In 1976, the ABA treated basketball fans to a brand new innovation when it hosted the first-ever Slam Dunk Contest during halftime at its All-Star Game in Denver (Julius Irving walked away as the victor)
The first dunk contest in NBA history was held one year later following the merger that saw it absorb the rival league, and since then, it’s been the highlight of the All-Star Weekend festivities while producing some incredibly memorable moments.
After all, we’re talking about a showdown that saw Blake Griffin throw one down after leaping over a car, a 5’6″ Spud Webb shock the world by upsetting Dominique Wilkins to secure the crown, and produced the iconic photo of Michael Jordan leaping from the free throw line.
Some of the best basketball players on the planet have put on an incredible show on this particular stage, but I have a feeling the vast majority of NBA fans would point to one player when asked to name the most legendary Slam Dunk Contest performance of all time: Vince Carter.
The high-flying Raptors guard lived up to his reputation when the event was held in Oakland in 2000, as he pulled off some wildly acrobatic moves over the course of the competition—none of which came close to topping the jam he capped off by sticking his arm through the rim before briefly hanging from the basket.
Carter rightfully walked away with the title thanks to a highlight reel performance that is permanently seared into the mind of every single person who was lucky enough to witness it unfold as it happened.
You could easily make the case that no one has come close to topping that—although if you’re going by the numbers, there is at least one man who can technically boast they were responsible for the greatest NBA Slam Dunk contest in history.
When Zach LaVine’s set the bar at the NBA Slam Dunk Contest in 2016
Zach LaVine headed into the 2016 Dunk Contest in Toronto hoping to join MJ and Nate Robinson as the only two men who’d managed to win the event in back-to-back years (there were a couple of reasons Drake’s “Back To Back” played when he was introduced to the crowd).
His track record made him the favorite to do exactly that in a four-man field that was also home to Aaron Gordon, Andre Drummond, and Will Barton. However, he wasn’t taking any chances.
LaVine kicked things off with a bang by lobbing the basketball to himself before grabbing it and going behind his back before flushing it home, which was enough for his first 50 of the night. However, that was far from the last time he’d earn a perfect score before everything was said and done.
He failed to do that on his second attempt after catching a lob and leaping from the free throw line, as Shaquille O’Neal dinged him a point on an attempt where the four other judges gave him a 10 for a grand total of 49 points.
That was still more than enough to allow the Timberwolves guard to punch his ticket to the final round to face off against Gordon, and he did not look back.
The two men needed a tiebreaker after they each received a 50 on both of their first two dunks. However, the status quo remained unchanged they both received a perfect score in the third round of the finals.
The ball was literally and figuratively in LaVine’s court after Gordon posted a somewhat disappointing 47 on the fourth go-around. His competitor took full advantage, as he launched from around a foot below the charity stripe before going between the legs and finishing with an emphatic slam to secure his fifth 50 of the night and defend his crown.
LaVine remains the only NBA player to receive five perfect scores in the same Dunk Contest, and the seven he managed to rack up over the course of his time competing in the event means he’s tied with Jordan for the most cumulative 50s in history (interestingly enough, he’d donned the TuneSquad jersey His Airness wore in Space Jam en route to winning the previous year).
You can certainly argue Carter still deserves to be considered the G.O.A.T. (and I’d doubt many people would really take issue), but LaVine’s numbers don’t lie.