With a chorus singing “I Believe I Can Fly” at midcourt, Los Angeles Clippers rookie Blake Griffin sprints toward the Kia Optima parked in front of the hoop. In one mighty leap, Griffin clears the car and smashes down the official Sprite Slam Dunk Contest ball that teammate Baron Davis alley-oops to him through the open sunroof. What a dunk! This perilous play was amazing, but the dunk has surprisingly been around for decades!
The father of the original slam dunk was a man named Bob Kurland who jammed in games starting in 1946. Although other dominant big men also knew how to dunk, people thought of this play as selfish and unnecessary. Bob didn’t care. He kept showing off his epic new “dunk shot,” and was the first player to do one regularly in games. As the dunk started to get more sophisticated, other players started to slam the ball too.
Did you know that dunking was actually banned in the NCAA from 1967 to 1976? The reason for this was because of one player who attended UCLA named Lew Alcindor (later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). Every time the ball was passed to Lew in the paint, he easily dunked over the defender with his great, long, arms. College officials finally decided that Alcindor was so dominant, that they prohibited dunking for the next nine years. Talk about power in the paint!
One of the best dunkers who ever lived was a man named Julius Erving. “Dr. J.” had a vertical leap of an amazing 41 inches! Erving would use his dribbling skills to bolt toward the basket, palm the ball, spin in mid-air, and use his huge wingspan to help him complete a reverse slam. Erving is truly one of the best dunkers of all time!
Over the years, some players have designed some signature dunks. Shaquille O’Neal was known for his powerful slams. Shaq would jam the ball down with two hands. His immense strength and weight actually pulled the entire backboard structure down more than once! Another famous signature dunker was Michael Jordan. Whenever he tried to put one through, he stuck out his tongue, as if mocking the defender! And you can’t forget about Vince Carter. In 2000 Carter won the NBA Slam Dunk Contest with a 360-degree windmill jam which is known to this day as one of the best dunks of all time.
What kid doesn’t love to dunk? I’m not sure about you, but every time I see a car jumping, Superman-flying dunk contest, I get inspired to make my own mini version of the dunks. I’m 12 years old, but there’s no way I’m getting tired of dunking on my 3 year old brother’s Little Tykes basketball hoop. From dunking over his mini car, to actually jumping over him, it’s always fun to replicate outstanding jammers!
From Blake Griffin to Michael Jordan to Vince Carter, these high-flying men will never stop this epic form of showboating. Who knows? Maybe at next year’s Slam Dunk Competition, someone will jump over a bus! Happy jamming!