2000s

2000 -- Vince Carter wows Oakland crowd with Dunk Contest performance

 vince carter 2000 dunk
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Vince Carter wins the 2000 dunk contest.

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There's not much to say about Vince Carter's performance in the 2000 Dunk Contest that hasn't been said already. Eight years later, it is still considered the best individual performance in a Dunk Contest … by far. Technically, there have been more impressive dunks since then. But none have dropped as many mouths as VC did back in Oakland.

It started (and in reality, ended) with the reverse 360. He had the power of Dominique and the flair of MJ. The through-the-legs-off-the-bounce caused the judges to just discard their scorecards and run on the floor as if they were at an And1 game. And the elbow-in-the-rim dunk had people wondering what they just saw, but knowing it was wonderful.

That Carter's two-handed dunk from the free throw line is not even included in the highlights tells you how good his others were. And when you go back see what Tracy McGrady and Steve Francis did that night, you realize that either would have won a dunk crown themselves if they weren't going against Carter.

But there was never any doubt with this contest. And no matter what has been done in the dunk contest since, no one has come close to moving us like Vince Carter did in 2000.

- - John Schuhmann, NBA.com

Top 10 Plays of the 2000 All-Star Game | All-Star Moment: 2000 Dunk Contest

2001 -- All living MVPs gather in Washington

 2001 All-Star Game
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All living All-Star MVPs were on-hand in 2001.

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What? Harry Connick Jr. is listed among the 57 most memorable All-Star moments?

Yes, indeed, the jazz pianist and every living NBA All-Star Game MVP made halftime of the 2001 classic an unforgettable experience in Washington, D.C. Connick along with a 15-piece band set the tone when they performed a special arrangement honoring MVPs of the past 50 years.

Bill Russell, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Julius Erving, Tiny Archibald, Rick Barry, Elgin Baylor, Dave Bing, Bob Cousy, Walt Frazier, George Gervin, Hal Greer, Bob Lanier, Jerry Lucas, Ed Macauley, Bob Pettit, Willis Reed, Oscar Robertson, Bill Sharman and Isiah Thomas were among those recognized for their unforgettable performances of yesteryear.

The next 24 minutes would witness Allen Iverson add to the All-Star Game MVP lore as he played the lead role in the East’s thrilling come-from-behind victory over the West. Like Connick, Iverson scored a mesmerizing performance of his own, dropping 15 of his 25 points in the final nine minutes on the same turf where he starred at Georgetown as the East overcame a 19-point deficit for an unforgettable victory.

- - John Hareas, NBA.com

2001 -- Allen Iverson and Stephon Marbury lead East to furious comeback win

 marbury and iverson celebrate
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images/NBAE
Marbury and Iverson lead an East comeback.

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I was a 14-year old freshman, birthing my first bylines in the sports section of my suburban Philadelphia school newspaper, when my dad set up an interview for me with then Nets General Manager John Nash, who my dad went to high school with. This was the biggest get of my infantile sports writing career and the question I was most amped to ask him was, “Are Allen Iverson and Stephon Marbury sort of like the Generation-X equivalent of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson or Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell?” I’m sure Nash looked at me like I just handed him a Hawaii Driver’s License proclaiming me to be a 25-year old organ donor named “McLovin” – was this kid really mentioning a couple of third-year me-first point guards in the same breath as four first-ballot Hall of Famers? But Nash was polite, basically taking a wait-and-see approach while telling me in so many words to respect my elders. I had my reasons for asking the questions – they were both part of the ’96 draft, they were both playing in the Atlantic Division, they both could score as well as they could pass, and they both had a unique street-appeal popularity – but they never developed the parallel careers I envisioned. Except on one night. And not as adversaries, but as teammates. The Answer and Starbury turned a 21-point West blowout into a narrow 111-110 victory for the East. Iverson scored 15 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter to bring the East back into the game and Marbury hit two crucial threes in the final minute to quell a flurry of Kobe Bryant points. Iverson was named MVP, Marbury came up as clutch as can be and maybe, just maybe, somewhere John Nash thought, “Oh, so this is the Iverson and Marbury that high school kid was talking about.”

- - Dave McMenamin, NBA.com

Top 10 Plays of the 2001 All-Star Game

2002 -- Kobe Bryant wins MVP in Philly

 kobe wins mvp
Andy Hayt/Getty Images/NBAE
Kobe wins MVP in his hometown Philly.

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Talk to some people in the City of Brotherly Love and they’ll tell you that Kobe Bryant is the best prepster to come out of Philadelphia since Wilt Chamberlain matriculated at Overbrook back in the early ‘50s. Talk to others, the majority of others it seems, and they’ll say that Kobe grew up in Italy and then played in the pithy suburban Central League and not the true Philly hoop havens of the city’s Public and Catholic Leagues. He’s not soft pretzels and cheese wit and wudder ice, they’ll say. Rather, he’s as foreign as his first name (dubbed after the Japanese steak) suggests. Not to mention, if he was really a true Philly guy, how come he wanted to “rip the heart” out of Sixers fans during the 2001 NBA Finals? Philadelphia sports fan didn’t forget that. They couldn’t forget that. And so, when Bryant proved to be the star of stars and scored a game-high 31 points en route to a 135-120 victory for the West and MVP honors of the 2002 All-Star game, the Philly faithful poured down boos from the stands to match the bountiful buckets that Bryant was pouring in. Hey, Kobe, don’t take it personally; we’ll boo anybody in Philadelphia, even Santa Claus. Besides, some of us Philly-natives think Kobe’s ain’t half bad.

- - Dave McMenamin, NBA.com

Best of the 2002 Slam Dunk Contest

2002 -- Tracy McGrady goes off the board to himself

 Tmac dunks off backboard
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images/NBAE
T-Mac gets acrobatic.

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Trady McGrady – when healthy – is an athletic marvel with a flair for the creative. His hesitation dribble ranks among the league’s nastiest, and he’s been known to electrify crowds on a whim. He proved it during the 2002 All-Star Game when he dipped a toe in the streetball pool and embarrassed Dirk Nowitzski. Speeding down the left wing in transition, with Dirk backpedaling between him and the basket, McGrady decided it was time to chip in a delayed entry for the Slam Dunk Contest. T-Mac tossed an underhand lefty lob that spun Dirk around, and as the seven-footer followed the ball’s flight path, McGrady cut right of Nowitzki and leapt, catching the ball mid-air after it caromed off the glass, and throwing down a one-handed leaner that dropped jaws arena-wide.

It should be noted that Vince Carter absolutely rocked one of these at the 2005 All-Star Game in Denver, violently cramming a full-extension one-hander with his head at rim level, but T-Mac got there first, and his memorable moment makes the cut.

- -Ben Couch, NBA.com

Top 10 Plays of the 2002 All-Star Game

2003 -- Jason Richardson becomes first to repeat as Dunk winner since MJ '87-'88

 jason richardson 2003 dunk contest
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Jason Richardson repeats in 2003.

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Defending his 2002 Slam Dunk Contest win, Jason Richardson started off the ’03 contest with fury, picking a ball off the bounce and windmilling it so hard that the ball – after passing cleanly through the hoop -- careened off his head and rocketed a few rows deep into the stands. He followed it with a 360-degree, double-clutch one-hander, also off the bounce.

With stiff competition coming from 2001 winner Desmond Mason, who opened the final round with a vicious “show”-the-ball, then-go-between-the-legs jam, Richardson soared in to throw down a two-handed reverse off the bounce, bringing the ball all the way down to his knees before ramming it home. Mason then eased off the throttle with a “safe” dunk (an around-the-world, two-handed windmill), forcing J-Rich to score at least a 49 to win. Richardson decided to eat Mason alive and chalk up a 50 instead. Going off the bounce yet again, Richardson raced down the baseline, jumped with his back to the basket, caught the ball on its way up, brought it between his legs and flushed a one-handed reverse for the first successful title defense since His Airness beat ’Nique in 1988.

- -Ben Couch, NBA.com

Best of the 2003 Slam Dunk Contest

2003 -- Michael Jordan's last All-Star game

 mj's last stand
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MJ passes the torch in his last All-Star game.

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Weird Al Yankovic could have a hit on his hands if he revisits the 2003 NBA All-Star game and cops a Milli Vanilli tune: Blame it on Jermaine. If Jermaine O’Neal hadn’t fouled Kobe Bryant on a three-point attempt with one second left in overtime, the East would have walked away with a two-point win and Michael Jordan, playing in the final All-Star game of his career, would have been the hero. Instead, MJ’s incredible, impossible-if-it-was-anybody-else-but-him fadeaway baseline jumper with 4.8 ticks left in OT to give the East the lead merely became a footnote. If Jermaine hadn’t opened the door for Kobe to tie the game and force the first double-overtime game in All-Star history, we’d remember Vince Carter graciously bowing out of the starting lineup to give his spot to His Airness. If Jermaine hadn’t snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, Jordan might have taken home his fourth All-Star MVP for scoring 20 points and hitting the biggest shot of the night. Instead, Kevin Garnett grabbed the trophy by going off in the second extra session to finish with 37 points on 17-for-24 shooting, complemented by nine boards, five steals, three assists and a block in his stat line. Blame it on Jermaine.

- - Dave McMenamin, NBA.com

Top 10 Plays of the 2003 All-Star Game

2004 -- LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony made Rookie Challenge debuts

 the next generation
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images/NBAE
James, wade and Anthony lead the next generation.

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Foreshadowing All-Star teams for years to come, in 2004 LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Carmelo Anthony headlined the Rookie Challenge game in Los Angeles. The freshman faced a stacked sophomore squad that included Yao Ming, Amare Stoudemire, Carloz Boozer and Tayshaun Prince. In the competitive and high-scoring matchup impressive plays were made by the rooks and the chemistry between The Chosen One and Melo was obvious. Nonetheless the first-years could not keep up with the sophomores as the youngsters experienced their first All-Star defeat with a final score of 142-118. While James, Anthony and Wade all scored in double-digits with 33, 17 and 22 points respectively, it was second-year Amare Stoudemire who was recognized as the game's MVP for his record breaking 36-point performance. Fortunately losing didn’t put a damper on King James' All-Star spirit as he generously tossed his shoes into the crowd following the game.

- - Lauren Brill, NBA.com

Top 10 Plays of the 2004 All Star Game



2004 -- Jason Richardson goes off glass between his legs for a 50

 jason richardson 2004 dunk
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Jason Richardson goes through his legs.

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There’s a natural progression that exists in dunking history: First, the dunk happens with ball in hand the entire time. Then, someone wings it off the bounce. And the ultimate test comes when someone goes for the self-pass off the glass. The between-the-legs jam was first slammed through by Orlando Woolridge in the 1984 Slam Dunk Contest, revived by Isaiah Rider in 1994 and was taken off the bounce (and windmilled!) by Vince Carter in 2000.

In 2004, Jason Richardson -- whose 2003 contest-winning 180 between-the-legs reverse off the bounce earned him ownership of the move -- naturally selected his second attempt of the first round for the dunk’s evolution.

Starting from the top of the key, Richardson tossed up an underhand lob, loped in and lifted off from just inside the semi-circle, catching the ball off the glass, swinging it cleanly between his legs and slammed it through with his right hand. 10s shot up everywhere, and J-Rich’s third straight berth in the finals was secured. A missed second dunk cost him a potential three-peat, but no one will forget Richardson raising the bar yet again.

- -Ben Couch, NBA.com

Best of the 2004 Slam Dunk Contest

2004 -- Shaq dominating MVP performance

 shaq dominates
Gary Dineen/Getty Images/NBAE
Shaq wins MVP in his hometown L.A.

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Despite watching the matchup from the bench at the start of the 2004 All-Star game, Shaq was the last man standing on the floor once the game ended as he happily accepted the MVP recognition. While fans voted in Yao Ming as the West's starting center, it was Shaq who left fans amazed. In 24 minutes The Big Aristotle logged 24 points which included nine dunks and 11 rebounds en route to the West's 136-132 victory over the East. Confident as he clocked in to the matchup, Shaq revelaed to the AP, "I said to myself, 'If it's going good, nobody is really shining, I'm going to go ahead and go for it.' Third and fourth quarter, got a few dunks, scored a few buckets." With L.A. hosting the 2004 All-Star, the honor was particularly sweet because Shaq Daddy was able to celebrate among a rambunctious hometown crowd. Having shared the award in 2000 with Tim Duncan, the 2004 All-Star game marked the first and only time The Diesel received the recognition exclusively.

- - Lauren Brill, NBA.com

2005 -- Steve Nash heads an alley-oop to Amare Stoudemire in Dunk Contest

 amare and nash dunk contest
Andrew D. Bernstein
Nash gives Amare a hand during the dunk contest.

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By 2005, critics were decrying the dunk contest as staid, so Amare Stoudemire drew inspiration from a familiar source of assists: his teammate, Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash. For his first teammate-assisted dunk, Stoudemire positioned Nash at the left elbow, and lined himself up on the right wing. Stoudamire then bounced the ball off the floor at an angle, and it caromed high off the glass toward Nash. The Canadian point guard, who grew up a soccer fiend in the Great White North, headed a perfect alley-oop to Amare, who caught it while spinning and finished with a one-handed power flush.

With that heady play, Amare and McNashty united two of the world’s most global games … and earned 10s across the board -- often a rarity for big men in the dunk contest. They reconnected later in the contest for a second soccer-inspired slam, with Nash lifting an over-the-head rainbow kick to Amare for an alley-oop. But the effort failed to lift Amare past Josh Smith of the Hawks, who claimed the title with a powerful display of long-distance jams.

- -Ben Couch, NBA.com

Best of the 2005 Slam Dunk Contest | Top 10 Plays of the 2005 All Star Game

2006 -- Andre Iguodala dunks from behind the backboard

 andre iguodala
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images/NBAE
Iguodala dunks from behind the backboard in 2006.

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I'd like to thank the guy who decided to raise the bottom of the backboard from 12” below the rim to 6” below, because if he hadn't made that decision, we would have missed out on one the best Dunk Contest dunks of all time.

Andre Iguodala's behind-the-backboard dunk in 2006 had everything: originality, degree of difficulty, athleticism and flair. The first two are what makes it so special.

Dunkers have tossed the ball off of the front of the backboard plenty of times, and it's easy to understand why no one considered bouncing it off the back. But AI (and AI) considered it, and the rest of us are better off as a result.

But considering it isn't even half the battle. To actually try it -- to jump from out of bounds and elevate so that your head is on a path to collide with the backboard support before you duck, while still concentrating on catching the ball and getting it through the rim on the other side -- takes some large stones.

Then to actually pull it off in front of the crowd at the Toyota Center? That's brilliance.

- - John Schuhmann, NBA.com

Top 10 Plays of the 2006 All-Star Game | 2006 All-Star Weekend Wrapup | All-Access: Stars Wired

2006 -- Nate Robinson jumps over Spud Webb

 nate dunks over spudd
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Nate Robinson ges a little help from a past dunk champ.

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Providing fans with a deja-vu experience, 20 years after 5-7 Spudd Webb defeated defending dunk champion Dominique Wilkins, 5-9 Nate Robinson claimed the very same title. To commemorate Webb's accomplishment as the shortest player to win the contest, the rookie Knickerbocker used the legend as prop to help him defeat his opponents in the 2006 competition. Robinson faced 6-6 Andre Iguodala, 6-9 Hakim Warrick and 6-9 defending champ Josh Smith in the competition. Despite his size, all eyes were focused on Robinson as he pulled Webb onto the court for one of his dunks. With no one knowing what to expect from the diminutive competitor, Nate the Great received the ball from Webb and then leaped over the former champ for an unforgettable jam and perfect 50-point score. Little Nate joined Webb as the only other NBA player under six feet to accomplish the feat. After the event the retired NBA player described the magnitude of what had previously occurred to ESPN as he said, "He (Nate Robinson) doesn't know what he did tonight. He made history. One day he can tell his kids about this."

- - Lauren Brill, NBA.com

Nate Robinson's 2006 Dunk Contest Highlights | 2006 All-Star Game Highlights | 2006 All-Star All-Access: Sunday

2007 -- Gilbert Arenas jumps off a trampoline to dunk during a timeout

 gilbert's trampoline dunk
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Gilbert uses "performance-enhancement" during a timeout in 2007.

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If you want to hear the story of how Gilbert Arenas made like a halftime entertainer and dunked off a trampoline during a timeout in Vegas, why not go straight to the source, his special edition NBA.com All-Star blog: “We were sitting there in the timeout watching them Elvis guys dunk, and my big mouth, I was like, ‘Man, I can do that better than them.’ And then they missed a couple so I was like, ‘When they finish up, I’m going to go do it.’ … It was great … Between the legs…Yea-ahhh! I used to practice those trampoline dunks back at Golden State. I can flip and everything. But I didn’t want to flip and crack my neck.’” Arenas was able to put his own unique stamp on All-Star weekend despite scoring a forgettable eight points in the actual game. You’ll see somebody else go between the legs in a dunk contest, you’ll see somebody else have a 25-point round in the three-point shootout, you’ll see somebody else score 40 points in the game itself, but you’ll never see anybody else pull off a stunt like Gilbert did.

- - Dave McMenamin, NBA.com

Gilbert Arenas' Trampoline Dunk | Kobe Bryant Wins All-Star MVP | SpinCam Dunk Highlights | Top 10 Plays of the 2007 All-Star Game | All-Access: All-Star Game Wireless

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