The NBA Slam Dunk Contest, or otherwise known as the Sprite Slam Dunk for sponsorship reasons, is an annual competition held during the NBA All-Star Weekend.
The contest was inaugurated by the American Basketball Association (ABA) at its All-Star Game in 1976 in Denver. The contest has adopted several formats over the years, including, until 2014, the use of fan voting: text-messaging, fan made signs that hold a score number. These forms of voting and fan interaction help determine the winner of the contest.
The very first contest was won by Julius Erving or the Philadelphia 76ers and most recently by Minnesota Timberwolves Zach Levine. Some players have been known for their significantly stellar performances in this contest. Player like Vince Carter, Spud Webb and Dominique Wilkens has all amazed players and viewers across the world. Michael Jordan’s signature free throw line dunk helped define his young career. Spud Webb in 1986 Webb became the shortest winner in history at five foot seven. He was able to defeat former teammate Domonique Wilkins from repeating as champion.
The contest continued to flourish in the 90’s. Harold Miner was an interesting competitor in 1993, winning the contest with a reverse power dunk, reaching between his legs and down to his feet in mid-air before sending the ball down. In 1994 and 1997, Isaiah Rider and Kobe Bryant won the contest. Rider would win with a marvelous, between-the-legs dunk, similar to a dunk performed by Orlando Woolridge during his efforts in the 1984 contest. Unfortunately, Woolridge wasn’t able to repeat as champion in '95; he missed the same exact dunk multiple times and opened the door for Milner to grab his second slam dunk title in three years.
In 1999, there was no All-Star Game due to the NBA lockout. Fortunately the contest resumed in 2000 in Oakland, California. Toronto Raptors guard Vince Carter stole the show performing an incredible series of dunks. Including a between the legs reverse and a 360.
In 2005, the Slam Dunk Contest returned to its birthplace in Denver. With the spectacular dunks of prior contests, there was hope that the dunk competition could regain the popularity it had in the 1980s. Participant Amare Stoudemire, J.R Smith and Josh Smith all did some nice dunks.
From 2005- 2014 the Dunk Contest popularity rose and fell like a roller-coaster at an Amusement Park. Only until recently did Zach Levine stop the roller coaster and bring consistency and flair to a contest in desperate need of revival. Levine’s dunks in college, high school, and now the pros have made him a brand, and celebrity.
The Dunk Contest finally has another star in 2015.