving (1976) — Dr. J arguably did more to popularize the slam dunk than any other basketball player, and it all started with the move that won the 1976 dunk contest for the ABA. Though free-throw line dunks are more common now with more athletic players, you can’t deny the artistry that comes with being the first.
Anthony “Spud” Webb (1986) — Standing only 5 feet 7 inches and going up against defending champion Dominique Wilkins, Webb pulled out an array of dazzling dunks before topping it off with a bounce, catch and backhanded dunk to become the shortest man ever to claim the title.
Michael Jordan (1987) — Voted to his third straight All-Star Game, it can be said that MJ broke out as a superstar after showcasing his athletic ability and clinching his first slam dunk title. His third dunk, a windmill during which he leaned into the air and seemed to fly, became one of his lasting images.
Michael Jordan (1988) — Having already won the contest the previous year, the man called by many as the greatest player to ever live set out to top himself. Honoring the great Dr. J, Jordan influenced a generation of young players by bringing the free throw line dunk back into the mainstream. He also became the first player to ever win back-to-back dunk titles.
Dominique Wilkins (1990) — A nine-time NBA All-Star, Wilkins was one of the biggest stars of the 1980s and early ’90s, especially known for his dunking abilities. A rare mixture of agility and power, Wilkins showcased both with this backboard-rattling power windmill move.
Vince Carter (2000) — The dunk contest hit a bit of a skid in the ’90s, but Carter brought it back with a vengeance in his All-Star debut, wowing the crowd with an array of athletic moves (including a 360 windmill) before bringing everybody to their feet with a move they likely hadn’t seen before.
Jason Richardson (2003) — There’s so much going on in this dunk that it defies explanation. One of the best dunkers of the 2000s, Richardson manages to combine the bounce, catch, between the legs and behind the back for the finishing dunk of the 2003 contest. Any one of these moves makes a good dunk, but all together, they make one of the best slams in the history of the contest. Richardson would win again in 2004, becoming the first player to do so since Michael Jordan.
Jason Richardson (2004) — Reigning champ Richardson pulled off a repeat by capping a dazzling display of athleticism with an off-the-backboard, between-the-legs dunk that drew immediate perfect scores from the judges.
Nate Robinson (2006) — At 5 feet 9 inches, Robinson is one of the shortest players to win the dunk contest, and he is the only one to ever win it three times. His first win is undoubtedly his best, in which the diminutive (by NBA standards) point guard dunked OVER former champion Spud Webb with a one-handed catch and dunk.
Dwight Howard (2008) — So what if it’s not technically a dunk. You know what? We’re counting this! Dwight Howard upped the showmanship factor by donning the iconic Superman cape, catching the ball in mid-flight, then THROWING the ball into the basket. Kobe Bryant’s face says it all.
Zach LaVine (2015) — When you call your finale move the Space Jam Dunk, you better deliver something truly special. LaVine gave the audience just that with a bounce, catch, between-the-legs and behind-the-back finisher that clinched the 2015 contest. The TuneSquad jersey that LaVine sports just makes the moment extra special.
Aaron Gordon (2016) — This Orlando Magic forward matched up against Zach LaVine in 2015 for one of the most electric showdowns in dunk contest history. For the second tie-breaker, Gordon brought out the team mascot, Stuff the Magic Dragon, to bring the contest to new heights (literally).
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