The between-the-legs dunk was popularized by Isaiah Rider in the 1994 NBA slam dunk contest, so much so that the dunk is often colloquially referred to as a "Rider dunk" — notwithstanding Orlando Woolridge's own such dunk in the NBA contest a decade earlier. Since then, the under-the-leg has been attempted in the NBA contest by a number of participants, and has been a staple of other contests as well. Its difficulty — due to the required hand-eye coordination, flexibility, and hang-time — keeps it generally reserved for exhibitions and contests, not competitive games. Ricky Davis has managed to complete the dunk in an NBA game, but both he and Josh Smith have botched at least one in-game attempt as well.
From Jordan to Lebron, even Yao Ming, nothing elicits more awe and applause than a dunk. As one of the highest percentage field goals one can attempt in basketball, this is a move that's worth mastering. While it doesn't hurt to be taller, you can build up both the muscles and skills required to execute this famous feat on the court, regardless of your height and experience. See Step 1 for more information.
An alley-oop dunk, as it is colloquially known, is performed when a pass is caught in the air and then dunked. The application of an alley-oop to a slam dunk occurs in both games and contests. In games, when only fractions of a second remain on the game or shot clock, an alley-oop may be attempted on in-bound pass because neither clock resumes counting down until an in-bounds player touches the ball. The images to the right depict an interval spanning 1/5 of a second.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keeping your back straight, bend at your knees and hips as if you are attempting to sit in a chair until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Simultaneously extend your arms straight out in front of you. From this position jump up, straighten your legs and swing your arms back down to the side of your body. Repeat 25 jumping squats in a row for three sets with a 1-minute break between sets.
Dunking became a game again. After my closest misses I’d hop around and swear like a golfer whose playoff putt had lipped out. These outbursts were no longer harsh self-admonitions but celebrations of my progress, acknowledgements that I was getting tantalizingly close. I could feel my legs gaining in bounciness. I could feel my hips, quads and calves learning to fire simultaneously. My original lobber returned to the scene and suggested I try dunking in the morning instead of the evening, when the batteries in our old bodies are as low as the ones in our phones. I added this sage advice to the long list of microdetails “that help you steal inches,” as Todd had phrased it months earlier. “A quarter inch here, a half inch there.”
It takes a higher vertical leap to get both hands up to the rim versus just one (and don’t forget, you’ll be holding a basketball as well), so if you’re cutting it close, try for a one-handed jam. Being able to palm the ball will obviously help, but it’s not totally necessary; just make sure you keep the ball in both hands until you leave the floor so you don’t lose it.
A study was carried out in 2015 to show the effectiveness of different shot types, including slam dunks. The study was carried out across five different levels of basketball (NBA, EuroBasket, the Slovenian 1st Division, and two minor leagues). Overall the study showed that slam dunks were a very effective way of scoring in the game of basketball, particularly in the NBA, which had the highest dunk percentage in the study.
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Like Todd and me, Nicholson was a two-foot jumper, and he echoed what Todd had told me was another flaw in my technique: “Your next-to-last step has to be a lot bigger. That big leap forward with your right foot—your penultimate step—that’s what allows you to explode off the ground.” To demonstrate, Nicholson sent me a video of Carter’s performance at the 2000 NBA Dunk Contest, which was a bit like showing a Monet to a finger painting kindergartner and saying, “No, like this.”