As we mourn and remember the great career of Kobe Bryant (Republished from 04/11/2016).
Throughout his 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bryant has left fans with a number of memories. Be it a ridiculous scoring outing, a cold-blooded clutch shot to win the game, or an outstanding moment that shows just how tough he is, Kobe has truly done it all.
On this day, however, we are focusing strictly on the aerial exploits of the Black Mamba as we re-live Kobe Bryant’s top-10 dunks of his career.
The great thing about Kobe, and the difficult thing about constructing this list, is that there are so many different kinds of dunks to choose from. From windmills to tomahawk jams, to 360s and reverses, Kobe has done just about every dunk possible.
The situation for each dunk also plays a role in how memorable they are. Does a crazy dunk in the middle of an average regular-season game mean as much as a huge slam in a playoff game or a clutch dunk in the 4th quarter?
From his younger days when he was just getting started in the NBA, to his final years when people weren’t sure if he could still elevate, Kobe proved that when it came to throwing it down, he was one of the best in the business.
Check out our list of the Top 10 Kobe Bryant dunks in his career:
#10 Kobe Turns Back the Clock vs. Hawks
Late in this game against the Hawks, the Lakers trailed by a point and badly needed a win to get back to .500. Kobe found himself matched up with Josh Smith, one of the best, most athletic defenders in the NBA.
Kobe would drive to the basket as Smith was right on his shoulder. But Kobe would not be stopped as he rose up and despite the 6’9 Smith’s best attempts, throw down a ferocious dunk to send the Staples Center crowd into a frenzy.
#9 Kobe Goes Baseline vs. Clippers
After tearing his Achilles at the end of the 2012-13 season, and lasting only six games the following year, there were plenty of questions about whether or not Kobe still had the athleticism to rise above defenders.
He answered that question in the team’s third game of the season against the rival Clippers. Kobe blew by former teammate Matt Barnes on the baseline, went under the rim and rose up for a massive slam that showed he still had some spring left in his legs.
#8 Baseline Jam Over Yao Ming
That left Kobe one-on-one with Yao at the rim. Yao offered resistance, but Kobe rose over the outstretched arm, showing that no man, regardless of how tall, could stop young Kobe from finishing at the rim.
#7 Windmill over Latrell Sprewell at MSG
Easily one of his most popular dunks of all-time, Kobe made a statement at the mecca of basketball, Madison Square Garden.
Kobe was cold-blooded and ruthless, with no regard for human life. He would blow by Latrell Sprewell on the baseline, jumping from one end of the rim, and finishing on the other side with a quick windmill under the basket for good measure.
The dunk was undoubtedly an impressive feat, the degree of difficulty was excellent, and making this happen at Madison Square Garden makes this even more memorable.
#6 Emphatic Throwdown over Emeka Okafor
In 2011, the Lakers faced a feisty New Orleans Hornets team in the first round of the playoffs. They were shockingly able to split the first four games of the series, leading to a crucial Game 5 at Staples Center.
Kobe Bryant had begun relying less on his athleticism at this point in his career, but he still had some springs when necessary. Pau Gasol would make a quick pass to a wide-open Kobe at the top of the key.
Kobe took one dribble before elevating and cocking his arm all the way back before throwing down a thunderous slam over Okafor. The dunk energized the team, and the crowd, as the Lakers would go on to win the game and the series.
#5 Posterization of Steve Nash
Kobe would quickly drive by Raja Bell, before encountering Steve Nash attempting to take a charge at the rim. But Kobe wasn’t having any of it as he rose above Nash, slamming it down with force and hanging on the rim for good measure.
This dunk is one of the most memorable in Kobe’s history. The stage also elevates this dunk as it was in the playoffs against a very good Phoenix Suns team. This dunk was the punctuation mark as the Lakers stole Game 2 of this first-round series on the road.
#4 Baptism of Dwight Howard
Kobe got a great screen from Lamar Odom that allowed him to get a step on DeShawn Stevenson. Pat Garrity tried to cut him off but Kobe blew right by him leaving Howard alone at the rim as Kobe approached.
Kobe rose up and before Howard even realized what happened, his face disappeared as Kobe threw down the vicious dunk on top of him.
This is a special dunk as it is over a three-time defensive player of the year who has averaged more than two blocks per game throughout his career, though admittedly in his rookie season. Another classic poster for Kobe, this time over a true shot-blocker.
#3 One-Handed Throwdown vs. New Jersey Nets
Tied at 80, Kobe had the ball above the three-point line as Gerald Wallace, one of the better defenders in the NBA for years, stood in front of him. Kobe would drive by Wallace and rise up as Kris Humphries offered resistance at the rim.
Neither Humphries or Wallace could do anything as Kobe slammed it down through both of their arms as the Brooklyn crowd roared in approval of Bryant’s throwback jam.
It was almost unfair as the 34-year-old Bryant turned back the clock with authority. But this dunk was so special because people had wondered whether Kobe could still play at the level he had in previous years.
#2 Behind the Back vs. Denver Nuggets
In the third quarter, the Lakers were beginning to pull away from the Nuggets, but a headline still needed to be made and Kobe was the one to provide it. Nuggets backup Chris Whitney made his second free throw and Kobe darted down the court. Robert Horry quickly took the ball out of the net and launched an Aaron Rodgers-like pass the length of the court.
Kobe would catch the ball, take a dribble, and in one motion put the ball behind his back as he spun away from Vincent Yarbrough, then rise up for the one-handed slam over Yarbrough.
The skill it took to pull off that move was unreal. Very few players have the talent, confidence, and awareness to make that happen, but Kobe did. Poor Yarbrough will always be remembered for failing to stop the play from happening.
#1 Double-Pump Windmill vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Lakers had made the playoffs, but awaiting them was a tough Minnesota Timberwolves team led by All-NBA 1st Team and All-Defensive first team big man Kevin Garnett, one of the best defenders in the history of the NBA.
The series was tied at two games apiece, and the Lakers knew they needed to win Game 5 on the road. They played like it from the beginning, but in the third quarter the Lakers really began pouring it on, and everything was punctuated with one swift move from Kobe.
The Lakers threw the ball down low to Shaq who would kick it out to Robert Horry. Quick ball movement led to the ball finding Kobe on the baseline with Garnett on him. Kobe showed no fear as he drove the ball straight to the rim as another seven-footer, Rasho Nesterovic approached as well.
But stopping Kobe was impossible. He would rise, use a slight windmill and go under the rim to slam it down over both big men to punctuate a dominant victory.
Kobe Bryant has had so many memorable dunks over his 20-year career that no list of 10 would truly do him justice. So here are three more epic “Honorable Mention” slams.
Fast Break Slam Over Chris Paul
A personal favorite of mine, and definitely one of his more recent classics. Chris Paul’s face, as he is getting dunked on, is priceless. Unfortunately, this barely missed the cut due to there being better facials in games the Lakers didn’t get killed in.
Slam Dunk Contest Through the Legs
This was the dunk that put Kobe on the map to the mainstream world. He was barely 18 at the time, but he stole the show at the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest. This was a great dunk, but also more of a sentimental memory of Kobe, as he has had far more ferocious dunks during live games.
Pre-season slam over Ben Wallace
Well before he was a multiple-time Defensive Player of the Year award winner, Ben Wallace was just another victim in Kobe Bryant’s highlight reel. This was the toughest to omit from the top-10 but the fact that it was a pre-season game gave others a slight edge.