Slam Dunk

Written by Jeremy Horelick
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Many say that it was Julius "The Doctor" Erving who helped elevate the slam dunk from a high-percentage shot to an art form. Those who weren't around in the late '70s and early '80s to witnesses his aerial acrobatics first hand only have grainy videos and old photos as proof. Rest assured that it's absolutely true, though--while Dr. J wasn't the first to dunk, he was the first to dunk memorably.

In 1984, Michael Jordan came along and revolutionized the dunk yet again. His leaps from the free-throw line, his "windmill" dunks, and (of course) his famous dangling tongue, all made junior players and even many of Michael's NBA peers want nothing more than to be "like Mike." The problem was, few of these players, including legends like Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, possessed the pure athleticism that enabled them to emulate His Airness.

The Slam Dunk Today

A legion of MJ's followers have continued to reshape the image of the dunk by modifying its sundry forms, so much so that every year around the All-Star Break, the NBA's Slam Dunk Contest commands center stage. Here, players such as Dee Brown, Harold Miner, Vince Carter, and Jason Richardson have added even more impressive obstacles, from folding chairs to real live human beings, to their performances. Some have dragged out trampolines, blindfolds, and other curious accessories, leading one to wonder when an automobile will make its grand debut at a Slam Dunk Contest.

In reality, of course, such circus side shows and mind-boggling feats have a limited role on the court, at least during game time. That doesn't change the fact, however, that more and more players spend their time practicing dizzying slam dunks, even on their own driveway rims. The slam dunk, like the home run or the Hail Mary pass, is one of those plays that continues to captivate sports fans' imaginations.


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