Kobe Bryant never stopped showcasing his elevated talent on and off the ball, giving us some of the smoothest plays the NBA has ever seen. From his intense defensive pressure to his artistic tenacity on the rim, he never failed to put on a show.
Bryant has had many, many, highlight dunks over his entire career, and as such you can imagine the difficulty in listing them in order. Nonetheless, every game and each player has an important statement written above them for Bryant to stamp over. Keeping in mind the weight of each play, here is a list of Kobe Bryant's five greatest dunks ever.
No. 5: Kobe Jumps The Great Wall
Houston great Yao Ming was on the floor to prove to Bryant he was not to be trifled with. The "Black Mamba" made it obvious he did not care. He used his speed to burst past Ming whenever he had the chance.
Bryant then did what everyone was waiting for. Kobe Bryant, standing at 6-foot-4, jumped over a 7-6 Yao Ming to slam the ball with a point to prove. This dunk sent a message to everyone in the league: Height does not matter.
No. 4: Kobe Bryant posterizes Steve Nash
Yes, Nash stands at only 6-2, but the elevation Bryant gets on liftoff is the same nonetheless. It was April 26, 2002, when the LA Lakers and Phoenix Suns were grinding out Game 2 in the first round of the playoffs.
Down in the series, the Los Angeles Lakers held a seven-point lead late in the fourth quarter. After losing possession, Lamar Odom hustled for a rebound and ended up on the floor. Throwing the ball to Kobe from the ground, Bryant caught the pass and exploded over Steve Nash.
The Suns' star point guard jumped in the lane and tried to plant for an offensive charge. It probably would have worked too, if it had not been Kobe Bryant with that ball. The explosive quickness that lead him up in the air over Nash before he could set his feet was one thing. The second was the elevation he caught to clear almost the entire charge to slam the ball into the basket.
Point proven: Do not get in the way of the "Black Mamba."
Also Read: Who is Kobe Bryant’s wife, Vanessa Bryant?
No. 3: Dwight Howard’s Baptism
In just his sixth game in the league, Dwight Howard found out what it meant to stand in the way of Kobe Bryant the hard way. Bryant already had it written in stone that the bigger you were, the higher he jumped. It was simple, and this play was a testament to that simplicity.
Playing with a foot injury, Bryant nevertheless looked as strong and as healthy as ever. Young, future defensive NBA star Dwight Howard was looking to make a statement by denying the king his crown dunk. Bryant instead saw nothing in his path other than an opportunity to continue writing his legacy on the rim, doing exactly that.
No. 2: Behind the Back Reverse on Vincent Yarborough
The play has it all -- flash, quickness, aggression. Kobe caught a full-court inbound pass on Denver’s 3-point line with Vincent Yarbrough behind him. Bryant put the ball behind his back, side-stepped, and threw a reverse slam on Vincent’s head.
Yet again, Kobe Bryant proved to everyone he simply cannot be denied. The play happened in such a fast sequence that it left most of the players on the court watching the greatness ensue from the other end. All that was left in Bryant's mind was him and the rim. The ball sunk through the net as quickly as the Lakers' arena erupted with ecstasy.
No. 1: Kobe vs. Kevin Garnett
On April 20, 2003, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers had just made it into the playoffs after a hard-fought season. It was game 5 in the first playoff series against Kevin Garnett and his Timberwolves. With the series tied, this game was an important one.
Bryant understood his job and played to the role as he got the ball and blew past five-time NBA All-Defensive Team star Kevin Garnett. As if that weren’t impressive enough, he then took to the sky over a 7-0 Rasho Nesterovic for a baseline reverse windmill with aggression.
This entire play reeks of Kobe Bryant's greatness from start to finish. Getting the ball in the corner with a playoff-hungry KG in your face is one situation nobody wants to be in. Bryant looked to thrive in the face of pressure as always and sifted right through Garnett's defense into Nesterovic's lane.
With absolutely zero hesitation, Kobe flew over the 7 footer for a highlight slam that ranks No. 1 of his greatest dunks of all time. We get to see playoff Kobe Bryant dance around a defensive great to soar higher than ever. What a time to be alive.
Special Mention: Kobe strips Chris Paul to dunk on his head
CP3 was running the play at point when Bryant read the option with great help defense and a quick recovery into the passing lane. Seeing the lane creation happen, Paul drew back and receded to cover the net and prevent Bryant from dunking — big mistake.
Paul's face ended up plastered all over the internet with Bryant’s hand going in the net above him. Even Paul's son was amused, as after the game, Chris Paul tweeted: "Sittin here watching the game from 2nite on my ipad n lil Chris says "Daddy, lemme see when Kobe dunked on you"#ForgetYouChris #HeGotMe lol".
To be able to have such a quick and effective defensive read on such an outstanding point guard, only to finish in the lane on his head, is an amazing talent, a special showcase of his ability both on and off the ball.