You know a dunk is special when days later the entire NBA is still talking about it. Harrison Barnes was already improving over his last handful of games, stepping up his play when fellow SF Brandon Rush went down for the season. His offensive skill-set was becoming evident on a nightly basis, his defense was admirable and he was picking up the slack left by the likes of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
There wasn’t a “Welcome to the NBA” moment yet for the former Tar Heel, but he didn’t need one. While most rookies have these moments early on in their respective seasons, Barnes decided to flip the establishment and instead decided to have a “Hey NBA, Welcome Me” moment.
With the Black Falcon’s posterization of Nikolas Pekovic in mind, I thought it’d be fun to countdown the top five dunks in the history of Oracle Arena. Some might disagree with the dunks listed, others will disagree with the order, but none can disagree that these moments had us jumping out of our seat in collective awe.
5) Curry’s Heave to Dorell
Dorell Wright’s career with the Warriors was short lived. After his surprising first season — which included a trip to the NBA Three Point Contest — Wright leveled off in his second season and was shipped out in a deal that eventually brought the Warriors Jarrett Jack. With that said, Wright had his moments, and his alley-oop slam from beyond half-court from backcourt mate Stephen Curry was definitely one of them.
What made this dunk special was not only the pass, catch and slam aspect of it, but who was doing the passing and the catching. Curry isn’t known to be a great passer and Wright isn’t known to be a giant leaper. In addition, the pass was thrown from the other free throw line. For this one improvised, “What in the hell is he doing!?” play, it worked, making it the only alley-oop to make the countdown. Let’s just hope Curry saved some of these heaves for Harrison Barnes.
4) Monta Punks Barbosa
If Anthony Roberson gets up to celebrate a play, you know it’s a good one. Mr. Ellis has been long discussed and debated, many believing he should still be on the team now. Disregarding that disturbing hypothetical, Ellis had numerous moments that had us simply saying “Wow,” neither of those moments being on defense.
Ellis is a renown slasher. His ability to adjust and make shots at or near the basket is almost unparalleled, making him an exciting player to watch on the offensive end. On this particular play, you can tell right when Ellis gets the ball that he wasn’t going to pass (shocker there) and he was going to get his. He gets it just before halfcourt in full stride, burning by Suns defenders with just one left: Leandro Barbosa. Barbosa is quick himself, but idiotically tried to take the charge with the Mississippi Bullet (I couldn’t help myself) in full flight. Bad move.
3) Vintage Stat Over Tolliver
You remember Amare Stoudemire right? He used to play for the Suns with Steve Nash and Shawn Marion, heck even Shaq decided to join the party. He used to jump high, dunk the basketball and actually use fire extinguishers for extinguishing fires. While the corpse of Stat currently lies on the bench of the New York Knicks, the previously known version of Stat left himself in Phoenix, Arizona.
When Anthony Tolliver isn’t mocking “The Decision” he’s coming off the bench for the Atlanta Hawks. Another Don Nelson D-League find, Tolliver was a nice complementary player who provided some decent minutes coming off the bench. But for this night, at a time when Amare was really Amare, Tolliver found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Poor Tolliver, he never stood a chance.
2) The Black Falcon Soars
Am I the only one who, after seeing Andrew Bogut jump from the bench in excitement, yelled “Don’t hurt yourself Bogut!” That’s besides the point, but the reactions to the Barnes’ dunk were great. The collective joy from the Warriors bench was fun to see, even if their key player was wearing a suit while doing so. That’s what made this dunk just that much more fun, the fact it was at home. As I saw this dunk from section 124, from the collective jumping in the air to the hoards of “OHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!” — this was moment to behold.
This dunk will stick with Harrison Barnes forever. While Warriors fans hope that Barnes’ career isn’t symbolized by just one dunk, it’s also tough to overlook just how awesome this slam was. Pekovic is a known bruiser, a defensive pest and someone who you generally don’t want to mess with in the post. For this moment, it was probably best that Barnes was a rookie. He didn’t care for any of that. After receiving a nice dish from David Lee, it was Barnes vs. Pekovic. We had seen Barnes slam it down in college, in pre-season and even early on during the regular season, but this was a different level of slam, a different level of hops and not just your typical dunk. Hard to see another dunk in the NBA being better than Barnes’ slam this season.
1) Baron over AK47
It’s hard to put the magnitude of this dunk in words. After dismantling the #1 seed Dallas Mavericks in the first round, a second round matchup with the Utah Jazz lied between the Warriors and the Western Conference Finals. That whole second half of the season was surreal, and the penultimate moment of the entire season came in Game 3 against the Jazz.
The “We Believe” movement was solidified by this one moment. Baron Davis drove by Deron Williams, went baseline, soared over Andrei Kirilenko and throws down one of the hardest dunks in NBA history. Considering the moment, who he slammed it over and how Oracle reacted afterwards, this is hands down the best dunk in the history of Oracle Arena. I was lucky enough to be in the building for this moment, and it’s a moment I’ll never forget.
Bonus: 2000 Slam Dunk Contest
While Warriors fans don’t want to remember anything about their own team during the 2000 NBA season, the All-Star festivities held at the Arena in Oakland that season were absolutely phenomenal. The dunk contest has dissolved of late, but there were numerous years when the dunk contest was the moment of All-Star weekend. In 2000, with the likes of Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady and Steve Francis competing, the contest reached its all time high.
Vince Carter gets all the shine from this dunk contest, and deservedly so. Every single dunk he threw down during the contest — with exception of his final, mailed in two handed slam from inside the FT line — was memorable. The icing on the cake being his assisted between the legs slam from Tracy McGrady, a dunk that’s still incredible to see. The efforts of Steve Francis and Tracy McGrady shouldn’t be overlooked either. Even though they’re both out of the league now, in 2000 they were two of the highest flyers in the league next to VC. This list would’ve been void without any mention of this contest, so sit back and enjoy the only dunk contest held at the Arena in Oakland.