“Bad artists copy. Good artists steal," -Pablo Picasso.
Ever since Julius Erving soared through the thin Denver air in the final days of the ABA, the free throw line has frequently been a launching pad for competitors in the many NBA Slam Dunk Contest.
From the illuminated ABA-age manuscripts authored by Dr. J and David Thompson, the Slam Dunk Contest has evolved and flourished in distinct eras even as familiar moves have been recycled and reinvented. From the dunks' classical era in the 1980s, when masters like Michael Jordan and Dominque Wilkins authored iconic pieces to the renaissance of the contest led by Vince Carter and Jason Richardson in the early 2000s, the Dunk Contest has been filled with copies, theft and occasional moments of originality.
As with art history, not all Dunk eras -- or free throw line dunks -- are created equal. The modern pop art of Dwight Howard's Superman homage is not for everyone and the form has been declared "dead" on several occasions, including after the 2012 edition.
Without further ado, here are eight* of the most iconic, powerful and acrobatic dunks in the uneven history of the slam dunk contest.
*Certainly, there are memorable dunks beyond this field but this group should represent the depth, breadth and 50's of the contest's history. We limited each dunker to one entry in the bracket to allow as many players a chance at the honor of "Best Slam Dunk Contest Dunk Ever." This may have put some of the repeat winners (but not Nate Robinson) at a disadvantage. If there is an omission that you just can't let stand then please drop us a comment.