If you didn't watch or at least think about the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest after Vince Carter officially announced his retirement on Thursday, you're in the minority.
It was a spectacle never seen before by NBA fans. My only complain is that I wish Carter had saved his first dunk for the very end... it would have been the ultimate finale.
But it wasn't a bad way to start off, either. And the rest of his performance -- all improvised, allegedly, though I can't come to grips with the fact that he hadn't planned the elbow dunk before hand -- was gripping nonetheless.
But a dunk contest performance isn't all you need to be considered the greatest dunker of all time. It plays a big part, sure. Those athletic, creative, borderline-impossible dunks probably bear the majority of the weight in this countdown. But the ability to dunk in-game, whether it's through traffic or on top of a larger defender or at the receiving end of an alley-oop, is also important. And let's not forget about innovation and inspiration, as another factor of this countdown is whether or not that player effectively changed the game of basketball and brought on an era of dunking that we didn't know existed.
These are the three aspects of dunkdom -- I like the sound of that word -- that I'll be thinking of when creating this list. Dunk contest performance (if applicable), in-game jams and how influential that player's dunks were to the game of basketball.
Is Vince number one, as many people on Twitter seemed to proclaim as fact after the 22-year veteran hung 'em up? Or is there someone ahead of him on the Mount Rushmore of high-flying jammers?
The Dunkers You're Mad I Left Off
Every ranking comes with its snubs. So here are the guys you probably would have been searching for on the list, with no answer as to their whereabouts.
Few people in basketball have the ability to bring down a rim in its entirety and halt play. Shaq is one, and he definitely had incredible power behind his jams, but he also was a massive, hulking figure. Like abnormally large. Like 300-plus pounds large -- no wonder the rims came down. There's another rim-breaker that I opted to include instead of Diesel.
Spud Webb/Nate Robinson
How can I leave off the little guys? Because I found their dunk contest performances repetitive and overrated. Andre Iguodala losing to Nate Robinson in 2006 was a disgrace, a highway robbery. At 5'9" myself, I should probably be a little more appreciative of their insane hops. But I just didn't buy into all the hype.
Jason Richardson/Gerald Green
Two similar dunkers whose athleticism and insane skills in the air won them a fair share of dunk contest titles. They were impressive in-game, too. But in terms of influencing the game's next wave of dunkers or doing anything so unbelievably radical in a dunk contest... that's the aspect that's missing for me.
Too early, for now. His time will come.
15. Tracy McGrady
Let's give some love to Vince's 2000 teammate and simultaneous opponent in the dunk contest. T-Mac attacked the rack with a fearless mindset and wasn't deterred by anyone who stood in his way -- not even 7'6" Mavericks center Sean Bradley.
A perfect blend of his influence on the game and his audacity to pull off the incredible is seen in perhaps is most famous dunk. Who in their right mind would think to do this mid-game, when it had never been done before?
He brought the heat in the dunk contest as well, going toe-to-toe with Vince... at least for a little while. Unfortunately, he may be remembered best in that contest for bouncing the ball to Carter on one of his 50-point slams.
14. Dwight Howard
Superman was impressive because he was an unassuming, glasses-wearing journalist. But NBA's Superman was impressive because 6'10" big men aren't supposed to soar through the air like Howard would.
Obviously, he's got the flare, the creativity and the athleticism that most centers don't possess. But his in-game ability is what boosts him into the top 15. It's almost surprising that he was only 6'10" and not 7'1" given the frequency with which he would slam on opponents.
You want power? We've got power, too.
13. Darryl Dawkins
Pretty much the reason that Shaq wasn't on the list, Darryl Dawkins was the original rim-destroyer. When you're the reason that the NBA has to implement a new style of rim, you know your dunks are something special.
You also know you're deserving of an entry on this list when your nickname -- Chocolate Thunder -- is not only one of the all-time greatest nicknames, but also was given to you by another legend. Singer Stevie Wonder is responsible for giving Dawkins the nickname, according to the NBA star himself (h/t Eric Freeman of Yahoo! Sports).
12. Clyde Drexler
Speaking of great nicknames, Clyde Drexler's "The Glide" moniker isn't difficult to unpack. He quite literally floated through the air and was one of the earliest NBA stars to establish high-flying dunks as his main attribute and offensive weapon.
While his stuff may not seem flashy nowadays, that's only because he helped to influence an era of soaring guards to defy gravity and get their heads above the rim.
11. Aaron Gordon
I don't care if it seems too early to put Gordon on here, or if his in-game contribution isn't quite there yet, or if he hasn't quite "inspired" a new generation of dunking. I just don't care. He has landed four or five of the 10 most impressive dunks that I or anyone has ever seen. I'll just let the dunks do the talking.
May I also remind you that he lost both contests? Unreal.
10. Russell Westbrook
Westbrook could be a surprise in the top 10 or on this list as a whole to some, but he really shouldn't. We had seen point guards that specialized in dunking before, like Steve Francis and Derrick Rose. But there's something about the ferocity and the swagger that comes with each and every Russell Westbrook dunk that places him over the top. Whether it was in college or in the NBA, no defender could dissuade him from exploding to the rim.
9. Zach LaVine
Under quite literally any other circumstances, Aaron Gordon's loss in the 2016 Slam Dunk Contest would have been a complete and utter disgrace. But Zach LaVine is probably the only guy that could legitimately give Gordon a run for his money. Even Derrick Jones Jr., who was impressive in this year's showdown, wasn't better than Gordon and didn't deserve to win. But LaVine was a different story.
His dunk contest debut finally brought the competition back to life after a few years of underwhelming performances.
But he wasn't out of ideas the next year against Gordon.
Seriously. If Clyde is "The Glide," then LaVine is "The Levitation." In-game dunking is also an area of expertise.
8. Shawn Kemp
Gary Payton's assist totals may be a lot lower if he didn't have Shawn Kemp on the receiving end of so many of his lobs. The first true alley-oop machine was Kemp, who was about as reliable an option to convert any pass into a rim-rattling jam.
It also helps, of course, to have thrown down perhaps the most disrespectful jam that the league has ever seen.
7. Blake Griffin
Though Kemp may have been the original alley-oop machine, the Chris Paul-Blake Griffin combo may take the cake. Griffin's dunks were just so angry, so ferocious, that he may be the best posterizer in NBA history.
Those are two VERY large men that he just completely embarrassed. I can't sugarcoat it, either, even though Kendrick Perkins is one of our regular contributors on "Scal and Pals." Of course, Griffin had the dunk contest flare, too, although I feel is performance was slightly overhyped.
6. Kobe Bryant
You need the mamba mentality to pull off some of the daring dunks that Kobe would. He first demonstrated that ability at just 18 years old, on the biggest stage for dunkers in the world.
But his in-game fearlessness was what really made him special. His dunks would come at important times when only the most confident and brazen players would even dare to attempt such a play.
5. Julius Erving
You want influential? You're not going to find too many better examples than Dr. J, whose dunks electrified the basketball universe. The free throw line dunk, now a standard in dunk contest fare, made people fall out of their seats when Dr. J first pulled it off in the 1976 ABA Slam Dunk Contest.
Another one, his famous "Rock the Baby" dunk, was equally as captivating and unexpected. I've heard the story a million times from my dad, who was at the game and tells me that the reaction was pure chaos.
4. Dominique Wilkins
Would we have windmills without 'Nique? Perhaps not. But he was capable of much, much more than that.
When Josh Smith won the 2005 Dunk Contest, his most memorable dunk may have been his windmill tribute to Dominique. If you're the man behind a contest-winning jam nearly 20 years after your peak, your influence is incredibly profound.
3. LeBron James
As much as I wish LeBron ever participated in a dunk contest, the sample size we've seen from King James is enough to know that he would have blown his competition out of the water. Athleticism, power, improvisation, creativity... you name it, LeBron has done it, in a game, in the biggest moments, and over the biggest obstacles. He did it as a teenager and he's doing it as an old man. He does it in a regular season blowout or in a clutch Finals game. It doesn't matter when or where -- it just depends who ends up on the poster.
2. Michael Jordan
Only MJ could take the then-most iconic dunk in NBA history, in Julius Erving's 1976 free throw line slam, and turn it into his own, even-more iconic jam.
Only MJ could dunk over Hall of Fame centers like Shaq, Patrick Ewing and others without batting an eyelid.
And only MJ could literally create a monumental apparel brand, worth crazy amounts of money, based on his ability to sky high through the air and slam it over anyone.
1. Vince Carter
But only Vince Carter can dethrone MJ. Of course Vince Carter is number one. I don't care if he retired this year or if he retired five years earlier. No one can take away the slam dunk title from Vince Carter, maybe ever. There's a documentary about how his dunking completely changed basketball, for crying out loud. But enough from me. Let's just sit back and witness the greatness.