30 best NBA poster dunks of all time

NEW ORLEANS, LA - APRIL 1: Russell Westbrook
NEW ORLEANS, LA - APRIL 1: Russell Westbrook /
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9. Dr. J rocking the cradle over Michael Cooper

This is one of those dunks that belong in the pantheon simply because it was Dr. J throwing down a dunk that would have scored highly in a dunk contest without the poster.

The iconography of the NBA is often defined by singular moments that live on beyond the life of a player’s career. We don’t lift these moments up largely because they transcend the zeitgeist because of the timeless beauty of their nature.

For Julius Erving, this was his moment and Michael Cooper was the canvas in which Erving would render his masterpiece. This is the kind of moment people would travel thousands of miles to see hanging up on the walls of the MET just to say, “I saw it and it was even more beautiful in person.”

The rocking of the cradle, the one-handed windmill, the power and tenacity in the finish, the disregard for Cooper’s livelihood — all of it works together to create what makes the NBA so incredible. Grace, elegance, power, in a neat package of an unreal, once-in-a-generation athlete who would lay the foundation for those who came after to build on.

With no Dr. J, there is no Jordan. And with no Jordan, can a list like this exist? Probably, but it wouldn’t be the same. For every advanced metric used to help us understand the game, we continue to revert back to the game’s simplicity when we want to feel something. Watch that Dr. J dunk again and tell us you don’t feel something.