LeBron’s 20 Best Dunks In The NBA

This past Friday, I found myself removed from my seat following another towering slam by LeBron James when I came to the realization that the four-time MVP may be the best entertainer in the country at the moment. And if that didn’t convince me, all I had to do was watch the Heat on Christmas. Those two dunks he caught from Dwyane Wade? OMG.

Who else consistently puts on a performance like LeBron? He plays basketball the right way, involves his teammates, nonchalantly and effortlessly puts up robust statlines, and still takes the time out of his day to come away with a minimum of one highlight per game.

He does this at least 75 times out of the year in the regular season and then, miraculously, goes over-the-top once the postseason rolls around.

There are few others who can pull off such feats on the regular, yet we almost take it for granted. Believe it or not, there are still critics of his game, even after the four MVPs and two championships.

Then again, it can be expected when he’s pulling off said feats against the 29 other teams that do not possess his talents. There are reasons why cities like Boston and Chicago are still jeering LeBron, even though it’s no longer the cool thing to do, and it’s because they don’t appreciate the onslaughts they have been on the opposite end of.

That’s also what makes LeBron one of the country’s greatest entertainers: how ravenous the supporters and critics are when it comes to his exploits. Sports in general can bring out the lawyer in everyone, but bringing LeBron in comparison with the NBA’s greatest of all time has created debates that will tide over the masses for the next decade.

Rather than bringing up numbers or analytics to defend or critique LeBron, let’s just melt our brains and do something we can all agree on: watching the 20 best dunks of his career.

*** *** ***

20. LeBron gives Ben McLemore his ‘Welcome to the NBA’ moment
The most recent dunk of LeBron’s to be featured, and the one that prompted this list to be created, is his posterization of Sacramento Kings rookie, Ben McLemore, who had obviously not watched much tape of LeBron going into his team’s contest with the Heat.

There’s a reason why LeBron isn’t known for putting defenders on posters: They move out of the way before he gets to the rim. McLemore is one of the few players in the NBA to be unaware of this, but I think it’s safe to say he gets it now.

19. LeBron serves it up himself against Milwaukee
LeBron James is arguably the league’s best facilitator, especially among those who also consistently look for their own shot, and this may have been his best assist yet.

Because what better player is there to pass to than LeBron James?

18. LeBron throws it down on the fast break vs. the Bucks
The fast break that inspired one of the greatest screensavers in NBA history, the Dwyane Wade drop-off pass to a charging freight train that is LeBron James is one of the most memorable plays to occur during the Big Three era.

In fact, it’s the era in a play. Great defense forces a bad miss, which leads to a fast break led by Wade, who then dumps it off to the trailing LeBron, who, appropriately, flushes it with enough emphasis that an audible grunt is heard coming from the rim.

Dwyane decided not to watch on account of knowing that he’ll be watching it on SportsCenter a few hours later.

17. LeBron‘s only play worth remembering from the 2011 Finals
The 2011 NBA Finals were largely forgettable for LeBron and the entire Miami Heat community alike, aside from this one dunk by James over the outstretched hands of Mavericks’ center Ian Mahinmi.

You could only wonder why LeBron wasn’t this aggressive on every play. One of the best poster dunks of his career came in a series where he was disturbingly and bewilderingly passive and flat-out refused to drive to the rim.

But, then again, maybe LeBron isn’t the same player without that passive series? We’ll leave that for another article because this isn’t exactly the place for analyzing.

16. LeBron dunks over Leandro Barbosa
Leandro Barbosa is a 6-3, 176-pound guard that committed one of the more nonsensical plays of his solid NBA career when he tried to leap with LeBron James.

As a result, James put Barbosa on one of his best posters, even dunking on him from all different angles as his strength alone makes Leandro spin in mid-air.

15. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James get creative on the alley-oop
I don’t approve of the camera angle changing positions when the dunk was already occurring, but the dunk itself was one of the more creative touches of the Dwyane Wade-LeBron James alley-oop combinations.

Rather than the usual one-handed, let-me-see-how-close-I-can-get-my-head-to-the-rim alley-oop, LeBron switched it up with the two-handed, double-pump reverse off the Wade pass.

LeBron has shown that he enjoys playing in Sacramento. After all, that’s where his NBA career started.

14. LeBron goes full extension on the alley-oop vs. Washington
LeBron has had a lot of incredible alley-oops with the Heat, many of which haven’t been recognized on this list, which goes to show just how impressive of an athlete LeBron is.

However, outside of a pair of alley-oops where LeBron essentially jumped over a defender, this alley-oop, while still a member of the Cavaliers, against the Washington Wizards may be the best of his career.

The extension; the athleticism; the leap; the concentration; the speed; the reach; the reaction; each of these factors play into this alley-oop ranking among LeBron’s best.

Thank goodness for point guards who can’t pass.

13. LeBron goes baseline against Dallas
One key rule to defending LeBron: Don’t give him baseline.

Never. Give. LeBron. Baseline. I’m doing this for your own sake, future defenders unfortunate enough to draw the shortest straw and having to guard LeBron James.

12. LeBron goes baseline against Philadelphia

11. LeBron continues to terrorize Rajon Rondo
Know how the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat don’t like each other? The same goes for the relationship between the Heat and Rajon Rondo.

Rondo has long been a nuisance to the Heat, mainly because they can’t figure out how to properly defend him. If they guard him close, he drives and finds a teammate. If they give him room, he begins to make the midrange looks that were supposedly a weakness.

Plus, he plays for the Celtics, and those teams, at least the former ones with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, never particularly cared for each other, either. I’m convinced Rondo has stayed with the Celtics for this long solely to continue annoying the Heat, carrying on the legacy initiated by his former Hall-of-Fame bound teammates.

But it’s not to say Rondo has been the only one having fun in these games. LeBron has also had a lot of fun, featuring such plays as this alley-oop and the numerous chasedown blocks he’s had at Rondo’s expense.

10. LeBron nearly concusses himself on alley-oop vs. Indiana
Once you start reaching the point where you have to start ducking to avoid the rim on alley-oops, do you start toning it down or do you keep trying to rise up, putting yourself at risk for a concussion?
LeBron James’ problems are not exactly relatable to the general population.

9. LeBron dunks over Rasheed Wallace
Before LeBron was placed on the pedestal, he is now where anything less than a championship would be considered a failure, he was just a kid from Cleveland attempting to resurrect a hapless franchise that was devoid of any type of real success in its past.

The Detroit Pistons were the first of many teams that would get into spirited battles with LeBron. In the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals, LeBron exacted some revenge of the Pistons team that upended his Cavs the year before by dropping 25.7 points, 9.2 rebounds, 8.5 assists and 2.7 steals per game on a Detroit team that ran out of answers when it came to defending the eventual King.

The highight of the series came via this towering dunk over Rasheed Wallace, who was probably as quiet as he ever was his entire NBA career in the aftermath.

8. Why, Damon? Why?
For this dunk, I only have one question:


7. LeBron finishes the fast break over Delonte West
Delonte West was dunked on so prolifically that his own bench had a reaction similar to how LeBron’s Cavs bench probably acted.

That’s how you know you’ve thrown down a dunk or made a play that’s going to be memorable: It’s so good that even the opposing bench has to appreciate what just occurred.

I mean, the Celtics did have the best seats in the house for that dunk, so why not get hyped?

6. LeBron puts James Johnson on his poster
This dunk is wildly underrated, yet it may arguably be the best poster dunk on LeBron’s career. Once again, James Johnson was one of those new guys in the league who hadn’t studied much tape of LeBron’s career leading to the point where the two met in an aerial battle that was won by James. Instead of admitting defeat on the ground, Johnson insisted on rising up with LeBron and contesting him.

It’s a great effort play, but I think more people are going to say, “DID YOU SEE THAT LEBRON DUNK?” than, “Well, James Johnson certainly put in a respectable effort, right?”

It just doesn’t have the same effect.

5. LeBron dunks over the entire Phoenix Suns roster
In a single sequence, LeBron splits a double-team at the top of the perimeter, avoids one defender to his right, absorbs a push in the chest and a grab of his jersey, before finally throwing down one of the better dunks of his career on the entire Suns defense.

It’s probably the greatest display of his strength, too. Channing Frye, the defender who is assaulting LeBron in mid-air, isn’t a small guy. He’s 6-11, 248-pounds, doing whatever he can to keep LeBron from dunking, yet it doesn’t seem to affect James in the slightest.

After doing his best Dominique Wilkins impression on the dunk, LeBron does his best Chris Webber impression, slapping on the mean-face after a powerful throwdown.

4. LeBron dunks on Tim Duncan
What should I be more surprised by? The astounding dunk over Tim Duncan? The fact that Duncan didn’t even try to jump? Or the San Antonio Spurs allowing LeBron to have such a wide-open lane to the basket when in their half-court defense?

I’ll go with the all of the above option. It took a lot of circumstances for this dunk to occur and the result was astronomical. LeBron went with determination to the rim and Duncan’s contest, or lack thereof, was seemingly nonexistent to James, who went over the top and nearly sent Timmy to the ground.

3. “With no regard for human life!”
Boston threw three defenders at LeBron and not one of them came close from deterring James on his intended path of destruction.

Also, there can’t be anything more satisfying than throwing down a poster dunk in a huge game at a huge interval against your biggest rival. No wonder LeBron put on the snarling, don’t-pull-that-type-of-foolishness-again face afterwards.

2. LeBron James jumps over an NBA player in an NBA game
Similar to what happened with Frederic Weis when he was dunked on by Vince Carter in the 2000 Olympics, John Lucas III has also found himself in exile, eventually calling the bench of the Utah Jazz his new home.

Nobody knew the name John Lucas III before this dunk. Sadly, at least in his case, this dunk by LeBron James, where his shins are resting on Lucas’s shoulders, will be the most memorable moment of the career of the 5-11 guard.

Also, it doesn’t matter how small Lucas is. In a regulation professional basketball game, LeBron had enough focus, strength, athleticism and hangtime to go up for an alley-oop, catch said alley-oop while attempting to jump over another human being, and then finally finish it off.

The only problem I have with it is the staredown afterwards. He’s already been demoralized enough, LeBron, what more do you want?

1. LeBron leaves his mark on Boston again
It’s not the dunk that makes this the best dunk of LeBron’s career, it’s the context.

If you live in the Miami area, then you’re aware Jason Terry ranks among the most despised athletes, right up there with Tom Brady and the entire New York Jets franchise. Terry, though, holds a special place in the hearts of the Heat faithful as he is relentless when it comes to being obnoxious and a nuisance.

It was no surprise that he left one of Miami’s biggest rivals in Dallas to join an even bigger Heat rival in the Boston Celtics. It also wasn’t a surprise that he was boasting how the Celtics were going to topple the Heat for the East crown, evidenced by the Larry O’Brien trophy he got tattooed on his bicep upon joining Boston.

So, yeah, watching LeBron take Jason Terry to the crossroads — and in his own house! — was much more than just another dunk. There’s a reason why LeBron showed no remorse for earning that technical foul afterwards, either, because he understands how easy it is to not be tolerant of Jason Terry’s antics. That’s how you know LeBron’s never leaving Miami: He’s already jumped on the Miami bandwagon of not caring too much for the shooter who shot his mouth off throughout the ’06 and ’11 Finals.

Did we miss any?

Follow John on Twitter at @JFriel1990.

Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.

Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.