We know. You’re wondering, “There’s 10 great dunkers in Detroit Pistons history?” In a word: kinda. We’re here to breakdown Detroit’s top above-the-rim finishers, counting all the way down to the most spectacular high flyer in Pistons history.
Is Andre Drummond’s breakneck dunk pace (167 crams in 2015 alone) enough to catapult him into the top 5 of Detroit Piston high-flying folklore, above the likes of dunk savant Jason Maxiell? Is losing to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in a non-sanctioned dunk competition enough to earn a spot in the Top 10? Is there anything Grant Hill couldn’t do? Detroit Sports Nation is about to break it all down, just for you.
Honorable Mention: M.L. Carr
If we’re real, we just wanted an excuse to run footage of an informal 1977 NBA Slam Dunk Competition featuring Kareem Abdul-Jabbar performing his “Sky Hook Slam” (aka a routine one-hand dunk). Abdul-Jabbar went head-to-head with Detroit’s M.L. Carr, who fancied two-hand reverse slams via one-foot takeoffs. Relatively tame today, but it’s dunk pioneers like Carr who’ve helped pave the way for those making an appearance on the rest of this list.
10. Dennis Rodman
Rodman’s signature dunks were quick strikes in transition, almost entirely from a one-footed takeoff. Dennis also excelled in the relatively rare ability to dunk with his off-hand while jumping off his weak leg. It goes without saying – The Worm was an athletic marvel.
9. Jerome Williams
The spiritual dunk successor to Rodman, Williams earned the majority of his dunk opportunities in a similar fashion – he filled lanes, ran the floor, and cleaned up garbage. But the degree of dunk separation between these two comes in Williams’ more explosive finishes above the rim. The Junkyard Dog provided a level of flare that, along with seemingly appearing court side at every single NBA Dunk Contest (even in retirement), suggests he may have been a student of the slam.
8. Darvin Ham
Dunkin’ Darvin’s slam style was comprised of a unique mix of power & flare. The former is what allowed him to shatter backboards and finish over the likes of Alonzo Mourning. The latter allowed him to excel in a competitive dunk contest environment.
The biggest knock against Ham in this countdown is his relatively low amount dunking opportunities in a Pistons uniform. He played spot minutes in just 101 games over two years for Detroit, but still left an impression.
7. Rasheed Wallace
Sheed may have very well ended up a couple of slots higher on this countdown had he not shown up in Detroit at the tail end of his athletic prime. Wallace wreaked havoc on rims as a youth, splitting his time between the Washington Bullets and Portland Trail Blazers.
Still, Wallace’s length and confrontational on-court demeanor allowed him to finish a range of lobs, drop-steps, tip-dunks and lane-fills with great aplomb. His tendency to yell & hang on the rim for effect only helps on a countdown such as this. Bonus points.
6. John Salley
John earns the nod over Rasheed mostly due to the timing of their tenures in Detroit. Rasheed may have offered more overall ferocity, but a young John Salley’s springs eclipsed those of a 31-year old Wallace. Salley’s similarly long arms and zest for finishing above the rim led to forming reliable alley-oop connections with the likes of Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, and even Dennis Rodman.
Salley had no qualms about dunking on folks and he had a penchant for finishing slams from uncomfortable angles, often completing reverse flushes out of necessity more than mere flare. Then again, sometimes he just did it for the sake of flare.
5. Jerry Stackhouse
Stack is likely the most creative in-game dunker on this list. While at UNC, Jerry established his dunking prowess by nearly causing Dick Vitale’s head to explode with a legendary baseline finish against Duke. As an NBA vet wearing Pistons burgundy, he showed he was more than willing to finish with flash when the proper opportunity presented itself.
Jerry’s springs were not particularly awe-inspiring during his Pistons years, but that’s a testament to his dunking ability more than anything else. Stackhouse wasn’t sitting on a 45” vertical, but that never stopped him from getting the job done. Also, he could execute a legitimate 360 in close quarters. That counts for something here, folks.
4. Jason Maxiell
Jason Maxiell’s dunks featured no frills, but an uncomfortably large amount of power. 89% of Max’s forays to the rim gave the impression he was attempting to end someone’s entire existence. His dunk reel is enough to warm the hearts of above-the-rim enthusiasts everywhere. Not to mention, any player who was able to go toe-to-toe in a playoff dunk battle with Lebron James deserves a spot near the top of this list.
3. Andre Drummond
Andre Drummond has worked his way near the top of this list off of sheer will and dunking persistence. Dre dunks all the time, everywhere. Why is he a career 57 percent shooter? Because he won’t stop dunking.
Moreover, the 6-foot-10 Drummond has weighed quantity with quality. Yes, the majority of his dunks seem to follow the same plot (“I’m huge so I’m just going to go ahead and dunk this”) but he’s also shown the versatility that has allowed him to sprint the length of the floor and dunk on Elton Brand, face Serge Ibaka head on, or break off an impressive open-court windmill. Drummond’s dunking numbers warrant a spot in our top three, but he’ll need more signature slams before he climbs any higher (i.e. reaching playoffs would help).
2. Ben Wallace
We’ve had a change of heart. This list was initially released in 2014 and at that time, we slotted Ben Wallace all the way down at number five.
But the more we thought about it, the more we felt Wallace needed to climb up this list. For what he lacked in aerial acrobatics, he more than made up for with power, aggression, and timeliness. Andre Drummond may reach higher to the sky, but he’s never flushed home a dunk as important as Wallace’s putback jam in Game 5 of the 2004 NBA Finals. We never thought we’d be one to judge a player’s dunk standing off of atmosphere and game importance, but those are two big factors that play a role in Wallace’s dunk legacy. He was a walking exclamation point.
Even if Ben’s dunking versatility was not as well established as, say, the aforementioned Darvin Ham, he worked with what he had, dunking on opponents (hello, Mr. Garnett), over opponents (hello, entire city of Phoenix), or just flat outracing them (nice try, Nazr). Wallace’s entire highlight reel is an exercise in sheer power and dominance above the rim.
1. Grant Hill
For a player who, in his youth, was often labeled as being too nice, Grant Hill surely made no qualms about finishing above the NBA’s most elite shot blockers with shameless violence. Grant stands alone atop this list for the way with which he was able to execute such a wide array of slam dunks with equal parts efficiency, frequency, power, and style.
Whether it was splitting Eddie Jones and Kobe Bryant by taking off a step inside the free throw line, effectively ending Mark Davis’ career by power slamming him into oblivion, or making a double-pump reverse dunk appear casual, Mr. Hill’s strikes often came without warning, leaving fans, teammates, and opponents mystified in his wake.