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Michael Jordan Wins His First Dunk Contest

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Our last ‘Was It The Shoes?’ feature focused on one of Michael’s most embarrassing moments – when he clunked a wide-open slam-dunk during the first quarter of the 2002 NBA All-Star Game. But as we know, it’s the failures that drives Michael to succeed (one of the most humbling Air Jordan advertisements that humanized Jordan to the very core), but we’re taking it back to one of Michael Jordan’s earliest successes in the NBA – his first Slam Dunk Title. Continue on to re-live the story of Michael Jordan’s first NBA Dunk Contest victory and you tell us: Was It The Shoes?

The majority of Michael Jordan’s Championship-Winning years can be exemplified by one power-move – the fadeaway jumper. Michael admitted to utilizing the fadeaway to compensate for the slightly diminished vertical jump and the heightened athleticism of his defenders towards the later 90’s. Even so, Michael Jordan was always on the giving end of posterizing dunks, sending fellas towering big-men like Dikembe Mutumbo, Patrick Ewing, Greg Ostertag, Sam Perkins, Alonzo Mourning and any other Center that played in the 90’s into a humiliated hands-in-the-face position of embarrassment.

So as the slam-dunk served as a rather easy method of gaining two points for MJ, he actually did it for fun during the first few years of his career; Michael was one of eight contestants of the 1985 NBA All-Star Dunk Contest, joining an impressive pool featuring Dominique Wilkins, Julius Erving, Larry Nance, and more. The rookie ended up going all the way into the Final round (posting the best overall score in the second round), but an underwhelming Dunk in the Final garnered just 25 points from the judges, eventually costing him his first Dunk Contest trophy.

Of course, that ’85 showing was just the beginning of the Michael Jordan Dunk Contest legend; after missing out in 1986 due to a foot injury, Michael Jordan returned to the Contest in 1987 as the favorite to win. Among former-champ Dominique Wilkins and other high-flyers like Terence Stansbury and Clyde Drexler, Michael Jordan went with strategy over physicality in the first round, performing slam-dunk showings that would be just enough to get him into the second round. The underwhelming performance in the first round, albeit sufficient to move on, was criticized by the commentators as a reflection of Michael’s under-preparation. That’s when the real show started.

In Round 2, Michael went into fifth gear and started things off with – what else – a free-throw dunk. That was followed by a one-handed double-clutch dunk and a Wilkins-like windmill slam along the base-line, posting up respective scores of 49, 49, and 50. Those near-perfect marks were trailed, in total, by just one point by the powerful and surprising Jerome Kersey, who punched his ticket to the Dunk Contest Final against Michael Jordan. Who would win – finesse, or power?

In the Final Round, Michael sealed the win with a two-handed reverse double-clutch,  a one-handed pump-slam down the middle, and a one-handed windmill – all resulting in iconic freeze-frames caught mid-air by timely photographers. With a total score of 146 points out of 150, Michael Jordan finally captured his first NBA Dunk Contest. The ’88 All-Star Game would be Michael’s last showing at the Dunk Contest, where he capped off back-to-back wins.

So, was it the shoes? Michael Jordan nearly won in the Air Jordan 1, but it was the Air Jordan II that Michael cemented his name into the annals of greatest dunkers of all-time. History will prove that no matter what shoe Michael had on his feet, he was going to dunk with ease, but the Air Jordan II deserves the proper recognition as the first ‘Dunk Contest Air Jordan’. Today, the White/Black/Red colorway continues to be regarded as one of the best Home Bulls joints in history, with a recent 2010 Retro replenishing sneaker stashes across the globe.

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