Basketball Dunks: The Basics

Although professionals like LeBron James and Michael Jordan make a basketball dunk look like one effortless and powerful leap, successful dunks are comprised of much more than that; there are critical techniques, fundamentals, and steps behind every prosperous dunk that even an avid basketball fan may be oblivious of. Being familiar with recognizing how a particular dunk looks is a world away from knowing how the slam works, which is obviously a vital aspect to a dunk’s success. However, knowing the small steps taken throughout the process of a dunk opens up a whole world of technique that goes beyond the basics. Nevertheless, this article will show the basic steps involved in some of the most well-known and famous basketball shots.

The Basics

A slam dunk is a basketball shot where the player jumps up with the ball in hand, slamming it into the basket either with one or two hands, which can touch the rim during the shot. An undeniable crowd-pleaser, the slam dunk carries different forms and executions under its title, and is an impressive feat for any basketball player.

Wait…There’s a Name For That?

One fundamental form of the iconic “slam dunk” is the Windmill, a type of dunk that anyone can witness Lebron James pulling in the February 2014 game between the Miami Heat and the Phoenix Suns. This shot is accomplished when a player jumps, one-handedly carrying the ball from behind himself into a circular motion above the head, and into the basket. To undertake this particular basketball dunk, the player must begin a strong dribble from the three-point line, heading towards the basket. After a few solid steps, a well-balanced jump (one or two feet) should be taken while simultaneously extending the arm holding the ball downward. The arm must then speedily move up in a circular path over the head and into the hoop.
The powerful Tomahawk dunk is executed when a player jumps while holding the ball with one hand above his head, which then bends backwards behind the head, before quickly propelling forward and into the hoop. The start off begins with a rapid dribble towards the front or side of the rim, but all who attempt it should that the dunk is more difficult to achieve when approaching at an angle. Taking steps needed to jump inside the perforated semi-circle line; the focus needs to be on making the leap more vertical than horizontal, as height is most critical here. The leap can be made on one or both feet based on the player’s discretion, but two feet would provide the most powerful and balanced ascension. Once in air, the player needs to position the ball with a single hand behind the base of the head, and then drive the ball into the basket during the highest point of the jump. It is immensely important to be high enough in the air, as well as in range of the rim during the peak to maximize the drive of the ball into the basket.

A Few of the Best

The Free Throw Line dunk may possibly be one of the most difficult shots a player can attempt, and Michael Jordan made this iconic dunk in the 1988 Slam Dunk Contest. Requiring speed and altitude, this dunk can be executed by vaulting oneself from the free throw line, a mark standing fifteen feet from the rim, to dunk the ball into the basket. To start off with this crazy-impressive dunk, a player needs to get a solid running-start from the other side of the court, in order to leap off with the most power and momentum with one foot at the free-throw line, outstretching the hand palming the ball in mid-air. Since this shot requires length of jump as well as height, the player must swiftly dunk the ball once in range of the rim before the momentum of the jump carries him or her past the basket.
The 360 Windmill Dunk is what Vince Carter made famous in the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest, and what Paul George proved repeatable in the six times that he performed it. This is yet another iconic shot that seems to defy gravity and realistic speed, requiring the player to perform the traditional “Windmill” dunk after having spun 360 degrees in mid-air before the dunk. Taking the same steps, as one would do for the “Windmill”, the player would have to increase the momentum from the traditional windmill in order to muster the power needed to twist midair in the milliseconds between the jump and the basket.

If To Be Attempted…

Remember that all good dunks have to end with a safe landing. A dunk is not considered totally successful if the player does not land on his or her feet. It is also a plus if the player avoids getting injured. The key precautions that can make or break a dunk are:

1. Strengthening yourself
Strength in the quads, calves, gluteal muscles, and core is absolutely imperative for balance in the leaps and lands of a jump and dunk.

2. Maintaining agility
Flexibility in the hip flexors, arms, shoulders, and aforementioned muscles can prevent tears, sprains, and strained muscles that athletes tend to experience.

3. Watching for other players
Be wary of other players around, as players can prevent a successful landing or cause an injury.