Who are the best dunkers in NBA history?
It's a simple question yet one fraught with complexity. Spend even five minutes racking your brain and suddenly you'll start to feel dizzy. Attempt to talk it through with someone else who likewise worked themselves into a tizzy and you might come to blows.
And by "might" I mean you 100% will unless your spirited debate takes place over Zoom in which case you might accidentally launch your computer into a wall or out of the window in disgust. I can relate because, well... let's just say that almost happened when attempting to hold a similar civil discussion with co-workers, which quickly devolved into an absolute madhouse.
That madhouse of a unproductive Zoom call didn't really get us anywhere so I just decided to roll solo and make this a one-man job.
A couple of ground rules:
In-game dunking only. Look, the Slam Dunk Contest is cute but do yourself a favour and YouTube 'Spud Webb greatest dunks' then try look in the mirror and honestly try to convince yourself he's one of the best dunkers ever. Spoiler alert: he isn't.
I belong to the Church of Dunking Showmanship. Dunking is an art. It's about putting on a show and so yes... emotion, tenacity, anticipation... all of that matters! When Shawn Kemp threw down on Alton Lister, it was just as much about the emphatic point afterwards as it was the dunk itself.
Dunking on someone in traffic > dunking on fastbreaks.
Unless you're literally dunking OVER someone on said fastbreak.
History matters. If I'm being completely honest, after watching scores of YouTube videos in an effort to finalize this list, there were several snubs from recent years that are unequivocally better dunkers than many who made the cut from past generations. Put Derrick Jones Jr. in the 1970s and your 70-year-old Grandfather would still be raving about his otherworldly dunking ability. But standing out in a crowd and shepherding in a new wave as a pioneer matters even if in today's game it wouldn't come close to resonating as much.
Zion. Look I know he's played 19 games and only just turned 20 but there aren't 25 better dunkers than him. Some more truth serum? He should be way higher than he is, but for now the rook can be happy to simply crack the list.