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A Battle for the Ages: Looking Back on the 1988 Dunk Contest

NBA All-Star Weekend is one of the most exciting times of the year for basketball fans. The festivities give fans the chance to see their favorite players participate in events such as the Skills Challenge, the 3-Point Shootout, and the Rising Stars Challenge. The weekend ends with the best players in the league sharing the court in the NBA All-Star Game.

This year’s All-Star takes place in Chicago, a city that has not had an All-Star Weekend since 1988. The NBA returns to the “Windy City,” and fans cannot wait for the festivities to begin.

While all of the All-Star events are exciting, there is one event that always captures fans’ attention. That event is the NBA Slam Dunk Contest.

The NBA Slam Dunk Contest

Love it or hate it, the Dunk Contest is arguably the most talked about event of the weekend. While some dunk contests are better than others, fans tune in in hopes of seeing an exciting competition.

This year’s contest features Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon, Miami Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr., Milwaukee Bucks guard Pat Connaughton and Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard.

Gordon, Howard and Jones are no strangers to the contest, as Gordon participated in 2016 (in a memorable contest with Zach LaVine) and 2017. Howard participated from 2007-2009 and won the contest in 2008. Lastly, Jones participated in 2017. Connaughton is the only newcomer, but he has a good chance at beating one of the veterans.

This year’s participants have big shoes to fill, as the last dunk contest in Chicago, was the 1988 contest when Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins battled for the crown. The face-off was memorable and possibly one of the greatest contests in the event’s history. Let’s examine the historic contest and the winner of the famous showdown.

Jordan vs Wilkins: The Rematch

The year is 1988, and Jordan and Wilkins are two of the most prominent dunkers (and players) at that time. Wilkins, a powerful dunker, won the 1985 contest when he beat Jordan in the final round. The matchup was exciting and left fans wanting more, and hoping the two dunkers would re-match the following year. However, injuries prevented them from meeting in the next few years.

Wilkins lost the 1986 contest, after his Hawks teammate, Spud Webb beat him in the final round. Jordan missed that year’s contest but returned in 1987. Jordan won the event, while Wilkins had to watch from the sidelines. By 1988, it was time for the two dunk maestros to face each other once more.

Dominique Wilkins in 1988. Image by (Charles Cherney/Chicago Tribune via AP)

Wilkins did an array of powerful windmills and reverse dunks that justified his “Human Highlight Film” nickname. Jordan flew through the air with grace and style while performing in front of his home crowd. The contest came down to one dunk.

For his final dunk, Wilkins went for a two-handed windmill that gave him a total of 45 points. Wilkins needed a 48 to secure the win, and the score for his final dunk let some people stunned (including Jordan). Then, it was Jordan’s turn.

Jordan needed 49 points to win, and he had a dunk in mind.  He headed to the opposite end of the floor and prepared for one of his most famous dunks. Jordan ran towards the free-throw line, took off, and double-clutched in midair to throw done a dunk reminiscent to Julius Erving’s famous free-throw line dunk (and the dunk Jordan did in 1985’s contest). Jordan received a 50 and ultimately won the contest.

The 1988 Dunk Contest is one of the most memorable dunk contest of all time. The two stars both had memorable performances in the dunk contest and are both held in high regard.

While this year’s contest may not match the 1988, hopefully,fans are still in for a treat.


Featured Image Courtesy of Associated Press

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