In 2004, as a high school senior, Candace Parker was invited to participate in the McDonald's All-American Game and accompanying festivities where she competed in and won the slam dunk contest. In subsequent years other women have entered the contest; though Kelley Cain, Krystal Thomas, and Maya Moore were denied entry into the same contest in 2007. Brittney Griner intended to participate in the 2009 McDonald's Dunk Contest but was unable to attend the event due to the attendance policy of her high school. Breanna Stewart, at 6'3" (191 cm), Alexis Prince (6'2"; 188 cm), and Brittney Sykes (5'9"; 175 cm) competed in the 2012 contest; Prince and Sykes failed to complete their dunks, while Stewart landed two in the first round but missed her second two attempts in the final round.
Because jumping ability is a combination of leg strength and explosive power, jumping can be developed in the same fashion as any other muscular activity. The ultimate limit to how high any athlete can jump will be determined to a significant degree by the distribution of fast-twitch versus slow-twitch fibers present in the muscles of the legs. This distribution is a genetic determination. Fast-twitch fibers are those whose governing neurons, the component of the nervous system that receives the impulses generated by the brain to direct muscular movement, fires more rapidly, which in turn creates the more rapid muscle contractions required for speed. As a general proposition, an athlete with a greater distribution of fast-twitch fibers will be able jump higher than one with a preponderance of slow-twitch fibers.
Because of the possible combinations of starting and finishing hands, and raised-legs, there are many variations on the basic under-the-legs dunk—more so than any other. For example, in a 1997 French Dunk contest, Dali Taamallah leapt with his right leg while controlling the ball with his left hand, and once airborne he transferred the ball from his left hand, underneath his right leg to his right hand before completing the dunk. NBA star Jason Richardson has also pioneered several notable variations of the between-the-legs including a lob-pass to himself and a pass off of the backboard to himself. Independent athlete Shane 'Slam' Wise introduced a cuffed-cradle of the ball prior to initiating the under the leg transfer and finishing with two-hands. While a number of players have finished the dunk using one- or two-hands with their backs to the rim, perhaps the most renowned variant of the dunk is the combination with a 360°, or simply stated: a 360-between-the-legs. Due to the athleticism and hang-time required, the dunk is a crowd favorite and is heralded by players as the preeminent of all dunks.
About 100 yards away from this 9' 10" breakaway rim (which came to sound, each time I grabbed and released it, like someone closing the metal baby gate at the top of our stairs) was a brown, oxidized, immobile 9' 1" version, a hand-ruining iron maiden where, in front of the occasional puzzled onlooker, I practiced (and practiced) the timing and the hand and wrist work required to dunk. I knew early on that my regulation dunk, if it ever came to pass, would have to come from a lob of some sort—a bounce to myself, either off the blacktop or underhanded off the backboard—after which I would hypothetically control the ball with one hand just long enough to flush it. Mastering the placement and the delicate timing of such lobs would prove to be a quixotic pursuit in and of itself. But it was necessary, not just because of my hand size (7 ¾ inches) but also because I needed to keep my arms free so I could swing them at takeoff, adding much-needed lift to my leap.
A common, low-tech plyometrics method is performing box jumps, where the athlete jumps repeatedly from the floor to the top of the box and back again. By concentrating on the mechanics of the jump, directing propulsion from the balls of the feet and thrusting with an explosive extension of the legs, the ability of the athlete to land lightly and immediately return to the floor enhances motor control over the movement.
No, I think there’s a practical aspect to that. It’s hard to grip a basketball. I mean, that’s another physical challenge. I have pretty small hands, and one thing I had to train myself to do, which I couldn’t do at the start of this project, is palm a basketball. So that involved fingertip push-ups, to get the tips of your fingers much stronger. It involves, while hanging out and watching television, trying to palm a basketball for as long as you can. You want to get into a quick, full sprint, and you want to be able to grip the basketball as you go up to jam it. So doing those things can be a challenge. That’s partly what’s behind people doing the alley-oop-type things or throwing it up off the backboard. In some cases, they simply can’t grip the ball on the way to the hoop, so their solution is to throw it in the air, catch it, and try to bring it down.
I think one way of thinking about it is, less parts of the body, and more the kind of muscle. You want to develop your quick-twitch, or fast-twitch, muscles, because at the end of the day, trying to dunk a basketball is an explosive activity. You’re not going for a long-distance run here. You’re doing three quick steps, a hard shove against the ground, and exploding upwards. So the question is how to turn yourself into basically a sprinter. You do a lot of jumping exercises where you’re doing box jumps, where you jump off one box and as soon as you hit the ground, you try to jump up onto another box. That sort of thing.
The simplest method to measure an athlete's vertical jump is to get the athlete to reach up against a flat wall, with a flat surface under his/her feet (such as a gym floor or concrete) and record the highest point he/she can reach flat-footed (the height of this point from the ground is referred to as "standing reach"); fingertips powdered with chalk can facilitate the determination of points touched on the wall. The athlete then makes an effort to jump up with the goal of touching the highest point on the wall that he or she can reach; the athlete can perform these jumps as many times as needed. The height of the highest point the athlete touches is recorded. The difference between this height and the standing reach is the athlete's vertical jump.