Editor's note: The art of dunking has brought excitement to the game. It has also created chaos in arenas around the nation and provided plenty of challenges for coaches, says Myron Medcalf.
If you’re like me, then some of your best college basketball memories involve monster dunks. We all wanted to do it. Few could.
That’s why these plays stood out. They were bigger than the typical flush. They were of the earth-shattering mold. That’s why they’re still drawing YouTube hits years later.
Here’s a list of my all-time favorite dunks in college basketball:
Bryant Reeves shatters the backboard during 1995 Final Four practice: Bryant “Big Country” Reeves was designed to break rims. Perhaps he had some other purpose, but tearing down baskets was certainly one of them. Reeves created this memory during practice for the 1995 Final Four at Seattle's Superdome. His Oklahoma State teammate Scott Pierce suggested that the story behind the dunk would change over the years. And he was right. Ask five different people about this dunk and they’ll tell you five different stories about when/where/how it happened. The bottom line, however, is that we’re talking about it because it was so destructive.
Jerome Lane shatters the backboard in 1988 Big East game: “Send it in, Jerome!” That was the classic call by Bill Raftery. Those four words described the entire scene after Pitt’s Jerome Lane annihilated the backboard after an assist by Sean Miller (yes, that one) on a fast break against Providence in 1988. Lane went up with one hand and literally tore the rim down. Best part of the play … the rim was left to dangle off the bottom of the backboard. Lane didn’t just shatter the rim. He killed it. In a matter of seconds, Lane became a legend.
Stackhouse reverses against Duke in 1995 matchup: I was a Milwaukee kid, so I really didn’t have a right to get caught up in the Duke-North Carolina rivalry, but that’s exactly what happened. Dollar bets the day before a Duke-North Carolina game were the norm in high school. There have been a lot of great moments in the series. But former UNC star Jerry Stackhouse’s reverse dunk in a 1995 matchup against the Blue Devils was arguably the greatest dunk in the history of the rivalry. Stackhouse beat 6-11 forward/center Cherokee Parks off the dribble on a fast break. So 6-10 center Erik Meek came down to help. And Stackhouse ultimately posterized both big men. Then he put on the “mean face” and walked away. Beautiful.
Dahntay Jones dunks against Virginia, does push-ups: I think former Duke standout Dahntay Jones was one of the most underrated dunkers in recent college basketball history. The man could fly. During a 2003 ACC matchup at Virginia, Nick Vander Laan learned the hard way. Jones jumped over Vander Laan and then, to embarrass the big man even more, did a few pushups. Duke crushed the Cavs by double figures in that game, so Jones’ slam in the closing minutes didn’t affect the final outcome. But it definitely showcased his athleticism and personality.
Kentucky’s Derek Anderson slams over Louisville’s Nate Johnson: In 1996 and '97, Kentucky went to back-to-back title games and Derek Anderson was one of Rick Pitino’s top players. Anderson’s slam against rival Louisville in 1996 was arguably the play of the year for the program. Anderson leapt over Nate Johnson on a fast break as Johnson tried to undercut him. But Anderson continued to rise before finishing the play with a nasty dunk over Johnson. Swinging on the rim after the fact was unnecessary, but it was a Kentucky-Louisville rivalry game. It happens. Anderson wanted to send a message and he did.
Darvin Ham destroys a rim against North Carolina: In 1996, I was sitting in my living room when CBS replayed a highlight from an NCAA second-round matchup between Texas Tech and North Carolina. That’s when I discovered Darvin Ham. He shattered this particular backboard off a miss in a win over UNC that propelled the Red Raiders into the Sweet 16. He added to the theatrics by doing the only thing that a person should do after they’ve just crushed a rim: He walked away. Great statement. Nothing to say. Just let the people admire your craftsmanship. You also have to appreciate the first-degree assault that’s always committed by at least one teammate after a high-level finish. Texas Tech’s Jason Sasser wrapped Ham in a bear hug that nearly turned into a rear-naked choke. Ham became a star that night. He even made the cover of Sports Illustrated. When he joined the Milwaukee Bucks, I was his biggest fan.
Bobby Hurley to Grant Hill in the national title game: Remember when Grant Hill had crazy bounce? It’s easy to forget because his NBA career has been plagued by so many injuries. But Hill was an amazing athlete in college. During Duke's 1991 national title game against Kansas, Bobby Hurley threw an alley-oop to Hill about 35 feet from the rim. It wasn’t a great pass, so Hill had to maneuver in mid-air to save the ball. And while he was soaring, he decided to dunk it with one hand and create one of the most memorable plays of the night.
DeQuan Jones vs. North Carolina in 2009: Jones was a 6-8 forward who had freakish hops. He didn’t have a stellar career at Miami, averaging 5.9 ppg and 3.6 rpg. But he racked up highlights in his four-year career. Many involved dunks. In 2009, the Hurricanes faced the Tar Heels in a typical ACC matchup. But his big dunk 10 minutes into the game was extraordinary. Jones took the ball from the right side of the rim as three Carolina defenders turned to contest the shot. But Jones twisted his body, came under the rim and reversed on the other side. It was a crazy acrobatic sequence. Jones completed a “slam dunk contest” dunk in the middle of a real game.
Shaq jumps over a man’s head: Shaquille O’Neal revolutionized his position. Prior to his arrival at LSU, no big man had ever possessed his combination of size, speed, strength and athleticism. He’s torn down rims. He’s destroyed backboards. And he’s hurt feelings. During one matchup against McNeese State, Shaq caught a teammate’s miss with one hand and slammed it on the putback. The defender standing in his way, well, this is how one Louisiana newspaper described the sequence: "Harold Boudreaux missed a shot and 7-foot Shaquille O'Neal came flying down the lane and caught the basketball way over his head and behind him with one hand and simultaneously monster-cranked it through the rim and leapfrogged over 6-5 Melvin Johnson." So, that happened.
Vince Carter embarrasses Clemson: Carter was the first athlete that made me reconsider the morality of dunking. I just questioned if a man should be allowed to shame another individual the way Vince Carter did throughout his college career. During the 1996 ACC tournament, he caught a lob on the in-bounds and proceeded to dunk over the entire city of Clemson, S.C. It seemed like everyone on the roster tried to stop Carter but ultimately became victims. Plus, he jumped from the midway point between the free throw line and the hoop. So you could see it coming. But you couldn’t do anything about it.
Candace Parker becomes first woman to dunk in the NCAA tournament: Parker, the former Tennessee star and current WNBA all-star/Olympian, established multiple records during her collegiate career with the Lady Vols. And she led her team to consecutive national titles. But one of her greatest highlights came against Army in the 2006 NCAA tournament. Parker became the first woman in tourney history to dunk in a game (she dunked twice).
Clyde “The Glide” Drexler lives up to his name against Memphis: As a kid, I didn’t know too much about Clyde Drexler until the Portland Trail Blazers faced the Chicago Bulls in the 1992 Finals. But his exploits during the “Phi Slamma Jamma” days at Houston are widely documented. Drexler always looked like he could hang in the air for a few seconds longer than everyone else in the game. His dunk over Memphis State's Andre Turner showcased his full aerial potential. Drexler took a few steps inside of the free throw line and took off. Turner had little time to react. He tried to take the charge but Drexler steered around him for a fabulous finish. And the Afro he rocked back then made the effort look even funkier.
Cincinnati’s Melvin Levett, that’s all: Cincy has always attracted high-flying acts. But Levett was one of the best. He was known as “The Helicopter” and “Levettate.” The nicknames were accurate. During a 1997 matchup against Alcorn State, Levett waited as a teammate’s 3-point attempt ricocheted off the rim. Then, he burst into the air and dunked on a furious putback. Just furious. He nearly killed a teammate on his way down. The play was also accompanied by a great call. One analyst yelled, “I saw it coming! I saw it coming!” Well, he should have warned Alcorn State.
Now, it’s your turn.
What’s your favorite dunk in college basketball history? Who did I leave out? Take a trip down memory lane and let us know in the comments section.