Slam dunks are one of the most attention-grabbing plays in basketball, as proved recently by a meeting between Blake Griffin and Kendrick Perkins, and they become a hot topic quickly but there is a surprising scarcity of cold facts about them. CBS Sports has a nice leader-board… but they don’t include attempts and links to previous years don’t work anymore. Regarding dunks in the last 6 regular seasons in the NBA you can find this breakdown for 2010-11 by EvanZ but it includes only 30 top players and some non-dunkers, this copy of leader-board for 2009-10 and… flashback to days of activity on 82games.com which doesn’t even cover entire 2005-06 season. That’s just wrong, isn’t it? So I’d like to change that sad state.
UPDATE: Just one week after this post (!) invaluable basketball-reference.com introduced Play Index+ which allows us to find those numbers quickly. So the good news is fantastic new data became available! The bad news is it made this post somewhat obsolete ;-)
I started this project as usual with ESPN’s play-by-play data… but after I’ve finished and compared to aforementioned sources I discovered a shocking fact: ESPN’s version has a nasty habit of changing dunks into 1-foot shots! And it’s not a small issue either – we are talking about difference of around 3000 plays per year! So those files landed in trash along mine time spent on it and I had to start from scratch.
For my second attempt I used play-by-play data from basketballvalue.com… and even though their numbers looked fine it wasn’t a smooth ride either because of another nasty habit – they identify players only by surnames… but in some games they added a first letter to make a distinction between players on different teams. Such situation creates a litany of possible identification conflicts, for example just note how many players in the NBA are named Williams or Johnson, but through battery of tests and corrections by hand I think I sorted it all out successfully.
With that said keep in mind that there could be a couple of mistakes here, especially with players who played little or those who had the same name on the same team, but overall I think it should be accurate.
So here is a full version of dunks leader-board in the NBA in 2007-08
[it’s sorted by made dunks then by attempts and then by minutes played so you can also easily find at the bottom players who didn’t dunk. All non-dunk data is from basketball-reference.com]
You can also check other seasons: 2005-06, 2006-07, 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11.
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