Sunday, December 13th, 2009 at 8:00 am  |  37 responses

Decade’s Best: Dunk Contest

Ten years later and Y2K still reigns.

by Doobie Okon

Dwight Howard’s Superman throw-down (2008). Jason Richardson’s off-the-backboard-between-the-legs stuffing (2004). Gerald Green’s blown candle (2008). AI to Iggy — from behind the backboard (2006). Amare to Nash to Amare — off the backboard and off Steve’s head (2005).

These are only a handful of the jaw-dropping, memorable dunks we’ve seen in this decade’s span. But while many slam participants have highlighted our television screens with their prowess and creativity over the last ten years, one must look all the way back to the new millennium’s inaugural competition as the overall greatest.

Not only was the 2000 NBA Slam Dunk Contest the most exciting of the decade and quite possibly all-time, it was also the most important. Decreased variety amongst dunkers led to dwindling popularity in the late 90’s, and the League responded by removing the dunk contest during the 1998 all-star weekend. The competition didn’t return the following season due to the lockout so 2000 proved to be a year where the NBA would need to win back its increasingly critical fans. A couple of Raptors and a Rocket helped in a big way on February 12th, 2K.

Vince Carter was not the first individual to completely dominate a dunk contest and would certainly not be the last. What’s amazing about 2000 is that Carter needed to be other-worldly because both his teammate Tracy McGrady and rookie Steve Francis turned in brilliant performances themselves. A trifecta of pure entertainment emerged that night in Oakland and as a result few dunk contests have come near its legendary status.

First Round

First Attempt:

Larry Hughes, Ricky Davis and Jerry Stackhouse round out the field of six. All three come up WEAK in the opening round.

T-Mac’s initial dunk is the contest’s first memorable one, with a self pass from beyond the arc that Tracy catches in reverse, pumps the rock between his legs and stuffs it behind his head. Stevey Franchise proceeds to match McGrady’s score of 45 by launching a perfect pass from half-court, going sky high to get it and slamming it down all it with one hand. Impressive stuff from the 6’3” former Terrapin.

However, Vince’s first attempt proves to be so effortless that it’s probably the most underrated dunk of Carter’s night. A memorable reverse 360 from the left side that he finishes with a windmill all the way from the right. So difficult. So powerful. And Vince makes it look unbelievably simple. Perfect score for a perfect dunk.

Second attempt:

McGrady has Carter lay a straight-up bounce pass that Tracy windmills with two hands. I actually think his first dunk was better, but the judges gave him a 49.

Francis comes out with swinging with his second attempt as he sets up another long self pass that he has to reach back to his ankles for and puts it down with authority. Perfect score. Nice dance from Jerome Williams and a phenomenal hat on Jamie Foxx.

Vince’s second dunk is basically a variation of his first, only he starts out from behind the backboard, jumps under the net only to spin out facing the rim mid-air, and oh, then finishes with another nasty windmill that looks too easy for any human. Kenny Smith robs Carter of another 50.

Third Attempt:

At this point, it is mathematically impossible for Stackhouse, Davis, and Hughes to catch the other three, but the finalists stay aggressive none-the-less. T-Mac lands a perfect score on a sweet 360 variation of his first attempt while Francis fails on a pass from fellow Rocket, Cuttino Mobley.

While some may thought Carter would play it safe here, he instead delivers one of the most stunning images of his career — this time, McGrady lays up a lateral bounce pass that Carter snatches, quickly swaps hands betwixt the legs and stuffs it home. After pointing up at the sky, Carter mouths to the camera and the country, “it’s over…it’s over…” Yeah, it’s close.


Francis begins with a nice two-handed scoop from the side of the basket, yet nothing special.

McGrady has another spectacular dunk with a self-pass beyond the arc which he two-hand windmills through the rim. Much like his teammate, T-Mac’s performance looks very easy on this night.

But if you want to truly capture Vince’s first attempt of the finals…just look at the reaction of the other NBA players. Shaq, Francis, Jason Kidd, Isiah Thomas, even Michael Keaton — all stunned in disbelief. While the world was waiting for another dazzling move from Carter, he instead decides to show us simply how high he can jump. What follows is a monstrous right-handed throw-down that ends with VC’s full forearm inside the rim. At first glance, it catches everyone off-guard as being extremely ordinary, but at a second, closer look, the ooohh’s and aaaaah’s from the crowd explode. Un-be-liev-able strength — that had to sting.

Vince finishes the contest with a two-handed slam from about two feet inside the foul line — probably his worst attempt of the night which is saying something. The decision is easy as Carter hoists the trophy, a fitting end to one of the NBA’s most exciting nights in recent history.

Carter would later go on to comment, “I hate to say this, but I made it all up that night….spur of the moment.” Now, imagine if he had prepared some?

Some apologies:

Apologies to the 2008 and 2005 contests — the other great dunk competitions of the decade.

Apologies to Dwight Howard — as much as Carter dominated 2000, Superman came close in 2008. Freak of nature.

Apologies to Jason Richardson — JRich had as many memorable, creative and potent dunks as VC — over a span of three contests. The off-the-backboard-between-the-legs is one of my all-time favorites.

Apologies to Andre Iguodala — to this day, the true 2006 victor.


For more Decade Awards, check out the archive.

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  • WB30

    no doubt, VC was killin’ it.

  • http://www.twitter.com/novc216 novc216

    That was Norm Macdonald not Michael Keaton.

  • k.a.

    I remember exactly where I was watching carters 1st attempt. I jumped out of my couch and got a call from my brother who lives 150km away shouting DIDJASEEDAT?!!

  • http://www.sixers.com 360vue

    Says it all that midget Nate isn’t even mentioned in first paragraph. Two titles?!? No I cannot get over how he won one let alone two, especially since one was over Iggy… Anyway, definitely the Decades best, VC, Tmac and Franchise were challenging each other and that’s what made it spesh

  • doobie

    nah…its michael keaton bra

  • http://www.lkz.ch Darksaber

    Doobie, you just gave me memory goosebumps. I’m sitting @ Starbucks, outside @ 10pm here in Asia, nice warm weather with sea breeze and i have freaking goosebumps from reading this. GREAT write up, i agree Iggy was immensely robbed, and Desmond Mason is a great Dunker too. Two things about 2000 dunk contest that floored me, on the forearm-into-rim dunk, VC slammed, hung then swung off the rim in one inredibly elegant motion, i mean he just swung his arm outra the rim like others release the rim afzer a dunk… Ridiculous. And Vince’s 1st dunk was….. Jesus freaking christ, the best opening dunk i’ve evee seen at nba dunk contests. I was screaming like a bee stung infant and embracing friends left & right in my living room (allstar weekend get togethers… Tradition).

  • http://nicekicks.com MeloMan2.0

    Ahhh i was so yung when this happened.. watching in my pijamas… and u captured the arm in the rim dunk perfectly… no one knew what happened

  • Buschfiya

    I think I actually teared up a little when I realized I just saw the Best dunk of all time ( VC’s first throw down)

  • Yesse

    I think the 2000 contest is overrated.Yes VC was a freak of nature back then and that’s what disappoint’s me.His last dunk wasnt even from the foul line.He could have done like a 720 and he just did 2 360 windmill’s and the other one was more like 180.The cookie jar was nice though.Jason Richardson didnt have the leap, that VC did and i think his dunk’s still were better.

  • http://www.yahoo.com Logues

    Yesse: i kinda agree j richs dunks were sick, but overall 2000 was better cause of tmac and francis

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    RICKY DAVIS had one of the best dunks EVER in this contest, believe it or not. For his last dunk that wasn’t even worth anything (because he would be eliminated anyways), he did a REVERSE THROUGH THE LEGS, TWO HANDED REVERSE JAM. This dunk was incredible because:
    1- It was a through the legs dunk before Carter did his.
    2- It was a reverse through the legs, that went from back to front as opposed to Carter’s. Also, he was the first to try this type of dunk, even though people thought J Rich did it first about 5 years later. In actuality, Ricky Davis did it first.
    3- He finished the dunk with TWO HANDS!
    Incredible, incredible dunk that needs to be recognized with the rest of the great slams in Dunk Contest History, and certainly with the greatest dunk contest of all time–2000.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Carter put on the greatest dunking exhibition ever, and nothing more really needs to be said about that. He was my favorite player back then. Also, Stevie Franchise was great.
    And Tracy McGrady put on one of the BEST dunking exhibitions EVER, and he only came in third! That just shows you how great this contest was.
    His double-pump 360 is top 5 greatest dunks ever.

  • Michael Scorn

    This is exactly like 9/11 where everyone remembers where they were when the event happened.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Sorry, I think it actually came after Carter’s. But still. Ya’ll need to watch this!

  • http://www.twitter.com/JoshElam JE

    Good write-up. Would’ve liked to have seen mention of the dominique-windmill from Josh Smith, though.

  • Ders

    Don’t forget the contest in 2003, when JRich won his second trophy. Desmond Mason had some huge dunks, but Richardson deserved the glory after a reverse windmill and the final dunk when he did the between-the-legs-dunk. REVERSE. I would also mention Mason’s dunk between the legs, with the left hand. At last, I would say that the contest in 2004 could have been a classic, but the rules made it difficult for the dunkers. Ricky Davis had some nice ones, and the same for Fred Jones and J-Rich, but the rules with the replacements and all that was all messed up. J-Rich was about to win his third, with 360 alley-oop with his elbow in the rim! Nope. Not the result of that one. JRich deserved that one, just as much as Iggy deserved it in 2006. Sorry Nate.

  • Michael Scorn

    As long as the fans are voting, nothing can go wrong.

  • Foobar

    JRich is the best slam dunk contestant of the last two decades. He consistently put on absurd dunks on every participation. To this day I see that “360-forehand-into-the-rim” dunk he attempted as the best almost-there dunk of all time.

  • http://slamonline.com Dave

    “as much as Carter dominated 2000, Superman came close in 2008″
    Is that a joke?

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Dunk Contests used to be way longer, with way more participants than now. What happened?

  • don

    vc15 d best. j-rich is close. but i think the rewind button on my VCR back then got broken because of all the rewinding i had to do with vc’s dunks. you just had to see it again.and again. and again.

  • so

    genius at what you do, doobie.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Pardeep

    VC arguably was the most exciting player in the early 00′s damn I wish he trained he would have been the best player in the world right now.

  • I am the walrus

    Former slam dunk competitor Jonathan Bender just singed with the Knicks! JB retired early after a devastating knee injury and hasn’t played since 2006. Great to see the high-flying big-man back on an NBA roster…


  • http://www.alllooksame.com Tarzan Cooper

    no mention of josh smith? yea vince was the best, but josh was incredible. didnt he get all 50s? all makes first time. jr smith was really nice too

  • J

    iggy was robbed. remember nate’s 200 tries before completing a dunk?

  • http://dunktoday.com Justin

    Iguadola WAS robbed!! It is hard not to root for the little guys though. Its always more impressive when a 5’9 guy is throwing down dunks than a long armed 6’6 one.

  • Justin

    Who could possibly mix up Michael Keaton and Norm McDonald? lol Yeah, I remember watching the 2000 contest live and there were more than a few OH MY GOD! yells coming from my living room. And I agree with the author, Vince’s first dunk might be the most underrated dunk at that or any other contest. You want to see how amazing that dunk was? Watch Shaq’s reaction afterwards. Makes me laugh every time

  • Buschfiya

    F*ck J Rich! VC was a freak of nature, he had the charisma and fluidity in his dunks, he just had a better style then everyone else. all of his dunks were sick wicked and nasty.

    Now I’m not saying Jrich is a bad dunker, just in comparison its not the same.

  • Buschfiya

    VC’s first dunk was the greatest dunk of ALL TIME

  • riggs


  • riggs

    also up there for great dunk was JR smith’s, that was freaking creative and he barely gets any recognition for it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T85WnlYIwzs

  • MXL

    Shot out to Darvin Ham. In 97, he made one of the one most difficult dunks I’ve ever seen when he took off with the ball in his right hand, slapped the board on the right side of the rim with his left hand, then turned around in mid-air and threw it down. Not the prettiest dunk, but he should’ve gotten more points for difficult.

    Also, shot out to JR Rider. A lotta dunkers wouldn’t have a leg to jump from if not for the “East Bay Funk”.

  • MXL

    Shot out to Darvin Ham. In 97, he made one of the one most difficult dunks I’ve ever seen when he took off with the ball in his right hand, slapped the board on the right side of the rim with his left hand, then turned around in mid-air and threw it down. Not the prettiest dunk, but he should’ve gotten more points for difficulty.

    Also, shot out to JR Rider. A lotta dunkers wouldn’t have a leg to jump from if not for the “East Bay Funk”.

  • Chris

    IT’s OVAH, It’s OVAH!!

    It really was over, Vince killed it!

  • Darren

    Yea thats the best memory i have when he looked at the camera and said it was over it truly was mad props vince

  • kadavour

    can we stop this nonsense. Dwight Howard had an amazing lay-up and you people still slurping him