By Jason Iannone
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Slam dunks have been one of the most popular aspects of basketball ever since the 1960s, when players and fans alike realized that jumping really high and ramming the ball into the hoop looked really cool. Since then, there have been approximately 3,156,294,298,346 dunks in regulation NBA games alone (give or take, like, five or so). Once you factor in college, high school, street ball and the Harlem Globetrotters, that number increases by at least 100.
So with the NBA Slam Dunk Contest coming up, we take a look at five classic dunks that caused every witness to gasp in shock and delight, and made an utter fool out of everyone who got dunked on. None of the following are from past dunk contests, because those dunks are specifically designed to be goofy and showy. But when goofy, showy dunks happen in the heat of competition, it becomes doubly impressive.
5. Paul George and the 360 Windmill Dunk of Doom
Let’s start with a recent one. After all, just because something isn’t old doesn’t mean it isn’t awesome. On January 18, 2014, Paul George of the Indiana Pacers grabbed the ball and ran in for a dunk. He could have done a regular old boring dunk, but who wants to see that?
Besides, nobody was even close to him – he had plenty of time to have fun, and so he did. He literally did a ballet-style pirouette into the air, making a complete 360-degree turn before slamming the ball home to the delight of everybody, except possibly the Clippers. The announcer’s microphone practically short-circuited over the excitement.
4. Scottie Pippen Slams On Patrick Ewing Out of Nowhere
Scottie Pippen, in addition to being the Robin to Michael Jordan’s Batman, was apparently a ninja. That’s the only way to explain this dunk from May 20, 1994. Horace Grant of the Bulls steals the ball from the New York Knicks, and passes it to another Bull, who immediately passes it to Pippen. Out of nowhere, Pippen suddenly zooms up and slams the ball down, knocking Patrick Ewing to the ground in the process.
The dunk was so sick, in fact, that Pippen just had to jaw jack afterwards. Since doing so earned him a technical foul, every word that came out of his mouth would probably be censored on this site, so use your imagination.
3. Jamal Crawford and Blake Griffin Alley-Oop Because They Can
And now back to “Ballers Showing Off.” On March 6, 2013, Jamal Crawford and Blake Griffin of the Clippers found themselves the only two men on their side of the court, making whatever shot they chose to take all but a given.
They chose to score by channeling their inner Globetrotters. Crawford jumped up, whisked the ball between his legs and went for what appeared to be a layup. Instead, he lobbed the ball backwards to Griffin, who promptly dunked it home with authority. Nobody on the Milwaukee Bucks even stood a chance of stopping them, and thus nobody tried. They were likely just as content to stand back and watch as all of us were.
2. John Starks Makes Every Chicago Bull (Including Michael Jordan) Look Stupid
Despite what Jordan worshippers from the ’80s and ’90s would tell you, it was in fact possible to make MJ look bad. John Starks of the Knicks did just that on May 25, 1993, dunking on not just Jordan, but several Bulls at once. Initially guarded by BJ Armstrong, Starks faked like he was going to move left, but went right instead, where absolutely nobody could guard him. He darted to the basket and slammed it home, with both Jordan and Horace Grant looking up at him helplessly.
The Knicks ended up winning the game but losing the series. Similarly, the Bulls won the game when Pippen dunked on Ewing, but eventually lost that series. So if you ever find yourself in the middle of a heated Knicks-Bulls playoff game, don’t dunk awesomely. You might make the highlights, but the trophy will wind up elsewhere.
1. Julius Erving’s Cradle Dunk on Michael Cooper
The top spot on this list could go to nobody else but the father of modern dunking: Dr. J, Julius Erving. In January of 1983, the Los Angeles Lakers attempted a pass, which was blocked by the Philadelphia 76ers and stolen by Erving. Dr. J seized the opportunity and went for a dunk. And just to remind everybody in the arena – particularly Michael Cooper, the poor Laker in charge of stopping him – of who he was, he threw his arm back as far as he could and then brought it back around for one of the most authoritative dunks in history.
Chick Hearn, the broadcaster for Lakers radio, exclaimed that Erving “rocked the baby to sleep.” The iconic call remains popular over 30 years later, despite there being no possible way a baby could ever sleep if that’s how Mommy and Daddy tucked it in for night-night.
Jason Iannone is a Cracked Columnist and freelance editor who dunked many a Dunkaroo in his day. Curse him out for getting the Dunkaroo jingle stuck in your head by following him on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.