Culture of Hoops

Vince Carter: The Greatest Dunker of All Time

Screen grab courtesy of Hoop Mix Tape.

Screen grab courtesy of Hoop Mix Tape.

Many of us have wished that we could dunk, at least once in our lives. Many of us have played R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” while pretending to throw one down, igniting an imaginary crowd and posing for a couple seconds to soak in the moment. Dunking is a beautiful thing, and that’s why we’re in awe of amazing throwdown artists.

Back in the day, before Blake Griffin, LeBron James, and Paul George were throwing down hammer slams and creating art in mid-air, one man did it often and did it the best. Vince Carter was truly half-man, half-amazing. Carter now plays for the Dallas Mavericks, but back when he was on the Toronto Raptors, sporting No. 15, and even when he was on the New Jersey Nets, he was the most exciting player above the rim. The NBA dunk contest is right around the corner, and it’s hard not to reminisce over the art of the dunk without thinking about arguably the greatest dunker of all time.

“I remember when Vinsanity started, from an article [in the newspaper],” Carter told Dallas News. “I remember when Half-Man, Half-Amazing started. Winning that dunk contest and putting Toronto on the [basketball] map, you can’t change that. Those are all historical to me. I put all three of those as one.”

Griffin throws it down with undeniable power, George has the creativity, and James has the swagger, but if you put them all in the dunk contest with Carter in his prime, it would be game over. Carter threw down in-game slams that were just filthy, banging that hoop with innovative power that lit up a crowd in a very special way. A dunk isn’t just two points to Carter, it’s a show on its own, a gain of momentum that could change the flow of the game. The man would slam down on big defenders like Dikembe Mutombo, Alonzo Mourning, and Ben Wallace with such tenacity you couldn’t help but rev up with him after the annihilation.

Carter stands at 6’6” with a wingspan of 6’11”, helping him to get his head about one inch above the rim in his prime. When the springs in his legs were still shiny and new, he boasted a 43” vertical leap, and at times it might have been even higher, especially when he literally dunked over 7’2” Frederic Weis in the 2000 Olympics. For those who remember his insane dunks, it almost spoils some of the dunks done in recent memory. For example, King James had a pretty impressive alley-oop dunk over John Lucas III back in 2012, but when compared to Carter over Weis, it doesn’t even hold a candle.

The man does video game dunks in actual games. He dunked from just inside the free-throw line in a playoff game against the New York Knicks, he’s caught an alley-oop with his head behind the backboard, he’s done a Statue of Liberty 360 jam on a fast break, and the list goes on. What hasn’t this man done with the art of the slam? In his prime, he wasn’t just a dunker either, he was an amazing scorer and star that was considered to be in the cream of the crop in the shooting guard position with the likes of Tracy McGrady and Kobe Bryant.

Vinsanity may be a thing of the past, but every once in a while Carter will throw down to remind us that he’s still the king of the dunk. At 36 years of age, he’s still athletic, and he still has some hops left. These days, he’s shooting jumpers and three-point bombs more often than he drives the lane, but that doesn’t mean he still can’t drive to the hoop for an emphatic slam.

The 2014 Dunk Contest looks like it might be a good one, considering the talent on the list: Paul George, John Wall, Terrence Ross, Damian Lillard, Harrison Barnes, and Ben McLemore. There’s some brand name talent in the mix, along with a few that are trying to make a name for themselves. George seems to be a fan of Carter’s dunks, along with the rest of the group, as he’s done the honey dip dunk and 360 windmill jam that Vince has made famous. Wall is an explosive high flyer with plenty of tenacity for his size, and Terrence Ross is the defending champ that’s a fantastic slam artist on the Raptors. This group of dunkers is pretty exciting, and we’ll definitely get a show on February 15. Perhaps a few of their dunks will put a smile on Mr. Carter’s face.


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