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The NBA's Five Greatest Backboard-Breaking Dunks of All Time

In an otherwise perfect world, we’d usually be indulging in a blissful trifecta of sports euphoria right now: the Major League Baseball Playoffs, Week 4 NFL gridiron madness, and the long-awaited NBA preseason. But with the NBA lockout still pending, and showing no signs of lifting anytime soon, we have to settle for an exacta. (Well, two out of three ain’t all bad. We’re especially happy to see the Payton Manning-less Colts slide into oblivion!)

So, in lieu of the trash-talking, high-flying, “In Your Face, Beeotch!” arrival of this year’s NBA season, we thought we’d offer up a quick trip down memory lane for the league’s most memorable moments of god-like players who made it rain glass. Now we see why so many big men wore goggles in the paint back in the day...

5. Shaquille O’Neal at NBA Draft Combine, 1992
Even before he officially entered the NBA, O’Neal gave us a mind-blowing (and completely hilarious) preview of why he would soon become known as “Shaq Diesel.” Ok, it was only announcer Ahmad Rashad who O’Neal jammed on, but his strength straight out of college was undeniable. And shattered glass is shattered glass!

4. Dwight Howard vs. Cleveland Cavaliers, 2009 NBA Playoffs
After famously donning full Superman regalia for his rim-crushing dunks in the 2008 Slam Dunk Contest (Knock it off, Dwight... everyone knows Shaq is the original son of Jor-El!), Howard brings down the backboard shot clock with a powerful two-handed dunk. With shoulders literally as big as the basketballs he jams, Howard could’ve definitely broken the glass on this one. Unfortunately, the NBA installed shatter-proof backboards years earlier, courtesy of the exploits of our next master of destruction.

3. Darryl Dawkins vs. San Antonio Spurs, 1979
His ability to instantly turn backboards into popcorn earned him the nickname “Chocolate Thunder.” Due to Dawkins breaking the glass on more than one occasion, the NBA reinforced their backboards with shatterproof glass in 1981. Those tight, Daisy Duke-style shorts the league forced players to wear weren’t outlawed until 1992.

2. Shaquille O’Neal vs. New Jersey Nets, 1993
Yup! Shaq does it again. But, alas, NBA backboards were shatter-proof a la Mr. Dawkins by the time O’Neal arrived in Orlando. No problem! If the Big Aristotle can’t break the glass, he’s chopping down the entire basket. Timber!!!

1. Michael Jordan, Nike Expedition Game in Italy, 1986
According to, this spectacular dunk-storm of raining glass wasn’t even uncovered until three years ago. A man named Juan Martin, who claimed he shot the video for a Spanish television network, posted the remarkable video to YouTube in 2008. The low-orbit verticals of Air Jordan were commonly known, but few were privy to this incident between His Airness and that poor, defenseless sheet of beautiful glass. Houston, we have lift off!