It’s really hard to tell which of the 1980s NBA slam dunk competitions was the best but it’s certain that each one was blessed with tremendous ingenuity and had left its historical trace.
Certainly, the 1984 NBA slam dunk competition in Denver, since it was the first in the NBA history provided the fans with an extra dose of excitement and future attraction to the event, which will last until today.
On that cold Saturday, January 28th, 1984, the NBA slam dunking elite for the first time in ever gathered at one place. Determined to present the best they had in their arsenal at the time, nine contestants provided a memorable event not only for the fans in the packed McNichols Arena but also for the fans across the United States and the world.
It was Suns’ high-flying forward Larry Nance who won the historic event after a memorable ‘air battle’ of slam dunk aces in the competition final with the 76ers legend Julius ‘Dr.J’ Erving.
But it was ‘young guns’ such as Bulls’ 6’9” Orlando Woolridge, Hawks’ Dominique Wilkins and Blazers’ Clyde Drexler who supplied the event with the youthful energy with their electrifying performances.
Before the competition even began Chicago Bulls #0 was announced as the participant who is ‘voted the most likely to shatter the backboard in today’s competition”, which made him laugh.
Bulls’ power dunker opened his performance with an unfortunate miss of the double-pump reverse jam from the wing but bounced back strong with a 360-degree turnaround jam off two legs, which earned him a total of 45 points.
On his third, and final try, Woolridge, who finished seventh with the total of 116 points, would provide the historic guideline for many future NBA slam dunking champions such as J.R. Rider (1994), Jason Richardson (2002, 2003), with the first ever NBA slam dunk competition between-the-legs dunk, which earned him a total of 48 points.
However, it’s worth noticing that on his 1984 dunk Woolridge changed hands from right to left, which is opposite of today’s dunkers’ technique, and dunked the ball with his left hand, which resulted with a less powerful dunk.
The season before Michael Jordan came to Chicago it was Notre Dame standout who was the Bulls’ second-leading scorer in 1983-84. With rookie Jordan in the same uniform Woolridge exploded for a new career-high of 22.9 points per game in 1984-85, while shooting 55.4% from the field.
At times it looked like Woolridge and Jordan have a private competition who will have more dunks in a particular game. Together, they were the most feared pair of dunkers in the Game.
Murray A. a.k.a. Marjan Crnogaj is a BN contributor and the co-author of the Amazon.com TOP 100 basketball biography ‘Drazen – The Years of the Dragon’ (‘Drazen – Godine Zmaja’) which reveals the yet untold details from the life and career of the legendary NBA shooting guard Drazen Petrovic. He resides in Zagreb, Croatia, currently working on his third book which tells the untold story of the 1989 Green Card Five.