By: Rob Botts
Vince Carter is nearing the end of his long run in the National Basketball Association. Who knows how much longer he will carry his aging body up and own the hardwood, but I just watched an interview where he was talking about the most famous dunk ever. You know the one. It involved a really, really tall dude. And it got me thinking about the following question: Who is the greatest dunker of all time?
What a fun question huh? It has been asked by many a person around the watering hole, work bubbler, local bar mahogany, dining room table and local YMCA gyms over the years. When trying to answer this question, many folks like to break the contenders up into separate categories. “I’ll take power dunkers for $500 Alex.” They want to have the finesse guys, the power guys, the quicks leaper guys, the sky walker guys, the two footed guys, the one legged guys, the business end of the alley oop guys, the missed shot follow up dunker guys, the finishing fast break guys and of course, the destroy everything in site guys. This is a very specific, organized and almost scientific classification type of breakdown. And totally useless. Good window dressing to make it seem like we have many answers for the ONE question.
Over the years when anybody asked the question about who the greatest dunker of all time was, you consistently heard 3 names. Michael Jordan, Dr. J and Dominique Wilkins. The jumping from the foul line was started by Julius Irving way back in the day and then burned into the collective social and sports consciousness by Michael Jeffrey Jordan during the 1980s. There was also this person nicknamed “The Human Highlight Reel.”(Dominique Wilkins of the Atlanta Hawks) This man would two foot power you and the rest of your buddies through the rim at any given moment. There were others that came during and after their slamming transgressions but none truly stayed in the minds of basketball dunk junkies like the following player: Mr. Vince Carter. Even though he is not retired YET, since Vince, we have never seen someone do the unearthly things that Mr. Carter has done with a basketball and placing it through a rim in so many eye pleasing ways.
The first time I laid eyes on the man that would come to be known as simply “Vinsanity” was during one of his college basketball games while he played for North Carolina. It was a fast paced game as the players raced up and down the court deciding on quick scores and reverse attacks over half court sets. It was a furious pace that was being set. Then it happened. Now, you would think that it would have been a monstrous, soul crashing thunder slam from the heavens by a young Vince Crater that would be the reason I am telling this story but oh no. Nope. Not at all. This was a MISSED dunk. Do you have any idea who incredible this must have been if he didn’t even get the ball trough the rim that I am brining it up this many years later? In life we often remember the misses more than the hits because in the game of life those misses would often denote a negative connotation. But here, in this very one example, the miss was more spectacular than the make would have ever been because of what our imagination was doing with it BECAUSE it didn’t happen. If you don’t remember what I talking about, let me describe it to you. A tapping keyboard play by play if you will.
It was the Tar Heels of North Carolina versus those Blue Devils from Duke. Mr. Carter started the fast break by deflecting an errant pass by Duke on their offensive end. The ball squirted over to one of the guards on North Carolina who flew ahead with ball in hand to get the fast break going. Vince following closely behind. Then, said North Carolina guard threw the ball off the backboard and it went directly back for an incoming Carter, rim seeking missile. Young Vince planted both feet halfway through the lane and shot up in the air as if he had the flying powers of Superman himself. He then grabbed the round leather object and pulled it back with both hands so far that it looked like the ball was going to touch the middle of his back. Then, just as the ball and his anatomy had reached their absolute apex of stretching without ripping in two, his hands and the ball, flew forward with such speed and force that the crowd and the announcers actually reacted as if he had MADE the dunk. The fact that the ball bounced off of the rim and shot into orbit was secondary to what everybody had just witnessed. I immediately leaped into the air myself(not that high) with a good friend of mine who was watching this event happen with me and the only words that came out of our mouths at the EXACT same time were “OH MY GOD!!!!” Players and coaches looked confused. Fans were jumping up and down shaking their heads and cheering. The building was on fire. After seeing that happen, I started paying attention to this dude named Vince Carter.
Who is the greatest dunker of all time? A singular question requires a singular answer. Vince Carter. And for every reason that you could possibly think of. Vince Carter is the answer for all the category descriptions that we mentioned earlier. His elevation, power, speed, grace and sheer athleticism in relation to what an incredible, awe inspiring dunk shot should look like in it’s highest form. He has done so many varying slams on so many varying situations. The dunk contest? No contest. The dunk where he leaped over a human being the size of the Sears tower in Chicago during the Olympics years back that is widely(and correctly) recognized as the greatest dunk of all time. The various in game dunks where opponents tried and failed(ask Alonzo Mourning) to stop the rim shaking insanity. He had the wind mill dunk, the up and under reverses dunks, the one handed 360 dunks and of course the gliding through the air power slams.
Not since Vince, have we seen anything even close. He IS the greatest dunker of all time. The DEFINITION of “Vinsanity” is to watch the same dunks by anybody else over and over, and expecting you’ll get a Vince Carter result.