Ready for another above the rim trip down memory lane? Of course you are. Today, the name of the game is ranking the finest dunk contest performances ever by those wearing the jersey of a Michigan-based franchise, college, or university.
To get this out of the way right off the bat, since this list is only dealing with home state clubs, that means you will not be seeing the likes of Jason Richardson, who won two NBA dunk contests, but both as a member of the Golden State Warriors (geo tip: that’s not Michigan).
We also limited the performances to the NCAA & NBA Slam Dunk Contests. Opening this countdown up to random high school or Midnight Madness showings seemed a little unofficial, not to mention it’d open up an endless back alley search for footage we’re not sure we’d ever be able to find anyway.
Lastly, as much as we love all our home state high-flyers, we must tip our caps to the likes of M.L. Carr, Maurice Ager, and Rawle Marshall, who all did their thing in their respective contests but didn’t crack our list.
With that out of the way, let’s get this thing started!
5. Allan Houston (Detroit Pistons) – 1994 NBA Slam Dunk Contest
Filling in on short notice for injured defending champion Harold Miner, one gathers the vaguest of notions that Detroit Pistons rookie Allan Houston didn’t exactly have a well thought out gameplan heading into the 1994 NBA Slam Dunk Contest.
While his first slam was relatively impressive (a bounce lob 360), Houston quickly settled into a groove that answered the pressing question, “How many different ways can an NBA player finish a generic two-hand dunk?” Houston ticked at least three off the list: off-the-backboard, behind-the-back off-the-backboard, and the grand finale – a headbutt to himself, where the ball essentially fell back into his hands prior to takeoff, before finishing things off with another routine two-handed flush.
4. Jerry Stackhouse (Detroit Pistons) – 2000 NBA Slam Dunk Contest
The biggest knock against Jerry Stackhouse in the 2000 NBA Slam Dunk Contest had nothing to do with Jerry Stackhouse. He just happened to have the unenviable task of following up perhaps the greatest dunk contest performance in NBA History, and as Kenny Smith put it, “You can’t come (up to bat) after Babe Ruth. You don’t go singing after Michael Jackson. There’s certain things you just don’t do.”
Unfortunately for Stackhouse, he had no choice in the matter. On two occasions, the camera cut away from fellow contestant Vince Carter only after Stack had already begun his approach. With the crowd left buzzing by Carter all evening, Stackhouse’s dunks appeared pedestrian by comparison.
Stack’s first dunk, a two-handed 360, would have likely earned a solid score in the 1997 contest (the last contest before 2000 – the NBA axed the event for two seasons). However, with the stakes raised by Carter, as well as Tracy McGrady and Steve Francis, anything falling short of spectacular wasn’t going to cut it. His second attempt deserved props for originality (though Francis claimed it was his idea to begin with – so at least someone gets originality points) – but Jerry and teammate Grant Hill couldn’t quite sync up to put one down.
By his third attempt, the writing was already on the wall – Francis, McGrady, and Carter had all already clinched each final round position. Stackhouse’s 14-foot takeoff and flush would be impressive in nearly any gym in America but on this evening, he just found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time
3. Brent Petway (Michigan) – 2007 NCAA Slam Dunk Contest
Michigan’s Brent Petway serves as a cautionary tale for the perils of overconfidence in a dunk contest. The fact he still slipped his way into the final round and cracked our top three should speak to his otherworldly dunking ability.
As was seemingly encouraged by ESPN, Petway at times seemed pre-occupied during his performance, sporting Matrix shades during his first round dunk and performing an impromptu dance session before the contest even began:
Despite some early misses, Petway was able to slide into the final round, where we actually felt his second dunk, an off-the-backboard honey dip, was a touch underrated (though we assume not hanging, as is usually customary for the full effect of an elbow dunk, likely harmed him).
In whole, Petway’s performance was pretty easy to deconstruct. It was a case of a legendary dunker hanging on by virtue of his athleticism and dunking ability, ultimately undone by a lack of concentration and execution.
2. Adreian Payne (Michigan State) – 2014 NCAA Slam Dunk Contest
We’re going to cut to the chase. Adreian Payne’s opening round two-hand, jackknife 360 was one of the purest, most powerful and aesthetically appealing dunks we’ve ever seen. Had the contest ended after round 1, Payne may have walked away one slam dunk title richer. In fact, his second dunk may have been just as impressive (it was, in essence, two dunks – a lefty poke with a simultaneous righty windmill).
As a result, it was relatively unfortunate to see Payne advance to the next round only to repeat the same dunk he did in round one, only with less perfection, ultimately leading to his elimination from competition. After his first two finishes, he was on pace to take the crown in this countdown, but the sputtering conclusion cost him.
1. Doug Anderson (Detroit Mercy) – 2013 NCAA Slam Dunk Contest
Doug Anderson was on the underground Michigan dunking scene years before his coronation in 2013. His dunking antics at Kalamazoo Central drew fellow hoopers from around the state to Drake Rd., all with hopes of catching the next great Doug Anderson poster. At the high school state finals, the Breslin crowd would develop an electric buzz and rise in anticipation before he even picked up his dribble in the open floor.
Anderson would initially surface on the college scene at Mott Community College (Flint), where the dunk show continued (for those who kept their ears to the ground). Footage emerged from an 11-dunk exhibition performance. Then, the game tapes began to surface, featuring punishing hammers, open floor windmills, and alley-oops that made dunk enthusiasts pump their fists in triumph. Anderson would eventually climb his way into ESPN’s consciousness after a particularly emphatic flush left a bucket with some long-term damage:
When it was announced Anderson would be taking his talents to Detroit Mercy after exhausting his community college eligibility, those in the know understood it was time for the world to see what Doug was bringing to the table. Anderson made the most of his time in Division I, jamming on everyone in sight, including a six dunk performance against Syracuse.
By the time Anderson arrived at the 2013 State Farm Slam Dunk Contest, it was already a foregone conclusion. The king had arrived to take his throne.
*Full length footage of Anderson’s performance can be seen here.