The Slam Dunk contest used to be a perfect opportunity for the best players in the game to go head to head and prove that they were the toughest guys in town, something that has really changed over the course of the past few years.
Long before it was just an opportunity for young prospects to show their talents, the league’s biggest stars actually looked up to the chance of beating each other. That was, obviously, before they decided to take that time to rest their bodies and avoid unnecessary injuries.
Even if that feels like the safest and smartest choice, it truly sucks, as we’ve lost the chance to witness some of the best dunkers in the game go at it and wow us with their athleticism. Today, we’re going to talk about the best dunkers that never appeared in a dunk contest.
10. Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis used to play as a guard before going through a major growth spurt, so he’s way more skilled than the average big man you’ll see, let alone his high hops and ability to finish with both hands.
Davis is incredibly athletic and, thanks to his huge wingspan, he can throw it down from far, far away. Even so, and mostly due to several injuries early in his career, we never got the chance to see him make an appearance in the dunk contest.
9. Connie Hawkins
Connie Hawkins was one of the most dominant players of the early stages of the NBA-ABA merger, but he was mostly remembered for being a superstar in New York’s playgrounds, with people traveling from all over town just to see him dunk.
Hawkins would go on to lead the league in scoring, win a regular season MVP and playoffs MVP award, but even though, the 4-time All-Star never pleased his fans by throwing it down in a dunk contest.
8. Darryl Dawkins
If you’re a young NBA fan, you just need to go to YouTube right now to watch Darryl “Chocolate Thunder” Dawkins dunk. He was strong and athletic as a big man, let alone his high hops.
Dawkins thrived off emphatically throwing it down and posterizing his peers, even destroying a couple of backboards in a three-week span. He used to have names for his dunks, also, but never participated in a dunk contest.
7. Dwyane Wade
Some young fans may not remember it, but The Flash could really fly high. Not so long ago, Wade was still throwing it down and posterizing bigger opposition, thanks to his speed and high hops.
Wade is one of the best shooting guards in the history of the game and he was always at the top of the rankings when he entered the league as a prospect, so he never jeopardized his promising future by making an appearance in the dunk contest.
6. Kevin Garnett
Kevin Garnett was always a polarizing guy. Either you hated him or you loved him, mostly because of his heartfelt way to play the game and how emphatic he was in both ends of the hardwood.
Naturally, that made him one of the most explosive and strongest dunkers we’ve ever seen, but he never gave us the chance to witness his long arms throw it down during the All-Star Weekend.
5. Shaquille O’Neal
Shaquille O’Neal may not be the tallest player, but he was, by far, the strongest and most dominant I’ve seen and it’s not even close. On a side-note, he had the highest standing reach ever measured in pre-draft workouts, being able to extend to 12’5’’ while standing.
Having said that, thank god Shaq never participated on a dunk contest. I mean, this guy could shatter backboards as if they were made out of salt, so him not participating was more of a security-based decision, I guess.
4. Andrew Wiggins
Early on his career, Andrew Wiggins was mostly known for his dunks. He was constantly being filmed throwing it down over innocent folks that tried to contain him, something that obviously never happened.
Nonetheless, ever since losing one minor dunk contest, he just decided to retire from participating in slam dunk contests, something that tells you a lot about his (lack of) character and competitiveness.
3. Derrick Rose
As many insiders have stated, Derrick Rose was Russell Westbrook before Russell Westbrook. Even if young fans may think we overreact when we’re talking about him for what they see him do nowadays, we can’t address this fact enough: he was the most entertaining player in the league.
Before the hundreds of injuries, Derrick Rose was one of the fastest players in the league, and we often saw him contour his body to throw it down over the strongest defenders in the league. Sadly, that was pretty much it.
2. Russell Westbrook
When asked about the chances of him participating in a dunk contest, Russell Westbrook responded with “I only dunk on people”. Fair enough, but as a youngster, we would’ve love to see him make an appearance.
Westbrook is a walking highlight reel, and whenever we take a look back at the season, there’s always at least one Westbrook dunk. He always has great dunks and he is the most athletic point guard I’ve ever seen.
1. LeBron James
LeBron James is arguably the most hyped athlete in the history of the game, and even though he outplayed every expectation everybody had about him, it’s still a bummer we never saw him go through a dunk contest.
People close to him state that he would never participate in one because he wouldn’t like to lose against a younger player. Truth or not, with James’ emphatic in-game dunks, we find it hard to believe that somebody would’ve stood a chance against him anyways.