The dunk may be the most efficient method for securing two points, but it has evolved into the most visible platform for pure power, unbridled enthusiasm and exuberant jubilation. In the grand scheme of basketball, one basket midway through the game does little to change the outcome. Yet we cannot help but celebrate the supreme athleticism of the dunker and the abject misery of the dunked-upon. But our love, however cruel it may be to witness for the defeated, is honest. It is why thousands upload these moments of sovereignty and humiliation to YouTube on a daily basis. When Taj Gibson posterized Dwyane Wade in Game 1, I was obligated to relive the past glory of other immortalized playoff dunks. Here are, in descending order, the Top 10 NBA Playoff Dunks of the 21st Century.
10. Tracy McGrady dunks on Mehmet Okur (First round, Game 1 â€“ 2003)
Mehmet Okur once again proves why he belongs outside the three-point arc. That’s why part of me feels a twinge of sympathy for his appearance in the Tracy McGrady dunk parade.
9. LeBron James dunks on Kevin Garnett (Eastern Conference Semifinals, Game 4 â€“ 2008)
The in and out dribble leaves James Posey in the dust. Kevin Garnett blatantly attempts to shove him. But nothing will stop LeBron on this play. The dunk put the crowd into such a frenzy that Doc Rivers had to call a timeout.
8. Kobe Bryant dunks on Steve Nash (First Round, Game 2 â€“ 2006)
“Hello Steve Nash’s face. My name is Kobe’s crotch.”
7. Kobe Bryant alley-oop to Shaq (Western Conference Finals, Game 7 â€“ 2000)
In terms of playoff enormity, this dunk easily ranks at No. 1. But in my attempt to appreciate the art of the dunk, Shaq’s masterpiece was not all that worthy. One element, however, propels it to the seventh slot: just take a look where he catches the ball with his right hand. That’s right, it’s above the box. Only if he could still jump like that. Well, jump at all.
6. Tony Allen dunks on Antawn Jamison (Eastern Conference Semifinals, Game 6 â€“ 2008)
Tony Allen’s offensive game is a mystery wrapped in unintelligible code. Some days he and the basket go together like lamb and tuna fish, and other days you get gems like this. Check out the hang time as he waits for Antawn Jamison to descend before completing the ferocious slam. Quality video editing, might I add.
5. Nene dunks on Kyrylo Fesenko (First Round, Game 2 â€“ 2010)
This dunk gives us all the elements of a quality dunk highlight. The “get off me” forearm, a great call (“foreign facial”), and the use of the off hand. Bravo, Nene.
4. LeBron James dunks on Rasheed Wallace (Eastern Conference Finals, Game 3 â€“ 2007)
Ignoring the spectacular height to which LeBron’s arm extends, watch how Rasheed throws his hand directly in LeBron’s face and smacks his body. As if that was going to do anything.
3. Taj Gibson dunks on Dwyane Wade (Eastern Conference Finals, Game 1 â€“ 2011)
Two elements vault this dunk to No. 3. Wade’s defensive effort on the play was admirable. With two hands straight up in the air, he jumped as high as he could. Too bad Taj Gibson is way taller and had the strength to knock him back eight feet. Secondly props to Gibson’s use of the two-handed slam and primal scream in celebration.
2. Baron Davis dunks on Andrei Kirilenko (Western Conference Semifinals, Game 3 â€“ 2007)
Remember the days when Baron Davis could run, jump and generally display the athleticism of an NBA guard? Me too. Let’s go back to the most glorious moment of his career and watch as he elevates over the much taller Kirilenko.
1. Tracy McGrady dunks over Shawn Bradley (1st Round, Game 2 â€“ 2005).
This is the only dunk that rivals the greatest dunk ever, Vince Carter over Frederic Weis. It also pretty much summarizes Shawn Bradley’s career. A 7-6 center should never cower due to the flight of a man ten inches shorter. But he did, and now I can relive the embarrassment for years to come.
What’s your favorite NBA Playoff dunk of the 21st century?
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