Dunking. One of the most notable features of basketball. As a regular world “tall” person who played basketball, I would often be asked if I could dunk by non-basketball people trying to strike up a conversation about the game. At 6ft3 and of average athleticism the answer would usually be, “sometimes, no i’m not going to show you”. In the NBA though, it’s just part of the game, most NBA players can dunk if given an open lane. Many of them can dunk quite comfortably regardless of how open the lane is. It’s an eye popping feat of athleticism that most normal humans can only stand rooted to the ground and marvel at. Some players, though, dunk a lot more than others.
Who has the most Dunks in NBA History? Since the statistic was officially tracked in 1996, the player with the most NBA Regular season Dunks is Dwight Howard. At the end of the 2022 season he had made 2,950 dunks, leading second placed and retired Shaquille O’neal (2,626) by 324.
It is worth noting that Shaq managed this feat in far fewer games, averaging 3.1 dunks per regular season game. While Dwight managed ‘only’ 2.8. Let’s break down the all time leaders of dunks a bit further.
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Regular Season Career Dunk leaders (since 1996)
The table below shows the 13 All time regular season dunk leaders as of the end of the 2022 season. We have included the numbers up to 13 to include some top movers and shakers. The statistics only go back to 1996, because that is when Dunk shots were recorded consistently.
|All Time NBA Leaders|
Important things to note here can start at the bottom. At number 13, Kevin Durrant has the opportunity to pass Pau Gasol this season, currently trailing by 17 Dunks. Anthony Davis may crack the top 10 this season. He needs just 91 dunks to pass the now retired Shawn Marion. Giannis should gain a few places this year, he trails Amare Stoudemire by just 109 dunks and averages a massive 2.7 dunks per game. It should take the Greek Freak just half the season to leapfrog Iguodala and pass Stoudemire into 7th place. Lebron James sits in 4th place, it is unlikely that he will be able to pass (barely) active Deandre Jordan or retired Shaq now that he is aging gracefully into a more perimeter based game, but never bet against the King!
We’ll check back in before the start of next season to see who’s moved up!
Regular Season vs Playoff Dunks – NBA History
As you’ll probably know, when people talk about all time leaders in the NBA, it is by default assumed they are just talking about the regular season. Unless specifically stated otherwise this doesn’t count the Playoffs. So let’s do that, after all, dunking a lot in the playoffs is surely a more impressive feat!
|All Time NBA Leaders – Playoff Dunks|
As you might expect, 3x Finals MVP and regular season Dunk leader The Big Diesel, dominates playoff dunks. There is a high chance that no one will catch him. If any current player was going to then the best candidate is Giannis. His impressive 2.7 dunks per game in the regular season leaps to 3.2 in the Playoffs. Shaq, not to be outdone, saw his massive 3.1 dunks per game leap to 3.3 for the Playoffs across his career. While Giannis may eventually manage to muster more games, it seems unlikely that Giannis will be able to keep that pace up long enough to catch Shaq. It is clear that since 1996 (and probably ever) Shaquille O’neal has been the most dominant dunker in the NBA.
The Unassisted Dunk
Let’s face it, that list is dominated by big men, while that’s exciting, there’s nothing as exciting as watching a small forward or guard weave through the lane and throw one down in traffic. Often this type of dunk is “unassisted”, so let’s sort all the leading dunkers by % of Dunks that didn’t get an assist. That should give us a list of some of the most exciting dunkers in the NBA since 1996.
|All Time NBA Leaders|
That’s more like it, Westbrook, Kobe, Wade, Vince, Tracy… explosive one on one players that got mega jams at the rim, over and over again. You’ll notice the absence of key names Dwight Howard and Shaquille O’neal, who would have taken assists on a great many of their dunks.
You’ll notice the presence of two names. Lebron and Giannis. High on the regular season list, high on the playoff list and high on the unassisted list. Pure. Dunk. Machines.