Is NBA Slam Dunk Contest DEAD? First Dunk Contest with G-League

Morgan Wolf

NBA Slam Dunk Contest

“The ABA really loosened up the NBA and introduced innovations like the three-point shot and the Slam Dunk and other competitions at the All Star Game. And we had all the hot young players.” – Mel Daniels 

Basketball has always been a sport of fun and thrill! The same goes for the popular and most controversial NBA Slam Dunk Contest. 

The Slam Dunk Contest has always been in the spotlight of the NBA All-Star Weekend. This annual contest awarded us players like Nate Robinson with the highest winning rate. 

But what do you know about the NBA Slam Dunk Contest? Every year the slam dunk contest takes place. But what more? Let’s dive a little deeper today!

Before we do! Let us start with slam dunk first. 

Slam Dunk in Basketball

Slam Dunk in basketball is a popular shot in NBA and other leagues. It is when 

A player jumps into the air in order to control the ball over the straight plain of the rim. He, then, scores or attempts to score by pushing the ball directly to the basket using both hands. 

Slam Dunks are field goals and worth two points in basketball. One of the reasons why slam dunks are highly special in basketball is, they are extremely high percentage shots.

A player who can jump high enough hardly misses the shot. Also, these shots are quite hard to block. Both players remain close to the rim and only one of them gets high enough, making it difficult for the opponent to resist. 

History of Slam Dunk Contest In Basketball  

History of Slam Dunk Contest In Basketball

Source: dunkest

It was on January 27, 1976, when the first ever slam dunk contest took place in Denver during halftime of the 1976 American Basketball Association (ABA) All-Star Game.  

However, NBA didn’t vibe with the idea and didn’t follow it until the 1976-77 NBA season. Earlier in 1976, Arthur Erhat invented “a rim that had give but immediately returned to its original position.” to prevent players’ injuries. 

Hence, after a ten year ban, the NBA introduced the Slam Dunk in the 1976-77 season. And this is also the year when NBA had their first Salm Dunk contest like the NBA Horse event.  

NBA hosted a season-long event this time as a one-off show. The contest took place between the halftime of each game. 

In 1984, the first ever Slam Dunk champion – Larry Nance from Phoenix Suns emerged. And it was subsequently adopted by the NBA, debuting in the NBA All-Star Weekend in 1984. 

Rich Highlights of the Slam Dunk Contest are, 

  • Even if not part of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, the dunk by Julius Erving (Dr. J) set the standard for future high-flying dunks.  
  • Bob Kurland was the first player in basketball history to slam dunk. He led Oklahoma State to two national titles around the 1940s.  
  • In 1987, Michael Jordan took off from the free-throw line and delivered his signature “Air Jordan” dunk.  
  • The 1988 Slam Dunk Contest went through an epic showdown between Dominique Wilkins and Michael Jordan.  
  • Vince Carter’s “elbow-in-the-rim” dunk is one of the most memorable moments in contest history. He put on a memorable show in the 2000s slam dunk contest.  
  • In 2003, Jason Richardson promoted the between-the-legs dunk to new heights. His unique way of execution delivered the most remarkable dunk in history.  
  • Dwight Howard wore a Superman cape for his final dunk in the 2008 Slam Dunk Contest. It was quite a memorable show.  
  • The 2016 Slam Dunk Contest featured an unforgettable showdown between Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon, featuring LaVine’s between-the-legs from the free-throw line and Gordon’s under-the-legs dunk over a mascot.  
  • In a tribute to Vince Carter’s iconic Superman dunk, Hamidou Diallo paid homage by leaping over Shaquille O’Neal. He revealed the Superman logo on his chest. The dunk earned him the 2019 Slam Dunk Contest title. 

How Does the NBA Slam Dunk Contest Work?

How Does the NBA Slam Dunk Contest Work

Source: frontofficesports

Type: Annual Contest 


Participants: 4 to 6 Players. 


The slam dunk contest is actually pretty simple, to begin with. First, the NBA invites four to six players to compete in the Slam Dunk Contest. 

Players are generally selected based on their performance for being strong dunkers, or they are simply rising stars in the league.

In addition, the NBA Slam Dunk Contest is a two-round competition. Five experts play the role of judge and score the dunk on a measure of six to ten. 

The slam dunk score ranges from 30 to 50, with 50 being the highest and 30 the lowest. In the first round, four contestants play two dunks, usually with two or three attempts to complete each dunk.

Two players with the highest scores in the first round proceed to the final round. But, in recent years, authorities may include a “dunk-off” to find out the finalist for the second spot in case there’s a tie. 

Following the final round, two participants compete in head-to-head matchups. They take turns to perform the dunks. In the end, the participant with the highest total score becomes the winner of the Slam Dunk Contest.

Audience Vote (Optional): 

Recently, votes by fans have been introduced as a part of determining the winner. In the slam dunk contest of 2008, the final winner was determined by fan votes via text messaging, followed by the 2013 dunk contest. 

Fans can vote online or via social media platforms for their favorite dunks or participants.

Why Slam Dunk Contest? 

Why Slam Dunk Contest

Source: businessinsider

Okay! We get that! But, why did slam dunk evolve in the form of a contest? 

Earlier in the 80s, NBA went through some deep trouble in basketball history. It was known as the dark age of the NBA.

TV ratings were down, and attendance merely showed up in the play, resulting in some serious financial trouble for the NBA. 

According to Theresa Runstedtler, an award-winning historian, NBA was ‘ in decline ’ by people. 

To overcome this poor scenario and gain back the lost popularity, ABA started the slam dunk contest as a means to draw nationwide viewers to basketball. 

Jim Bukata,  former director of marketing and public relations for the ABA, recalled, 

“We were sitting around the office one day, discussing things that would draw more people, and it just came to us…It was Julius (Erving) really giving us the idea that we’re the league of the dunkers. ”

Also, added, 

“So we said, ‘Well if that’s the case, let’s have a contest.’ It really was as simple as that. …Three guys talking about what we could do to sell a few more tickets.”

So, you can see, the NBA Slam Dunk contest was only a means of drawing more people to basketball and well, selling more tickets to saturate the sports business. 

A Long Way To See The Women’s Dunk 

It was Georgeann Wells who made the first slam dunk in women’s collegiate basketball. 

Only around 100 people were present when the 6’7″ Wells from West Virginia University slammed the ball against the University of Charleston in 1984. 

Thus, many people still find it hard to believe that women dank actually happened in history!

Moreover, the hidden video of Georgeann Wells’s one-handed breakaway slam powered the controversy even more. 

The fact that slam dunk contest in women’s basketball games is absent not because women lack talent. Rather, the discrimination lies in physical limitations and playing styles between the two leagues.  

Due to average height leading to low vertical leap compared to men, slam dunks are less common in WNBA.

But, limitations should never block your road. Recently, a number of women basketball players came close to dunking in games. Moreover,  women have accomplished dunks in practice or exhibition events.

For instance, Brittney Griner, a standout player in the WNBA, is popular for her exceptional athleticism and has come close to dunking in games.

We believe soon, we will have a totally different segment of slam dunk contests for women in the NBA and other leagues. 

2023 NBA Slam Dunk Contest

Earlier in February, the NBA announced the lineup of the 2023 All Star Slam Dunk Contest. This is the first time, the NBA proposed a G-League player,  Mac McClung, to the slam dunk contest. 


G-League: The official minor league of the National Basketball Association (NBA) is the G-League. 

Amazingly! Mac turned out to be the winner of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest 2023. 

In total, Mac scored 50 from three out of four dunks. Only the second came resulted in below 50. 

In the final round, he defeated the forward Trey Murphy III from New Orleans Pelicans. 

During the first round, he jumped over  Jericho Sims and Kenyon Martin Jr. Mac took the ball from the taller opponent, and slammed it off the backboard before he made the final throw. 

Mark that, McClung is the 2023 NBA Slam Dunk champion despite having only played in two NBA matches thus far in his career.

NBA Slam Dunk Contest Winners

Mac McClung is the champion of the 2023 NBA Slam Dunk Contest. Take a look at the winner list from the past. 

1984Larry Nance (Phoenix Suns)2005Josh Smith (Atlanta Hawks)
1985Dominique Wilkins (Atlanta Hawks)2006Nate Robinson (New York Knicks)
1986Spud Webb (Atlanta Hawks)2007Gerald Green (Boston Celtics)
1987Michael Jordan (Chicago Bulls)2008Dwight Howard (Orlando Magic)
1988Michael Jordan (Chicago Bulls)2009Nate Robinson (New York Knicks)
1989Kenny Walker (New York Knicks)2010Nate Robinson (New York Knicks)
1990Dominique Wilkins (Atlanta Hawks)2011Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers)
1991Dee Brown (Boston Celtics)2012Jeremy Evans (Utah Jazz)
1992Cedric Ceballos (Seattle Suns)2013Terrence Ross (Toronto Raptors)
1993Harold Miner (Miami Heat)2014John Wall (Washington Wizards)
1994Isiah Rider (Minnesota Timberwolves)2015Zach LaVine (Minnesota Timberwolves)
1995Harold Miner (Miami Heat)2016Zach LaVine (Minnesota Timberwolves)
1996Brent Barry (Los Angeles Clippers)2017Glenn Robinson III (Indiana Pacers)
1997Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers)2018Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz)
2000Vince Carter (Toronto Raptors)2019Hamidou Diallo (Oklahoma City Thunder)
2001Desmond Mason (Seattle Sonics)2020Derrick Jones Jr. (Miami Heat)
2002Jason Richardson (Golden State Warriors)2021Anfernee Simons (Portland Trail Blazers)
2003Jason Richardson (Golden State Warriors)2022Obi Toppin (New York Knicks)
2004Fred Jones (Indiana Pacers)2023Mac McClung

Why Was Dunking Banned In The NBA? 

Yes! As surprising as it may sound, dunking was banned in the NCAA from 1967 to 1976 due to the dominance of one particular player and the potential impact on the game.

The ban, as we call it the “Lew Alcindor Rule,” was activated primarily because of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, earlier known as Lew Alcindor. However, NCAA never admitted it publicly. 

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was a dominant force in college basketball, playing for the UCLA Bruins. He had an incredibly effective skyhook shot, which was nearly impossible to defend.  

Imagine, a player like this often plays dunks on his opponent leaving others vulnerable to injury. 

Thus, the NCAA declared the ban of Slam Dunk from all competitions during the 1967-68 season. 

NCAA put it that way, “was not a skillful shot”. Plus, the rules committee also issued the ban because they thought slam dunk was the reason behind players’ injuries all over the leagues.  

In the previous year, around 1500 events, involving players getting hurt, were reported throughout the backboard. 

However, no one knew how many of these incidents were related to slam dunk. But after the cancellation of Slam Dunk, the number of incidents reduced to a significant amount. 

The ban remained until the 1976-1977 NBA season, when the league decided to restore the dunking rule, and a safe way was measured. 

Is NBA Slam Dunk Contest Successful?  

So, what do you think? After everything ABA did to restore the reputation and fame of the NBA, is the slam dunk contest successful? 

Former ESPN writer J.A. Adande said, 

We have talented young players, this should be the backdrop for a great dunk contest. It’s just, we’ve lost our way, and there have been too many people sending too many signals for too long that the Dunk Contest doesn’t matter.

It’s true that, within 29 years of the Slam Dunk Contest, the charm must have been lost. The reason can be anything, monotonous play, no invention, etc.

We believe introducing new elements and potential faces to the dunk contest can improve the scenario a lot. Plus, a women’s slam dunk contest can be another way to revamp the contest.

So, on your way to the next slam dunk contest? Don’t forget to go through our article and explore the history of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest. Share this article with your friends too. 

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Morgan Wolf

Journalist with experience covering the intersection of sports with business. Demonstrated expertise in digital, video and social media content covering major sports including soccer, NBA, NFL, MLB, tennis and Olympic sports. But basketball is his passion. Specialties: expert for sports related content management LinkedIn