The NBA’s 2017 Verizon Slam Dunk Contest happens Saturday night and if we know one thing about it, we know some kind of basketball history will be made. Like baseball’s Home Run Derby the Slam Dunk competition is really just a chance for some true all-star heavy hitters to show their mastery of one especially dramatic element of the game, but both contests have a certain drama that outlasts various team championship seasons.
This year’s contestants are 2016 Contest runner-up and Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon, DeAndre Jordan of the LA Clippers, Derrick Jones Jr. from the Phoenix Suns, and the Indiana Pacers’ Glenn Robinson III.
Who will win with the most towering, perhaps even backboard-shattering thunderdunk from hell? We’ve got no idea. We do know that a wide variety of players have brought gravity-defying skills that border on the magical to versions of this contest over the years. These guys will do good to even come close to their legacies.
Below, we’ve got videos of ten of the all-time greats. If nothing else, this will have you ready for more by the time they four players are at it on TNT at 8 PM ET on Saturday.
10. Jason Richardson, 2002
Richardson, with the Golden State Warriors in 2002, absolutely destroys with this shocking reverse windmill. Epic.
9. Dwight Howard, 2008
Dwight Howard, ever the showman, actually dons a cape and Supermans the hell out of this dunk. It’s like gravity is irrelevant to the guy.
8. Spud Webb, 1986
Spud Webb probably should own a list like this for his size alone, given the dude was all of 5’7″, tops. Yet here he is, casually floating a reverse dunk in 1986 like it was nothing.
7. Dominique Wilkins, 1985
Wilkins was a power player. This windmill from his 1985 appearance in the contest is just one example of why that power created his enduring legend in the NBA.
6. Dr. J—Julius Erving—1984
It’s not that we’re partial to 80s players, but there was some damn fine dunking going on then. And here is one of the NBA’s transcendent legends, Dr. J, proving why he’s an icon.
5. Zach LaVine, 2016
If you watch Zach LaVine’s through-the-legs and from the free-throw line monster from the 2016 contest at normal speed, it’s hard to see why he might merit this position in a list. Then the video goes to hi-def slow motion and there is no mistaking it—LaVine is pure poetry in motion.
4. Vince Carter, 2000
This video giving every imaginable angle on Vince Carter’s stunning windmill in the 2000 SDC might seem like overkill, but it actually just proves why he belongs on any and all lists of legendary dunk masters. This looks superhuman no matter how you slice it.
3. DeMar DeRozan, 2011
This amazing reverse windmill by DeRozan was called the Show Stopper for a reason. Everything pauses and you just stare in awe at a move like this.
2. Aaron Gordon, 2016
Under the legs and over the damn mascot. This move from the 2016 contest should’ve won everything for all time, and is excellent evidence that Gordon will come out on top this year.
1. Michael Jordan, 1988
There is a reason Jordan is the G.O.A.T. This work of pure athletic artistry is testament enough by itself.