Every year, the NBA’s best ‘dunkers’ come together for the NBA Dunk Contest, and spectators flock to see the outfits on the court. Started in 1976, the NBA Dunk Contest is a crowd pleasing event and an impressive show of athleticism, with a few gimmicks thrown in. From stylish outfits to hilarious costumes, here are the five best outfits won in the NBA Dunk Contest over the years.
Oladipo started the competition with a fairly low scoring 31/50 dunk, then everything changed. He strutted over to the bench where Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman sat, and was handed a Black Panther mask by the celeb. In true style, mask on, Oladipo moved in for his second attempt, earning a 40/50. While he didn’t progress to the next round, the rehearsed exchange and masked attempt were pretty suave.
This year’s dunk winner stole the show with his incredible, seemingly impossible dunk as well as his subtly clever costume. On his second dunk attempt, Diallo jumped over the seven foot Shaquille O’Neal, earning a perfect score. Not only did he make it over Shaq, but he hung by his elbow in the basket, and pulled open his shirt to reveal the Superman ’S’ underneath.
Superman is a recurring theme in the contest because it’s all about flying, and Dwight Howard was one of the first to mix the two together. Most endearing was his attitude towards the costume: “Just take off as far as I could,” he said were his thoughts on the night, “I decided to put the cape on and found one on the street.”
- John Collins as a vintage pilot in 2019
Another man keen to associate flying with the contest was John Collins in this year’s dunk contest. With the plan to jump over a model airplane, the Atlanta Hawk’s forward wrapped a scarf around his neck and placed a leather flying cap on his head for his dunk attempts. Unfortunately he ended up breaking off two sections of the plane, but the theatrics added fun to the evening.
Wearing retro sports gear is fun, and while J. Cole may not be old enough to call his high school basketball jersey retro, it can be considered vintage. In this year’s competition, Dennis Smith dunked by jumping over J. Cole while wearing the recording artist’s high school basketball jersey.
Whether channeling a super hero with a subtle nod to their notorious emblem, or donning a hat to become a pilot, the NBA dunk contestants love a few gimmicks. While they have to be minimal to allow for superb dunking ability, they still generate a few laughs every time a player hits the court in dress up.