Chapter 23: First slam dunk championship
It’s fitting that chapter 23 is about Jordan’s first slam dunk championship because in a way the slam dunk defined Michael Jordan, and Michael Jordan defined the slam dunk contest.
Jordan first competed in the slam dunk contest in 1985 as a rookie. Perhaps due to his inexperience or to the novelty of the contest, Jordan lost to Dominique Wilkins, AKA “The human highlight reel”. Then next year Jordan was unable to compete due to a broken foot, and Spud Webb was crowned the champion. Finally Jordan returned to the slam dunk contest in 1987, but unfortunately both Wilkins and Webb were unable to compete due to injuries. Jordan faced a weaker field of dunkers, and was the favorite going into the contest.
The contestants that year were Michael Jordan (Bulls), Clyde Drexler (Blazers), Ron Harper (Cavs), Terence Stansbury (Sonics), Johnny Dawkins (Spurs), Tom Chambers (Sonics), Dominique’s younger brother Gerald Wilkins (Knicks), and Jerome Kersey, a late replacement for Rick Barry. Stansbury was Jordan’s main competitor, having finished 3rd in both 1985 and 1986, and playing in front of a home crowd. However, it was the relatively unknown Kersey who would steal the show that day.
Jordan, despite being the favorite, only scored 88 points (41+47) and finished 4th overall in the first round, just enough to get to the semifinals. However, it was in the semi finals that Jordan began to shine. With 3 dunks of 49-49-50, Jordan led the field going into the finals against the surprising Jerome Kersey.
Kersey, perhaps intimidated by Jordan or just ran out of dunks, faltered during the finals, giving Michael Jordan his first ever slam dunk championship.
Here are the best dunks from the dunk contest, although not in order.
Here are the last dunks for Kersey and Jordan, and the presentation of the award.
Watch the entire 1987 slam dunk contest here.
Although Jordan won, it was not a satisfying victory due to the lack of Dominique Wilkins. Jordan did not let that bother him and went on to enjoy himself in the 1987 all-star game.