Looking back at the best dunks in Houston Rockets franchise history

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Ben DuBose
·4 min read
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With the NBA’s annual slam dunk contest on tap for Sunday night, we’re looking back at some of the most meaningful and impressive dunks in the history of the Houston Rockets franchise.

No player has ever won the dunk contest as a member of the Rockets. That said, Steve Francis finished second as part of a spectacular showing in 2000, and likely would have won in most years. That year’s winner was Vince Carter, who had perhaps the greatest dunking night of all-time.

The Rockets, however, have certainly had their share of memorable in-game dunks — including on the league’s biggest stage, in the playoffs. Looking back over many years, here’s a roundup of some of Houston’s most impressive and significant dunks over the years.

James Harden on Draymond Green, 2018 Western Conference Finals

Why? It was a tone-setting dunk directly on Harden's longtime rival, in his own gym. The Rockets won that Game 4 to tie the series, with two of the final three games to be played in Houston. The Rockets believe they should have won that series, and that year's NBA title, if not for the ill-timed hamstring injury to Chris Paul at the end of their Game 5 victory. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-Oz7SIDLik

Tracy McGrady on Shawn Bradley, 2005 first round

Why? It was one of the most iconic dunks in NBA history, with McGrady throwing it down over 7-foot-6 center Shawn Bradley. It also happened on the road in a playoff game versus in-state rival Dallas, and Houston went on to win that Game 2 by two points — the margin of TMac's dunk. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOcdOF04-wk

Carlos Delfino on Kevin Durant, 2013 first round

Why? For starters, it was highly improbable, since Delfino wasn't a renowned dunker and Durant had incredible length and athleticism. Yet, that's what made it more jarring and memorable. It also seemed to spark the young Rockets, who didn't go away in that series despite falling behind, 3-0. They won Game 4 after Delfino's dunk, and went on to win Game 5 in Oklahoma City, as well, before finally bowing out in six games. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MMkjQE_a86s

Hakeem Olajuwon putback, 1994 NBA Finals

Why? After an Otis Thorpe miss, Olajuwon soared in over New York's Anthony Mason for the putback jam. His head was almost level with the rim! Oh, and the Rockets went on to win that series, clinching Houston's first-ever championship in a major team sport. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=utzwlezGRE4

Ryan Anderson on Alex Len, 2017-18 regular season

Why? Ryan Anderson wasn't known for his athleticism during his late-career days with the Rockets. But at least for one night in January 2018, he was Flyin' Ryan. In a poster dunk that left everyone stunned, Anderson finished over Suns center Alex Len with a tomahawk jam. Houston went on to finish that season with a 65-17 record, which was by far the NBA's best mark and the top record in franchise history. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKVjm2jY5Bo

Russell Westbrook on Jaylen Brown, 2019-20 regular season

Why? Westbrook timed his leap perfectly. Though PJ Tucker missed a 3-pointer, which typically causes the ball to carom off the rim hard, Russ instinctively knew just where to be and when to elevate. It was a key bucket with under two minutes left in a close game between contenders, and Houston went on to edge Boston by just a single point. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=919Q9N8-04w

Dwight Howard on Kristaps Porzingis, 2015-16 regular season

Why? Porzingis was 7-foot-3 rookie sensation, playing in his then-home of Madison Square Garden. But Dwight reached back into his "Superman" days, finishing through contact off a lob from Marcus Thornton. It came at a meaningful moment, too, with the game tied in overtime prior to the dunk. The Rockets went on to win, 116-111 (box score). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_Chf5qBQPY

Von Wafer vs. Portland, 2008-09 regular season

Why? Look at the hang time! Wafer, who was a key spark plug off the bench, starts on one side of the rim and finishes on the other. In midair, he contorts his body to ensure that he has the power to finish with his dominant hand. The Rockets beat the Trail Blazers in that game, and weeks later, also defeated them in the first round of the playoffs — representing Houston's first postseason series win in 12 years. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JF078pKy3vg

Steve Francis, 2000 Dunk Contest

Why? Just watch. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSGID9L0wpI&t=243s