30 years of NBA slam dunk champs

By Kyle Almond, CNN

Updated 1:42 PM ET, Fri February 10, 2017
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Larry Nance glides to the rim during the NBA's first Slam Dunk Contest, which was held in Denver on January 28, 1984. Nance defeated "Dr. J" Julius Erving in the finals of a nine-man competition that also included future Hall of Famers Dominique Wilkins and Clyde Drexler. Over the past three decades, the NBA's Slam Dunk Contest has provided some of the most iconic moments in league history, dazzling viewers with its unique blend of athleticism and showmanship. It is traditionally held midseason as part of the league's All-Star Game festivities. Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
Dominique Wilkins (1985): "The Human Highlight Film" was impressive in 1984, finishing in third place. But he got the better of Erving and Nance this time around, flashing a variety of powerful dunks that included windmills, reverses and 360 spins. In the finals, Wilkins defeated a league rookie named Michael Jordan. The two would duel again in 1988. Doug Atkins/AP
Spud Webb (1986): Wilkins was dethroned in the finals by one of the shortest players in league history -- his 5-foot-7-inch Atlanta Hawks teammate, Spud Webb. Webb, competing in his hometown of Dallas, showed off his amazing vertical leap and proved that dunks are not only for the tall guys. (Wilkins is 6-foot-8.) Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
Michael Jordan (1987): Jordan was injured in 1986, but he returned one year later to take home the crown and show everyone why he was nicknamed "Air Jordan." He capped his performance with a jump from the free-throw line, a dunk made famous years earlier by Dr. J. This time, it was Wilkins who was out because of injury. But the two would meet again in 1988 ... Kirthmon Dozier/AP
Michael Jordan (1988): Jordan and Wilkins picked up where they left off in 1985, staging perhaps the most memorable showdown in the history of the Slam Dunk Contest. The two went tit-for-tat in the finals, with both scoring a pair of perfect 50s. In the end, however, it was Jordan -- with the support of the hometown Chicago crowd -- clinching back-to-back titles. Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
Kenny Walker (1989): Neither Jordan nor Wilkins competed in 1989, but Kenny "Sky" Walker was able to fill the void with some thunderous dunks, including a "rock the cradle" jam from the baseline. He held off a field that included Webb, a previous champion, and Drexler, a hometown favorite who played at the University of Houston. Walker almost didn't even compete; his father had died just a few days before the contest. Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
Dominique Wilkins (1990): Wilkins reclaimed his title in Miami, throwing down several of his trademark windmills to defeat a group that included Walker and runner-up Kenny Smith. Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
Dee Brown (1991): The 6-foot-1 Celtics guard brought marketing to the forefront, inflating his Reebok Pumps throughout the contest. His signature dunk was his last one, as he covered his eyes for a no-look finish. Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
Cedric Ceballos (1992): A year after Brown's no-look dunk, Cedric Ceballos broke out a full blindfold and jogged the length of the court for the contest winner. Could he actually see through the blindfold? He said he couldn't, but to this day some fans remain skeptical. Bob Jordan/AP
Harold Miner (1993): The 6-foot-5 rookie was nicknamed "Baby Jordan," but his powerful dunks might have been more reminiscent of Dominique. He rocked the rim with a vicious tomahawk and a double-pump reverse on his way to the title. Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
Isaiah Rider (1994): The "East Bay Funk Dunk." That's what Rider, an Oakland native, called his between-the-legs jam that won him the title. "Oh my god," Charles Barkley said on the broadcast. "That might be the best dunk I've ever seen." Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
Harold Miner (1995): After a year off, Miner regained his title by defeating Rider and Jamie Watson in the finals. Vince Bucci/AFP/Getty Images
Brent Barry (1996): Barry took off from the free-throw lane -- twice -- as he edged Michael Finley in the finals. Barry is the son of Hall of Famer Rick Barry, and two of his brothers also played in the NBA. Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
Kobe Bryant (1997): At 18 years of age, Bryant became the youngest ever to win the Slam Dunk Contest. His final dunk was a between-the-legs jam similar to Isaiah Rider's winner in 1994. Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
Vince Carter (2000): The NBA scrapped the dunk contest for the 1998 season, feeling it had lost a bit of its luster and star power. And in 1999, a lockout meant there was no All-Star Weekend at all. But both returned in 2000, when Vince Carter put on what many think was the greatest single performance in slam dunk history. The high-flying Raptor did a little bit of everything. He started with a reverse 360 windmill. He went between the legs after catching an alley-oop pass. He even stuck half his arm inside the hoop, dangling from his elbow a few seconds after a dunk. "Michael Jackson is my favorite artist of all time, and it was like the closest thing to a Michael Jackson concert to me on a basketball level," Allen Iverson told Jason Buckland, who wrote an oral history about the Carter performance for ESPN. "I don't think a dunk contest will ever be duplicated in that fashion ever again." Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
Desmond Mason (2001): It was going to be hard for anyone to follow up Carter's amazing performance. Mason's consistency was enough to win the title, but this competition didn't provide the memorable moments of the year before. Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
Jason Richardson (2002): The NBA adopted a tournament format this time around. Richardson defeated Mason, the defending champion, in the semifinals before dispatching Gerald Wallace in the final. Richardson's performance included a 360 windmill and a reverse dunk he caught off the bounce. Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
Jason Richardson (2003): Mason came back strong, breaking out a between-the-legs dunk in the finals. But Richardson repeated in style, scoring a perfect 50 on three of his four dunks. His last one was a between-the-legs, one-handed reverse from the baseline. "I've seen something I've never seen before!" yelled commentator Kenny Smith, the slam dunk veteran who finished second in 1990. Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
Fred Jones (2004): Missed dunks doomed this contest's place in history, with Richardson and Jones both faltering in the finals. Ultimately, Jones' one completed dunk was enough to top Richardson's one dunk and prevent the contest's first-ever "threepeat." Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
Josh Smith (2005): In the first round, Smith jumped over a seated Kenyon Martin to slam home Martin's alley-oop pass. In the finals, Smith rocked a throwback Dominique Wilkins jersey and paid homage with a classic windmill jam. Both Smith and Wilkins played for the Atlanta Hawks. Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
Nate Robinson (2006): It was shades of Spud Webb as 5-foot-9 Nate Robinson brought the dunk contest back to the little guys. In fact, Robinson jumped over Webb himself to earn a perfect 50. Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
Gerald Green (2007): Green, a member of the Boston Celtics, jumped over Robinson on his way to dethroning the defending champion. And he did it in Dee Brown style, wearing the Celtics jersey of the 1991 champ as well as some Reebok Pumps. Later in the competition, Green also jumped over a table. GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images
Dwight Howard (2008): The 6-foot-11 center donned a Superman cape and jumped high above the rim before throwing the ball through the hoop. It was one of his two perfect 50s in the first round, and he easily won the fan vote to beat Green in the finals. Howard is the tallest person ever to win the event. Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images
Nate Robinson (2009): What defeats Superman? Kryptonite. Or, in this case, Krypto-Nate, who brought out a green basketball to jump over Howard and take his crown. Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
Nate Robinson (2010): Robinson became the contest's first three-time champion, barely edging DeMar DeRozan in the final. Fans, voting via text message, gave Robinson 51% to DeRozan's 49%. Ronald Martinez/AP
Blake Griffin (2011): With a choir singing R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly," Griffin jumped over the hood of car and finished an alley-oop pass from teammate Baron Davis, who was poking out of the sunroof. Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images
Jeremy Evans (2012): Perhaps the standout dunk from Evans' victory was when he jumped over teammate Gordon Hayward, caught two balls and dunked one with each hand. He later dunked over comedian Kevin Hart while paying homage to former Jazz great Karl Malone. Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
Terrence Ross (2013): Ross took the title from Evans after he jumped over a ball boy, putting the ball between his legs before dunking. Ross also wore a Vince Carter throwback jersey before catching the ball off the side of the backboard and doing a 360 windmill. Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
John Wall (2014): The contest took on an unusual team format this year, with "battle rounds" pitting one Eastern Conference dunker against one Western Conference dunker. At the end, the fans voted on John Wall as the "Dunker of the Night." He had jumped over Wizards mascot G-Man for a ferocious reverse dunk. They celebrated with the "Nae Nae" dance. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Zach LaVine (2015): The Timberwolves rookie blew away the field, grabbing the crowd from the start with two perfect 50s. The second of those was this behind-the-back dunk. "He was born for this contest," Kenny Smith said during the broadcast. Elsa/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
Zach LaVine (2016): LaVine won for the second straight year, topping Orlando's Aaron Gordon in one of the contest's best-ever duels. Gordon and LaVine traded perfect 50s throughout the final round, which had to be extended twice to break the tie. Gordon had the more colorful dunks, incorporating a mascot named Stuff the Magic Dragon. One dunk even involved Stuff spinning on a hoverboard. But in the end -- with both men having to go off script for extra dunks -- the judges favored LaVine, who went between the legs from just inside the free-throw line. Earlier in the competition, LaVine did a windmill from the free-throw line. He also caught an alleyoop pass while jumping from the line. Elsa/Getty Images