A slam dunk (or simply a dunk) is a type of basketball shot that is performed when a player jumps in the air and manually powers the ball downward through the basket with one or both hands over the rim. This is considered a normal field goal attempt; if successful it is worth two points. The term "slam dunk" was coined by Los Angeles Lakers announcer Chick Hearn. Prior to that, it was known as a dunk shot.
The slam dunk is one of the highest percentage shots one can attempt in basketball as well as one of the most crowd-pleasing plays. Other terms for slam dunk include "jam", "stuff", "flush", "cram" or "throw down." Slam dunks are also performed as entertainment outside of the game, especially during Slam dunk contests. Perhaps the most popular such contest is the NBA Slam Dunk Contest held during the annual NBA All-Star Weekend. The first slam dunk contest was held during an American Basketball Association All Star Game.
Dunking was banned in the NCAA from 1967 to 1976. Many have attributed this to the dominance of the then-college phenomenon Lew Alcindor (now called Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) upon his entry into the NCAA. Subsequently, the no-dunking rule is sometimes referred to as the "Lew Alcindor Rule.
Wilt Chamberlain was known to have dunked on an experimental 12-foot basket set up by Phog Allen at the University of Kansas in the 1950s.. Michael Wilson, a former Harlem Globetrotter and University of Memphis basketball player, matched this feat on April 1 2000.
Vince Carter dunked while leaping over 7-foot-2 (2.18 m) French center Frédéric Weis in the 2000 Summer Olympics. The French media dubbed it "le dunk de la mort" — "the dunk of death." Carter is also known for introducing the "Honey Dip" or the "cookie jar" dunk in the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest, where Carter demonstrated it hooking his forearm/elbow into the rim after dunking and hanging. The "Honey Dip" at the time was unnamed. Carter used it as his specialty dunks along with his Reverse 360 Windmill dunk and between-the-legs dunk. When performed much of the audience was speechless, including the judges, because none had seen these types of amazing dunks before.
Jim Pollard, Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving, Clyde Drexler, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Stromile Swift, Darrell Griffith, Edgar Jones, and Brent Barry have each dunked while jumping from around the free throw line, which is 15 feet from the basket. Unlike the others, Wilt Chamberlain did not require a full running start, but instead began his movement from inside the top half of the free throw circle.
Several notable and remarkable dunks have been performed by players at the annual NBA Slam Dunk Contest. Spud Webb at 5'7" (1.70 m) defeated 6'8" (2.03m) Dominique Wilkins in the 1986 contest. Michael Jordan popularized a dunk referred to by some fans as "the leaner". This dunk was so-called because Jordan's body was not orthogonal to the ground ("leaning") while performing the dunk. TNT viewers rated it "the best dunk of all time" over Vince Carter's between-the-legs slam.
In the 2008 Sprite Rising Star's Slam Dunk Contest Dwight Howard performed the "Superman" dunk. He donned a superman outfit as Orlando Magic guard Jameer Nelson tied a cape around his shoulders. Nelson alley-ooped the basketball as Howard jumped from just inside the foul line, caught the ball, and threw it through the rim. This dunk is considered controversial, as his hand was not over or on a vertical plane to the rim. Some insist that it should be considered a dunk merely because his hand was over 10 feet high, which is the height of the rim.
Howard has asked the NBA for permission to raise the rim to 12 feet for a dunk during the Slam Dunk Contest. The NBA has declined his requests, on the basis that they want the All-Star Weekend's skills competitions to closely follow the NBA's in-game rules.
Georganne Wells of West Virginia was the first woman to dunk in an NCAA game in December 1984. Candace Parker in 2006 became the first woman to dunk in a women's NCAA tournament game. Lisa Leslie was the first woman to dunk in a WNBA game in 2002. In 2008, Candace Parker became the second woman to dunk in a WNBA game on June 22. Other well-known female dunkers include Cheryl Miller, Charlotte Smith and Michelle Snow (who did this in the 2006 WNBA All-Star Game). Many of the women in the WNBA dunk during warm-ups and practices.
In the past, it has been possible for players to dunk a basketball and pull the rim down so hard that the glass backboard breaks, either around the rim itself or, at times, shattering the entire backboard. Reinforced backboards and rims have minimized this at the college and professional levels, but it still happens at lower levels. All-star power forward Gus Johnson of the Baltimore Bullets was the first of the famous backboard breakers in the NBA, shattering three during his career in the 1960s and early 1970s. Darryl Dawkins of the Philadelphia 76ers was also notorious for two glass-shattering dunks in 1979 resulting in the league threatening to fine him and eventually installing breakaway rims. At the beginning of his career, center Shaquille O'Neal also dunked so hard that he broke the supports holding two backboards during games against the New Jersey Nets and the Phoenix Suns, making them collapse to the ground. This resulted in reinforced backboard supports as well. The NBA has made shattering the backboard a technical foul. This has assisted in deterring this action, as it can cost the team points. In the NCAA, Darvin Ham shattered a backboard while playing for Texas Tech in a tournament game against the University of North Carolina in 1996.
The term also serves as the namesake of a popular sports manga.