On January 27, 1976 at McNichols Sports Arena during halftime of the 1976 ABA All Star Game the first-ever Slam Dunk Contest was held, which was won by Julius Erving of the New York Nets over David Thompson of the Denver Nuggets, Artis Gilmore of the Kentucky Colonels, and George Gervin and Larry Kenon of the San Antonio Spurs. There was a format each competitor had to follow in which they must attempt 5 dunks in a row under two minutes. One from a standing position, one from a distance of ten feet away from the basket (which is basically the bottom of the semi circle that surrounds the free throw line in the Key. The next 3 were freelance positions, one coming in from the left side of the basket, one coming in from the right side of the basket and finally from either corner down the baseline to the basket. They were judged on artistic ability, imagination, body flow as well as fan response.
Artis Gilmore went first followed by George Gervin, Larry Kenon, David Thompson and finally Julius Erving. George Gervin and David Thompson both missed a dunk during their routines which counted as a zero (scores were not announced to the audience). David Thompson did a 360 degree dunk to finish his routine. All competitors had to perform a dunk from 10 feet, but Julius Erving started marking his steps from the free throw line (15 feet away). He then completed a dunk from the free throw line.
This was a season long event  similar to 1977–1978 NBA Horse event. There were multiple competitors and Darnell Hillman won. 
The NBA reintroduced the Slam Dunk Contest in 1984 at its birthplace in Denver. Phoenix's Larry Nance defeated the original Dunk contest winner Julius Erving in the final round. Dominique Wilkins won the contest the following year, but in 1986 his Atlanta Hawks teammate Spud Webb made history when he defeated Wilkins in the final, preventing him from retaining his title. Standing a mere 5 feet 7 inches tall, Webb became the shortest player ever to win the contest, a distinction that he still holds. Chicago's Michael Jordan won back-to-back dunk contest victories in 1987 and in 1988. His victory over Wilkins in 1988 in Chicago finished with a perfect 50 dunk from the free-throw line for his third dunk to win the contest. However, the announcers did note that Wilkins was given abnormally low score for his breathtaking third dunk, a 45, allowing Jordan to win it by 2 with his perfect 50. To this day, the allegations of "home cooking" still float around surrounding the event (it was held on Jordan's home court; one of the judges was former Chicago Bears star Gale Sayers; and another judge, former NBA star Tom Hawkins, is a Chicago native) and is considered arguably the most controversial of the slam dunk competitions. The following year in Houston, New York's Kenny Walker, a last-minute replacement whose father died just days beforehand, upset Portland's Clyde Drexler, the hometown favorite and Houston native who was seen as the favorite, being that Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins were not competing. 1986 champ Spud Webb finished 3rd, while Shelton Jones finished 4th. Though Jordan & Wilkins still played in the All-Star Game, Jordan chose not to compete due to a minor injury, and Wilkins did not compete in the competition due to a hand injury.
In 1990, Dominique Wilkins of the Atlanta Hawks edged out Kenny Smith of the Sacramento Kings to win his second Slam Dunk Contest (first won in 1985 over Michael Jordan). Kenny Smith scored high points for originality with his signature dunk – he started by turning his back to the basket, bouncing the ball backward between his legs and off the backboard, then turning and grabbing it in the air and reverse dunking it. After 1990, interest in the Slam Dunk Contest began to wane and lasted throughout the 1990s. Initially, it was because many players lost interest in competing; some cited concerns of injuries, while others felt that the full repertoire of humanly possible dunks had already been exhausted. With most of the superstars – Jordan, Wilkins, Drexler, etc. – choosing not to participate, lesser-known players began to compete, leading to either watered-down competitions or surprises. Fans complained that players were beginning to win contests with boring or unoriginal dunks (witness the relatively forgettable early-'90s wins by the likes of Cedric Ceballos and Brent Barry). Harold Miner was a standout in 1993, winning the contest with a reverse power dunk, reaching between his legs and down to his feet in mid-air before sending the ball down. In 1994 and 1997 respectively, Isaiah Rider and Kobe Bryant won the contest. Rider would win with a spectacular, between-the-legs dunk, reminiscent of the Orlando Woolridge effort in the 1984 contest, but wasn't able to repeat in 1995, missing the same dunk on several tries, opening the way for Miner to grab his second slam dunk title in three years. In 1998, the Slam Dunk Contest was replaced with the WNBA-NBA 2Ball Contest. In 1999, there was no All-Star Game due to the NBA lockout.
After a one-All Star Weekend layoff (the NBA did not have an All Star Weekend during the labor-shortened 1999 season), the NBA decided to bring the Slam Dunk Contest back for the 2000 All-Star Weekend in Oakland, California. It would prove to be one of the most electrifying dunk contests in the league's history, featuring a great showdown between eventual winner Vince Carter of the Toronto Raptors, his cousin and then-teammate Tracy McGrady, and the Houston Rockets' Steve Francis. Carter won after performing a number of very impressive dunks, including two reverse 360 windmills, a honey dip, and a between-the-legs dunk off a bounced alley-oop from McGrady. The next four contests did not feature superstars like Carter and Bryant, and despite innovative efforts by the likes of Desmond Mason and Jason Richardson, the lack of A-list superstars willing to participate hurt the appeal of the contest.
In 2005, the Slam Dunk Contest returned to its birthplace in Denver. With the spectacular dunks of prior contests, there was buzz that the dunk competition could regain the popularity it had in the 1980s. The Phoenix Suns' Amar'e Stoudemire alley-ooping 360 off a soccer-style header from teammate Steve Nash; J. R. Smith putting it around his back and dunking, and the new champion, Josh Smith alley-ooping over Kenyon Martin all wowed the crowd with their maneuvers. With the change in the rules requiring an additional teammate starting in the second round, they proved there were indeed many ways to dunk a basketball that had not been done before. Amar'e Stoudemire received rave reviews, as did Smith when he did a tribute dunk to Dominique Wilkins while donning Wilkins' jersey.
Again in 2006, the Dunk Contest in Houston revitalized the interests of audiences as 5'9" Nate Robinson of the New York Knicks took the title with a great dunk-off. One of his most exciting dunks was a high-flying dunk over former Slam Dunk Contest winner, 5'7" Spud Webb. The 2006 Slam Dunk Contest was also the first Dunk Contest in history to have a "Dunk Off", the equivalent to a Dunk Contest overtime, between Knicks point guard Nate Robinson and shooting guard Andre Iguodala of the Philadelphia 76ers. Many fans argue that Iguodala should have won the contest, as it took Robinson fourteen attempts before finally completing his dunk. Iguodala pulled off a dunk where he started out of bounds from the right side of the baseline while teammate Allen Iverson bounced the ball off the back of the right side of the backboard. Iguodala caught the ball in mid-air behind the backboard, spun around to the other side while ducking his head (to avoid colliding with the backboard) and dunked it with his right hand.
On February 17, 2007, the contest was held in Las Vegas. Judges for the event were all past winners: Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, Kobe Bryant, Julius Erving, and Vince Carter. The title was taken by the Boston Celtics' Gerald Green, who, among other dunks, jumped over reigning champ Nate Robinson while covering his face – a homage to 1991 winner, Dee Brown, whose jersey Green had worn. He also scored a perfect fifty with his last slam, a windmill over a table. Other noteworthy dunks include a dunk by Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard, who, while making his dunk, stuck a sticker with his smiling face on the backboard a reported 12'6" from the ground, two and a half feet beyond the regulation NBA rim.
On February 16, 2008, the contest was held in New Orleans. Judges for the event included Darryl Dawkins, Dominique Wilkins, Karl Malone, Julius Erving, and Magic Johnson. The title was taken by Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard. Howard's most noteworthy dunk came during the first round, his second dunk overall, when he took off his jersey to reveal a Superman shirt and cape. With teammate Jameer Nelson's assistance he would make a leaping dunk from just in front of the free-throw line after a running start, throwing the ball through the rim from a few feet away. Other noteworthy dunks included the first round slam by Jamario Moon while the previous year's winner, Gerald Green, relied heavily on theatrics by blowing out a cupcake with a birthday candle on the rim before dunking (a jam he termed "The Birthday Cake"). For the first time ever, fan voting determined the outcome of the final round of the contest; Howard beat Green for the trophy by claiming 78% of the fans' votes.
Nate Robinson won the 2009 contest on February 14 in Phoenix, Arizona. The 5'9" guard dressed all in green as "Krypto-Nate" (a portmanteau of 'Nate' and Kryptonite) and jumped over 6'11" Dwight Howard characterized as Superman. He defeated Howard in the finals by a fan vote of 52–48 percent. J. R. Smith and Rudy Fernández also competed.
Nate Robinson won the 2010 contest on February 13 in Dallas, becoming the first 3-time Slam Dunk champion. Robinson took on Shannon Brown of the Los Angeles Lakers, Gerald Wallace of the Charlotte Bobcats, and DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors. DeRozan earned his spot in the competition by defeating Los Angeles Clippers guard Eric Gordon in the inaugural Sprite Slam Dunk-In held the night before the actual dunk contest. Robinson and DeRozan advanced to the final round, where Robinson's double-pump reverse dunk helped seal a 51% to 49% victory.
Blake Griffin won the 2011 slam dunk contest by jumping and dunking over the hood of a Kia sedan on February 19 in Los Angeles. JaVale McGee of the Washington Wizards, DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors, and Serge Ibaka of the Oklahoma City Thunder all competed against Griffin. Griffin and McGee advanced to the final round, where Griffin stole the show, winning the contest with 68% of the vote.
Jeremy Evans won the 2012 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest by performing a dunk over Kevin Hart on February 25 in Orlando, Florida with 29% of the votes. Joining Evans were Chase Budinger of the Houston Rockets, Paul George of the Indiana Pacers, and Derrick Williams of the Minnesota Timberwolves. While George awed the crowd with a dunk with the lights turned off, Evans had perhaps the dunk of the contest by jumping teammate Gordon Hayward, catching two balls from Hayward, and dunking it.
Terrence Ross won the 2013 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest after a tomahawk dunk in tribute to former Toronto Raptors player Vince Carter, as well as a between-the-legs dunk performed while jumping over a ball boy. Ross took on Jeremy Evans of the Utah Jazz, Eric Bledsoe of the Los Angeles Clippers, Kenneth Faried of the Denver Nuggets, Gerald Green of the Indiana Pacers, and James White of the New York Knicks. Evans advanced to the final round to defend his title of slam dunk champion, but was thwarted by Ross. Ross carried the momentum of his near-perfect first round, in which he scored a 99 out of a possible 100, with a stellar final round. Ross won the competition decisively, earning 58% of the vote.
Team East, composed of dunkers Paul George, defending champion Terrence Ross, and John Wall won the 2014 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest in commanding fashion. Under the new team format, they dominated the Freestyle Round, capping it off with a pass off the backboard from Ross to Wall, then off the shot clock from Wall to George for the finish. In the Battle Round, Ross defeated Damian Lillard with a through the legs dunk from rapper Drake, George took down Harrison Barnes with a 360-degree, through the legs finish, and Wall defeated Ben McLemore by jumping over the Wizards' mascot G-Man and throwing down a reverse on the first try. Though Team East are the official winners, Wall was voted by fans as the Dunker of the Night.
To the delight of NBA fans, the 2015 contest was changed back to its original format, as the Freestyle Round as well as the teams were taken out. The 4 dunkers competing were all up-and-coming players: The Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Timberwolves' Zach LaVine, the Magic's Victor Oladipo, and the Nets' Mason Plumlee. LaVine took home the hardware with dunks that included a between-the-legs reverse, a behind-the-back slam in which he caught it in midair, a between-the-legs lefthanded dunk, and finished with a between-the-legs dunk as he caught it off the pole behind the backboard. Similar to Howard with Superman, LaVine did his first dunk with a cultural homage, wearing Michael Jordan's jersey from Space Jam.
Many people, including 2010 winner Nate Robinson, thought that the 2011 contest was rigged to allow up-and-coming star Blake Griffin to win and that runner-up JaVale McGee deserved to win. It was even disputed if Griffin even legitimately qualified for the finals since his final dunk got a perfect score but was basically a copy of DeMar DeRozan's first dunk with a lower degree of difficulty. Ben Maller of Fox Sports Radio reported that a media advisory sent out by the NBA over an hour before the 2011 Slam Dunk Contest began already referring to Blake Griffin as the winner.
There have been 25 players crowned the best dunkers in the NBA. Nate Robinson is the only player to win the event three times. Five are two-time winners: Dominique Wilkins, Michael Jordan, Harold Miner, Jason Richardson and Zach LaVine.1984 (Denver) – Larry Nance, Phoenix Suns
1985 (Indianapolis) – Dominique Wilkins, Atlanta Hawks
1986 (Dallas) – Spud Webb, Atlanta Hawks
1987 (Seattle) – Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls
1988 (Chicago) – Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls
1989 (Houston) – Kenny Walker, New York Knicks
1990 (Miami) – Dominique Wilkins, Atlanta Hawks
1991 (Charlotte) – Dee Brown, Boston Celtics
1992 (Orlando) – Cedric Ceballos, Phoenix Suns
1993 (Salt Lake City) – Harold Miner, Miami Heat
1994 (Minneapolis) – Isaiah Rider, Minnesota Timberwolves
1995 (Phoenix) – Harold Miner, Miami Heat
1996 (San Antonio) – Brent Barry, Los Angeles Clippers
1997 (Cleveland) – Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
1998 (New York City) – None, the WNBA-NBA 2Ball Competition replaced the Slam Dunk Contest
1999 (Philadelphia) – Lockout – Shortened Season, No NBA All Star Game
2000 (Oakland) – Vince Carter, Toronto Raptors
2001 (Washington, D.C.) – Desmond Mason, Seattle SuperSonics
2002 (Philadelphia) – Jason Richardson, Golden State Warriors
2003 (Atlanta) – Jason Richardson, Golden State Warriors
2004 (Los Angeles) – Fred Jones, Indiana Pacers
2005 (Denver) – Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks
2006 (Houston) – Nate Robinson, New York Knicks
2007 (Las Vegas) – Gerald Green, Boston Celtics
2008 (New Orleans) – Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
2009 (Phoenix) – Nate Robinson, New York Knicks
2010 (Dallas) – Nate Robinson, New York Knicks
2011 (Los Angeles) – Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
2012 (Orlando) – Jeremy Evans, Utah Jazz
2013 (Houston) – Terrence Ross, Toronto Raptors
2014 (New Orleans) – John Wall, Washington Wizards
2015 (New York) – Zach LaVine, Minnesota Timberwolves
2016 (Toronto) – Zach LaVine, Minnesota Timberwolves
2017 (New Orleans) - Glenn Robinson III, Indiana Pacers
Slam Dunk Contest champions by franchise
Bold denotes winner(s) of that year.
aErving and Nance received first-round byes as they were the finalists from the previous year.
aWilkins received a first-round bye as he was the previous year's champion.
bStansbury defeated Kersey in a dunk-off to break their tie.
Ron Harper (Cleveland) was to participate but withdrew due to injury.
a Drexler did not attempt his final dunk, as victory was out of reach.
Beginning with this year, final round competitors were allowed three dunks, with the two highest scores comprising the total.
a Johnson did not attempt his final dunk, as victory was out of reach.
The two highest score dunks of three in each round constituted the competitor's score.
Shawn Kemp (Seattle) was scheduled to compete but was injured.
In the first round, each competitor was allowed 90 seconds to do as many dunks as he chooses with one overall score. The final round score was the best of two dunks.
This year, each competitor was allowed 90 seconds to do at least three dunks and then given an overall score in round one. In the final round, each competitor was allowed 60 seconds to do at least two dunks and then given an overall score.
Beginning this year, in the first round, each competitor was allowed 90 seconds to do as many dunks as he chooses with one overall score. The final round score was the best of two dunks.
No competition was held.
No competition was held as All-Star Weekend was not held due to the NBA's lockout.
Beginning with this year, the two highest dunks in each round constituted the competitor's total score.
A tournament format was adopted for this year.
The final round was decided by fan voting via text messaging for the first time.
The final round was decided by fan voting via text messaging.
The final round was decided by fan voting via text messaging.
The final round was decided by fan voting via text messaging.
The format for this season was changed so that each participant had 3 dunks, and the results would be entirely decided by fan voting online, via text messaging, and (for the first time) via Twitter.
The final round was decided by fan voting via text messaging.
A team format was adopted this year. The first round was a Freestyle Round, with the winning team choosing the order of dunkers for the Battle Round. The Battle Round was then composed of one-on-one "battles", with the first team to three victories being the champion.
John Wall was voted Dunker of the Night.
This year saw the return of the voting style that was originally last had back in 2007.
Historically, the dunk contest drew some mild criticisms. One of those includes how the dunk contest is extremely limited as there are only so many times one can be impressed with a 360 dunk or a slightly modified windmill. Because of the physical limitations of the human body, innovation can become dry very quickly. But the 2005 & 2016 NBA Slam Dunk Competitions proved that there is room for innovation, especially using props.
Another criticism is that players who often compete in these contests are seen as dunkers only (with the obvious exceptions of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Julius Erving), which is why notable high flying athletes like Shawn Marion and LeBron James have sometimes refused to participate. High-profile players such as Dwyane Wade and Charles Barkley have also declined to participate citing it as an unnecessary risk to injury. In the 2000 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, Tracy McGrady injured his wrist while performing a dunk. Also in the 1995 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, Tony Dumas hurt his knee while performing his "Texas Twister" dunk. Although a longtime critic, LeBron James said he would perform in the 2010 Slam Dunk Contest. This decision was made after watching the 2009 dunk contest when Dwight Howard and Nate Robinson went at it. However, he withdrew his statement once the All-Star Weekend came around.
The 2006 NBA Slam Dunk Competition between Nate Robinson and Andre Iguodala drew much criticism because players were not penalized for missing a dunk attempt. Consequently, Robinson attempted a single dunk 14 times before completing it. Prior to the 2007 competition, the NBA changed a few rules to prevent excessive dunk attempts. Each participant has two minutes to complete their dunk. At the end of the two minutes allotted, they then have their number of dunk attempts limited to two.Zach LaVine posted the highest score in any round with 200 in the 2016 final round, as well as the best overall score with 299.0 points.
27 players have scored at least one perfect 50 on an individual dunk: Julius Erving, Terence Stansbury, Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, Gerald Wilkins, Spud Webb, Jerome Kersey, Cedric Ceballos, Vince Carter, Steve Francis, Tracy McGrady, Jason Richardson, Desmond Mason, Fred Jones, Josh Smith, Amar'e Stoudemire, Andre Iguodala, Nate Robinson, Gerald Green, Dwight Howard, DeMar DeRozan, JaVale McGee, Terrence Ross, Victor Oladipo, Zach LaVine, Aaron Gordon, and Glenn Robinson III. Zach LaVine holds the record with the most perfect 50s, with seven; Michael Jordan has the second most with six, followed by Dominique Wilkins and Jason Richardson with five each. From 1989 to 1995, when scoring went by tenths of points, there was only one perfect 50 (Ceballos).
Michael Jordan, Jason Richardson, Nate Robinson, and Zach LaVine are the only players to win the NBA Slam Dunk Contest back-to-back. Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Brent Barry are the only players to have won an NBA championship and a slam dunk championship.
Kobe Bryant is the youngest player to win the slam dunk championship at the age of 18.
At 5'7", Spud Webb is the shortest player to win the NBA slam dunk contest (Nate Robinson is 5'9"). Ralph Sampson, at 7'4", is the tallest player to compete in the dunk contest, while Dwight Howard is the tallest winner, at 6'11".
Nate Robinson is the only player to win the contest three times.
The 2006 NBA Slam Dunk Competition between Nate Robinson and Andre Iguodala was the first time that the competition had to go into a sudden-death dunk-off.
In 1996, Greg Minor of the Boston Celtics received the lowest individual score for a single dunk, with a 2.0 for a missed first attempt.