The 2020 [wow the future is now] NBA All-Star weekend is only a few days [2/14/20-2/16/20] away and basketball fans will have the opportunity to see some of the very best players in the world showcase some of their finest skills. But for me, there’s literally only one part of the event that I really care about and that is the NBA Slam Dunk Contest. All of the other events are icing on the cake but for me, the All-Star weekend is about seeing is the highest level of unhinged athleticism on display – in the form of dunking.
My unashamed bias towards the art and execution of dunking is also rooted in firm but subjective reasoning (at least in my opinion). I can’t dunk so like most humans, I admire in people the things that I cannot do. Touching the rim is my highest achievement with respect to basketball leaping ability – always coming close but never bridging the gap that makes all the difference between a common tip and the all powerful slam.
At my current age and weight, dunking as a life goal would be beyond selfish – given that my almost inevitable injury would not exactly be workplace related. Nope – I am perfectly fine with watching true professionals perform the impossible with the “just do it” ease.
There’s probably some basketball guru who promises to tutor and teach dunking but I’m doubtful. And even if such a person were to exist, it’s even more improbable that they could teach the ingenuity and pure artistry that really draws people in. There’s no run-of-the-mill in the NBA Slam Dunk contest but you might actually see one or two human windmills.
It’s an unnatural thing – dunking. Instinctively, we know that human beings are not supposed to fly and it’s even more counterintuitive that people who easily rank among the largest on earth fly so easily. It’s one of those things that make you question what mankind is really capable of.
Dunking is rule breaking. Through that single act, an athlete defies the laws of physics and exposes the academic side of sport. Dunking is also one of a billion answers to the most important question in competition: How to win? Someone was the first to find the answer and since then, others have been refining the response.
Who was the first person to dunk? That’s the obvious question but in my own exploration, I’ve found that responses vary. The variation also makes a fair degree of sense.Unlike the things we take for granted today there were no cell phones capable of recording historical moments. And there certainly was no internet to store all that goodness.
That said, there are some key contributions that most seem to agree on and can be verified. I’ve highlighted those here.Below is also a summary of my findings with sources embedded.
- Bob Kurland “basketball’s first 7 footer” believed to be first dunker during practice play as a college student.
- Arthur Daley partial quote: – “like a cafeteria customer dunking a roll and coffee.”
- Japan becomes the first country to recognize the dunk as a threat and called for players over 6 foot five to be banned.
- Minneapolis Lakers George Mikan (first ABA Commissioner) believed to be the first to dunk during league play with first league dunk.
- Elgin Baylor credited with the intro of “hang time.”
- Connie Hawkins a.k.a. “the hawk” followed in Elgin Baylor’s footsteps.
- American Basketball Association (ABA) holds the first ever Slam Dunk contest in 1960.
- In 1967 the NCAA banned dunking.
- Lakers announcer coined the term “Slam Dunk” maybe around 1976.
- Michael Jordan vs, Dominique Wilkins in the 1988 Slam Dunk Contest – enough said…
- July 2002 Lisa Leslie became the first WNBA player to execute an in-game dunk.
Hopefully this gives a taste of what it took to give us all a glimpse at human elevation. If you’re able check out the embedded links for more info and for all the sneaker heads out there – remember to: