A friend and I were talking about Blake Griffin the other day, and he asked me a question that initially seemed naïve and over-reaching: Is Blake Griffin the greatest (in-game) dunker of all time?
This just seemed nuts to me since Vince Carter and Shawn Kemp have landed so many “holy dear Jesus” slams throughout their careers, but it got me thinking about who in NBA history is without question a better dunker than Griffin. Vince, Shawn, Dominique Wilkins…and that may be the list. Not the list of every better dunker (way too long of a debate), but those dunkers who obviously have a better and more complete body of work in dunkology.
MJ had some memorable ones early in his career, but not enough (especially in the area of power) to make you downplay Blake’s contributions. Amar’e’s have often been of the 3-on-2 fastbreak category and don’t have nearly the variety of launch points and flight itineraries of Blake’s. Dr. J’s were innovative for the time, but don’t hold up particularly well today. Darryl Dawkins shattered the most backboards and named the most jams, but he really was just the George Mikan of dunking – rule-changingly powerful from a physical perspective, and that’s about it. Barkley certainly is the all-time king of one-man fast break dunks, but he’s more a gimmick guy on any sort of great dunkers list.
I figured it’s at least worth looking at Griffin’s greatest jams so far in his 23-game-old career to see how many would legitimately stand up against the best ever dunks from the best ever dunkers – this would provide a good jumping off point to extrapolate the possibility of him some day joining that elite group. I’ll keep this simple and say I’m looking at top-10 dunks from players’ careers in order to compare the best dunkers. It’s not fair to Griffin, Kemp, Vince, or ‘Nique to start talking about the young Clipper being in that discussion until he builds a top-10 grouping similar to theirs. That being said, here are the best dunks from Blake’s quarter-season of professional experience.
I’ll start with this Griffin top-10 video that was posted only 18 games into the 21-year-old’s career.
I see at least 3 dunks that are definitely of Kemp/Vince/Dominique top-10 quality: #3 (a steal followed by a 270-to-avoid-the-defender break away), #4 (break away spin move on Gallinari capped by a thunderous one-hander on top of the defeated Italian’s block attempt), and #1 (devastatingly powerful throwdown completely over top of 7-feet-1, 250-pounder Timofey Mozgov [crotch to face warning] who is pushing Griffin in the stomach in an attempt to blatantly foul/stop this occurrence).
In addition, #8 (Kemp-esque crusher over Minnesota’s Anthony Tolliver), #10 (fast break alley-oop with tight pressure in his back pocket – doubles as his first pro bucket, as well), and #6 (spin move on Amar’e’s extra porous D leading into an obvious rim destroyer that no Knick even dares to contest) all look pretty similar to some of the lesser top-10 dunks on the Kemp/Vince/Dominique videos. That means that in one-quarter of a rookie season, Griffin has compiled approximately half of an all-time dunking great’s career reel.
And that doesn’t even include this awesome oop from Baron Davis on Saturday night against the Grizzlies in which Griffin motions for the lob over center Marc Gasol in the half-court and then goes and kills the two-hander. Considering he’s pushed by the big man and still completes the high degree of difficulty slam, this is yet the latest dunk that could arguably fit into an elite dunker’s all-time video.
Taking all of these dunks into consideration, I’d have to say that Griffin already has a case to be considered one of the elite dunkers in the game’s history (again, we’re just looking at top-10 career dunks to compare players), and he’s certainly on his way to gaining entrance into the Greatest Dunker Ever debate. In fact, he could mathematically have that quality of a reel by about February.
If we could just get him on a real team...