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Top 25 Dunkers on the Planet

By 10.25.10

D-Wade (photo. Jeffery Salter)

As much as old-timers and basketball purists gripe about the lost art of the mid-range jumper or the simple bounce pass, nobody complains about the evolution of the dunk. Why would they? Everybody loves the dunk, and it’s no coincidence that most of the game’s last four decades have been defined by men who excelled above the rim: e.g. Julius Erving, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

Thanks to the worldwide reach of the Internet and increasing stages for dunkers to perform, ranking the 25 best dunkers on the planet was bigger than just the NBA; college, high school, playground circus acts and overseas stars infiltrated the discussion. With such a large and diverse pool, rankings were based on a non-scientific combination of in-game, dunk contests, posterizations, level of competition, style, power, and simple aesthetic preference. With that, here are Nos. 25 through 21…

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25. J.R. SMITH (Denver Nuggets)
Probable cause: Two-time NBA dunk contest participant popularized the behind-the-back cram during the ’05 competition. Pulled off a 360 alley-oop in a game.
Reasonable doubt: Known more as a shot-jacker than a dunker. His contest cameos have been largely forgettable, as J.R. seems to put more thought into his tattoos than his dunks.
Physical evidence:

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24. JOSH SELBY (University of Kansas)
Probable cause: Won the 2010 McDonald’s All-American dunk contest. Arguably the most athletic Kansas recruit since Lester Earl or DeShawn Stevenson.
Reasonable doubt: Just a freshman in college, Selby is young and hasn’t built up much of a dunking resume.
Physical evidence:

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23. TRAVIS LESLIE (University of Georgia)
Probable cause: Just take a witness statement from DeMarcus Cousins. Or the South Carolina Gamecocks, who saw Leslie make two SportsCenter “Top 10 Plays” against them in one game last season.
Reasonable doubt: Only recently hit the scene as an elite dunker.
Physical evidence:

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22. TYRUS THOMAS (Charlotte Bobcats)
Probable cause: Stromile Swift 2.0 is a pure power dunker who feeds on lobs and putbacks. Though he’s been a backup more than a full-time starter in the NBA, still manages to make the Top 10 Dunks of the Year lists annually.
Reasonable doubt: Tyrus made it clear he doesn’t give a damn about the dunk contest, and his ’07 showing was appropriately lackluster.
Physical evidence:

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21. DWYANE WADE (Miami Heat)
Probable cause: Serves up more facials than Byron Long. Wade’s hit list includes everybody from Josh Smith and Kevin Garnett to Anderson Varejao and Yi Jianlian. He’s an international posterizer who doesn’t discriminate based on size.
Reasonable doubt: Not much of a contest-type dunker, Wade’s repertoire isn’t very diverse. A couple years back he was good for a backwards alley-oop here and there, but now it’s mostly one-hand bangers more notable for their statement than their style.
Physical evidence:

Stay tuned for Nos. 20 through 16…

TAGSDEMARCUS COUSINSDimeMagDWYANE WADEfeatureFeatured GalleryJosh SelbyJOSH SMITHJR SMITHJULIUS ERVINGKEVIN GARNETTLester EarlMichael JordanShaquille O'NealStromile SwiftTravis LeslieTyrus Thomas

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