Nate Robinson is a Top-10 dunker all-time

By: 02.16.10  •  67 Comments

Nate Robinson

One of the questions I posed to the Dime crew over All-Star Weekend made it into this morning’s Smack:

Doesn’t Nate Robinson have to be considered one of the greatest NBA dunkers of all-time?

Write me off as a Seattle homer if you want, but honestly, I’d be saying the same thing had Nate grown up in Miami or Madrid. Because not only do the facts work out in Nate’s favor, almost any basketball fan’s subjective view of what makes a great dunker also matches up with Nate’s aerial resume.

Robinson is the only man in history with three NBA Slam Dunk championships under his belt. That’s more than Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, Jason Richardson, Shawn Kemp and Dwight Howard — all of whom competed in at least three contests. OK, so none of the three contests Nate won would be considered “great” by 1988, 2000, or even 2008 standards. But the trophies don’t lie.

Even if you throw out the titles, Nate fits every mold of a great dunker. (1) We want creativity: Nate jumps over Spud Webb, he uses a green ball and plays a comic-book character, he throws lobs after whipping the ball between his legs in mid-air. (2) We want vertical: Nate jumps over 6-11 Dwight Howard. (3) We want power: You can’t say Nate’s dunks are “weak” or that he doesn’t regularly finish clean. (4) We want a high degree of difficulty: More on that later. (5) And, for the cherry on top, we want enthusiasm from the player and a matching crowd reaction: Nate gives us that, and in turn he generates buzz in the arena. Especially with his in-game dunks.

Now, about the degree of difficulty. The strangest part of the anti-Nate sentiment that’s existed since the alleged Andre Iguodala robbery of 2006 is that Nate’s height has been used against him. Critics say Nate gets higher scores in the dunk contest than he should simply because he’s short. My answer? Of course he does. He’s FIVE-foot-EIGHT. That’s what makes his dunks special, and that’s why he should be considered one of the greatest dunkers of all-time.

Think of the guys we consider iconic dunkers — Nate is at least nine inches shorter than most of them. His only real peer is Spud, who won one dunk contest with a collection of dunks that Nate has exceeded during his reign.

It’s easy to hate on the little guy who oozes cockiness and isn’t exactly a pure point guard, but you can’t deny the truth: Nate has carved a place for himself as one of the greatest to ever dunk a basketball. Maybe it is the only thing he can do, but he’s done it better than almost everybody else.

My Top-10 NBA dunkers (combining in-game and contest):

1. Vince Carter
2. Michael Jordan
3. Shawn Kemp
4. Dominique Wilkins
5. Jason Richardson
6. Julius Erving
7. Nate Robinson
8. Dwight Howard
9. David Thompson
10. LeBron James

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