Yesterday NBA TV was running an NBA Slam Dunk Contest marathon, which is pretty much porn for a sports degenerate like myself. They showed the 1988 MJ vs Dominique dunk contest directly after the 2000 Vinansity dunk contest. I have no doubt that these are the best two dunk contests ever. In 1988 Michael Jordan vs Dominique Wilkins was the most epic back and forth battle in slam dunk history. In 2000 Vince Carter put on the most unbelievable display of dunks that the world has ever seen.
So the real question is which year was the greatest in NBA Slam Dunk Contest history? I’ve included a video of each so that you can judge for yourself. At the end of the article I’d love to hear which one you think is greater and why.
1988 – Michael Jordan vs Dominique Wilkins in Chicago Stadium
I was raised in Pittsburgh, was seven years old at the time, and the 1988 Slam Dunk Contest was the most influential basketball moment of my life and molded me into who I am today (no joke). I created Bacon Sports on my love for late 80’s/90’s sports nostalgia and this is the greatest event of that era. Like many of kids my age Michael Jordan was my idol and this dunk contest further cemented him as the greatest ever.
Now onto the dunk contest itself. One thing that the 1988 Slam Dunk Contest has in its favor is the format. I love how it was three rounds. The first round was only two dunks (top four dunkers advance) but the semi’s and finals were both three dunks. This is like getting extra Christmas presents compared to the 2000 format (two rounds, three dunks in round one, three dunkers advance to the finals where it’s only two dunks). Advantage 1988.
The fact that Clyde Drexler was also a participant in the 1988 Slam Dunk Contest is an afterthought. He was always the bridesmaid to Jordan and couldn’t hold Dominique’s jock strap when it came to dunking. This year was all about MJ and Nique.
In terms of dunking the 1988 Finals was the greatest display of dunking by two contestants ever. Of the six dunks in the finals there were four perfect scores of 50. As if that wasn’t good enough the winner was decided on the last dunk as Michael Jordan needed a 49 to win the title (talk about drama). Not to let his home crowd down he catapulted from the free throw line, soared through the air, and jammed one home that blew the roof off of Chicago Stadium. That is definitely the most iconic dunk ever and helped build the Jordan brand to where it is today.
I believe that the 1988 Slam Dunk Contest is one of the reasons why Lebron James will never be thought of as a greater basketball player than Michael Jordan. The greatest have all won the dunk contest (Kobe Bryant, Jordan, Dominique, Dr. J) and while it doesn’t make you a better player on the court (see Harold Miner, JR Rider) it does add a different aura of awesomeness to a players legacy that will never be forgotten by fans.
2000 – Vinsanity
Vince Carter’s arsenal of dunks in the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest were the greatest display of dunks ever. Yes, that includes anything that Michael Jordan or Dominique Wilkins did in the 1988 contest. He did things that we didn’t think were humanly possible and it left us all with our jaws dropped and jumping out of our seats. Think of the last time that you saw something and it caused you to get up out of your seat and run around. Vince Carter did that numerous times in this contest.
In 88′ Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins back and forth battle had more drama than all the seasons of the Real World combined. In 2000 there was no drama as Vince Carter left no doubt in anyones mind as to who was going to win. After each dunk we all couldn’t wait to see what he’d do next. No way that he could top what we believe was the greatest dunk that we’ve ever seen…and then he did.
Overlooked in the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest because of Vinsanity was the overall quality of dunks by the other participants, most notably Tracy McGrady and Steve Francis. In between all of us losing our shit the Franchise and T-Mac were throwing down monster jams that in any other year would have won them the title. Unfortunately for them they just so happened to be doing this the one year that unless you did a 360 from the charity stripe or dunked from the three point line there was going to be no way you could win. The 2000 Slam Dunk Contest does have to get some points for having three amazing dunkers instead of just two in 1988.
This is about as tough a call as it gets. I watched Vince Carter’s between the legs dunk about 10 times yesterday (thank you Tivo) as I just couldn’t get enough of it. It’s absolutely amazing. I do, however, have to cast my vote for the 1988 Slam Dunk Contest as it was the most iconic ever and had more drama. The style, grace, and power that Jordan and Dominique displayed were out of this world. It was two of the three greatest dunkers ever (#1 Vince Carter, #2 Michael Jordan, #3 Dominique Wilkins) raising the bar for what a slam dunk contest should be. It had a lasting impression and changed my life forever.