Ranking the top five dunks in Bulls franchise history, once and for all

Ranking the top five dunks in Bulls franchise history, once and for all

From Jordan to Pippen to Rose to LaVine, the Bulls have employed a number of transcendent athletes in their franchise's history.

Even in tumultuous times, the unmatched bunnies of the names above (and many more) have translated into a number of exhilirating highlights, especially in the dunk category.

But only five slams can make NBC Sports Chicago's Definitive Top Five Bulls Dunks of All Time© ranking. See below, but don't even think about @-ing me:

5. Michael Jordan finger wags Dikembe Mutombo

How does one not crack a smile thinking of this gem? Needed for context: This dunk came months after Mutombo claimed, on camera at the 1997 All-Star game, that Jordan “hadn’t gotten” him with a poster-dunk yet in his career — a show of hubris that was met with utter bemusement by Jordan. 

Fast forward to Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals that year, and it was revenge time. Off a deft two-man action with Luc Longley, Jordan streaked across the baseline, corralled a bounce pass, and in one sweeping motion rose and stuffed the ball through the basket — directly on Mutombo’s forehead. 

And as Jordan backpedaled down the floor, he was sure to give Mutombo a taste of his own medicine in the form of a finger wag. Even Phil Jackson cracked a smile. That game, a 107-92 Bulls win, decided that series, and the Bulls went on to clinch their fifth title of the decade weeks later.

4. Taj Gibson bodies Dwyane Wade in the Eastern Conference Finals

I maintain it is impossible to watch this dunk without emitting audible and involuntary noises. The ferocity. The spontaneity. I don’t have a word for this, but the way Gibson bounces off Wade mid-air, but instead of sending him sprawling to the floor, the impact actually boosts him higher into the air. That’s when you know you really bodied someone.

What’s more, this slam came in a Game 1 of the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals that the Bulls seized over the widely villainized Miami Heat, 103-82. Of course, the Heatles went on to rip four straight wins en route to a five-game series victory, but in the moment, this felt like a coming-of-age for an ever-underestimated Bulls team on a meteoric rise. 

This Gibson dunk serves as a snapshot of that sentiment, even all these years laters. Memories. 

3. Derrick Rose goes upstairs on Goran Dragic

Everything about this dunk is iconic. From Rose’s trademark explosiveness off two feet, to the mid-air cockback into a tomahawk, to the exuberance of Bulls color commentator Stacey King:

“Oh, stop it! Stop it! Did not do him like that! What are you doing, Dragic? Did you not get the memo? Derrick Rose can go upstairs!

Then, on the replay: “I want to go HIGHER! Oh my goodness.”

Soul-snatching stuff from Rose, and a legendary call by King. Plus, coming off a Rookie of the Year campaign and strong playoff showing against the Celtics in 2009, it added another notch to Rose’s rapidly rising star. All in all, one of the more poignant memories from that era.

2. Jordan pummels Patrick Ewing

To maximally appreciate this dunk requires a frame-by-frame breakdown of the possession that led to it. Bear with me.

It begins with a full-court Knicks press, which the Bulls busted by way of a looping Horace Grant pass to John Paxson near half-court. Paxson reeled the ball in, landed, and, faced with two defenders in his grill, quickly flared a pass out to Jordan on the left wing. Normally, an offensive team is rewarded for busting an opponent’s press with some form of a numbers advantage on the attacking end, but not Jordan. On the catch, he was immediately met by Mark Jackson and a flailing-armed Kiki Vandewhege, but as Jackson lurched forward to attempt a steal, Jordan skirted past him with a decisive left-handed drive. For an instant, he appeared on a clear path to the basket.

But just when he had built up a head of steam, the stout Charles Oakley slid in to block his path. Jordan quickly took one dribble backwards, then cut back to the rim on a dime, leaving Oakley and Jackson (trailing the play) completely off balance. One dribble later, Jordan was at the rim and elevated for a gravity-defying slam that rendered the 7-foot Patrick Ewing a traffic cone.

For those keeping track at home: En route to this dunk, Jordan effectively waxed three Knicks defenders (all of solid reputation!) before even reaching Ewing, adding to the impossibility of a dunk that deserves a place on this list in a vacuum. Is this the time to mention this sequence took place in the decisive Game 3 of a first round playoff series between the two in 1991, the year Jordan and the Bulls would eventually be crowned NBA champions for the first time?

1. Scottie Pippen ends Ewing and Spike Lee

Poor Patrick. We won’t go pixel-by-pixel on this one, but Pippen’s feat of superheroic athleticism and elasticity here is unmatched in Bulls dunk history. On this transition slam, Pippen took off from damn near outside the painted area, bumped bodies with Ewing in the air, and still finished from well-above the rim, nearly landing on top of him on the way down.

That landing is where things got interesting. Pippen, graceful as ever,  transitioned seamlessly from air-dancer to trash-talker by stepping over Ewing (and sharing a few words with him) after each of them hit the floor — Ewing on his behind, Pippen on his feet. 

Ewing got a shove in from underneath, and Spike Lee, even sitting on the Chicago Stadium floor, attempted to come to Ewing’s defense. But Pippen brushed them both off. Even though he earned a technical foul for the step-over and taunt, it’s clear who came out of this interchange the winner. Is there a play more emblematic of the Bulls-Knicks rivalry?

Years later, on ESPN’s The Jump, Pippen said that it was his “most disrespectful dunk” ever, adding with a laugh that he and Ewing (as of May 2019) were not on speaking terms because of it. 

If that’s not No. 1 worthy, I don’t know what is.

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Kendrick Perkins rips ‘Last Dance,’ says he’s glad Michael Jordan isn’t his GOAT

Kendrick Perkins rips ‘Last Dance,’ says he’s glad Michael Jordan isn’t his GOAT

On the off-chance you haven’t had enough of the 2008 Celtics, Kendrick Perkins is at it again.

The topic: Fresh audio that proved Michael Jordan specifically requested Isiah Thomas be left off the 1992 Dream Team, despite Jordan denying such allegations in ESPN’s “The Last Dance.”

“Free Zeke! What is the problem with Isiah Thomas? Isiah Thomas is a great individual, and to me, you know what it is? They had a problem with Isiah Thomas’ competitive nature. He was the ultimate competitor, that’s the only way I see them keeping him off the Dream Team, saying they didn’t want to play with him,” Perkins said in a recent appearance on ESPN’s First Take.

Of course, the conversation pivoted to a pinch of “The Last Dance” talk. You can guess the direction that went in.

“‘The Last (Dance) documentary was the best sports documentary that I ever saw,” Perkins said, “but one thing I took away from it: it was full of lies, and it was full of snitching. 

“And when we look at Michael Jordan — and I’m glad he’s not my GOAT, LeBron James is my GOAT, but that’s y’all’s GOAT — he lied, he threw everybody under the bus at the end of the day. ‘The Last Dance’ was to make MJ look like a superhero and make everybody else look like a villain…

“... at the end of the day, I’m just happy LeBron James is my GOAT.”

All in a day’s work for Perkins, who hasn’t been shy in criticizing Jordan and the documentary at every turn.

RELATED: How Michael Jordan, Bulls executed impromptu switch from No. 45 to 23 

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New details emerge regarding Michael Jordan's NBA Return in Sports Uncovered Podcast

NBC Sports Chicago

New details emerge regarding Michael Jordan's NBA Return in Sports Uncovered Podcast

Chicago, IL (May 28, 2020) – Beginning today, NBC Sports Regional Networks debuts a new six-episode, weekly podcast anthology series, “Sports Uncovered,” that re-examines some of the most memorable and compelling storylines and events in sports history. With new episodes publishing each Thursday through July 2, this original storytelling franchise utilizes exclusive, in-depth interviews with prominent participants, witnesses and experts to explore new, underreported or forgotten aspects of well-known topics centered in each of the NBC Sports Regional Networks markets.
The debut episode of the “Sports Uncovered” podcast series, entitled “I’m Back,” is more than just a story about the most famous two-word fax in sports history, it unveils never-before-heard stories about the events leading up to basketball legend Michael Jordan’s return to the NBA and the Chicago Bulls, including his secret workouts with another iconic NBA franchise, new stories detailing his 1995 on-court return against the Indiana Pacers, plus – anecdotes about the additional jersey that was kept around by the team’s equipment manager and much more. Podcast DOWNLOAD HERE.

Among the stories revealed for the first time include:

  • Prior to his early March 1995 Berto Center workouts with the Bulls, and to test himself against the league’s next generation of emerging young stars, Jordan held secret, behind-closed-door workouts over a two to three-day period with … the Golden State Warriors. Former Warriors greats Tim Hardaway and Chris Mullin, along with MJ’s friend/former teammate Rod Higgins, discuss those high-intensity practice sessions that featured Jordan wearing Warriors practice attire.
  • Longtime Bulls photographer Bill Smith and NBC Sports NBA reporter Ahmad Rashad were the only two people inside Jordan’s private locker room before his first game back against the Pacers, both of whom detail that private, pre-game scene.
  • While Jordan started his ’95 comeback wearing #45, veteran Bulls equipment manager John Ligmanowski tells the story of why he carried a #23 jersey everywhere they went, just in case.


NBC Sports’ Mike Tirico introduces each “Sports Uncovered” podcast, including the “I’m Back” episode, which also features additional, candid Jordan era recollections from former Bulls teammates Steve Kerr, Toni Kukoc and Horace Grant, past NBA greats Dominique Wilkins, Robert Horry and Glen Rice, NBA legend/three-time champion LeBron James, along with longtime agent David Falk, longtime personal trainer Tim Grover and former NBA Senior VP/Basketball Communications Brian McIntyre among others.

Among the highlighted quotes from the one-hour Sports Uncovered/“I’m Back” podcast, include the following:

Tim Hardaway revealing MJ practiced with Warriors: “The reason why I’m smiling, I might get in trouble for this. Him and Rod Higgins are really, really good friends. He came and practiced with us two or three times and we knew he was coming back then. He just took over our practice, just took over our practice. He got five guys that wasn’t playing that much, and he said ‘us seven will play you all’s seven in a scrimmage,’ and it was like he never left.”

Rod Higgins on MJ/Warriors practices: "Michael was a Warrior for 48 hours…he came in and (Warriors equipment manager) Eric Housen dressed him out in Warriors gear, he might have given him number 23. Once Michael got warmed up, you could tell his objective was to basically kick Spree (Latrell Sprewell) and Tim’s (Hardaway) behind, and talk trash to them.”

Chris Mullin on observing MJ against younger Warriors stars: “I always thought he was coming back, but a day like that...he was just so fit, so it wasn’t a physical thing, but seeing him on the basketball court and playing against, Sprewell was a really good player and he was in midseason form, for him to do that, I thought it’s just a matter of time.”

Tim Grover on MJ vs. Sprewell in Warriors practice sessions: “My take on this...Latrell was one of the more explosive, more athletic and he was probably one of the better players during that short run that he had. So what Michael needed to know, even though I took the time off, can I still come back and kick his ass?... and in his mind he’s like, ‘I’ve been gone from this game for how long? And he’s supposed to be the top player? Alright.’ He wasn’t testing himself against Sprewell, he was testing himself against himself.”

John Ligmanowski on jersey number preparedness: "He decided he was going to go with the 45, and I said ‘I’ll tell you what I’ll do, I’ll make the 23 up too so we’ll have both. We’ll have the 45, the 23 in case you change your mind, I got it.’... I always carried the 23 around with me in case he decided, (and) it happened.”

In addition to today’s “I’m Back” download debut, please note the following upcoming NBC Sports Regional Networks “Sports Uncovered” podcast series release dates/episode descriptions:


NBC Sports RSN


May 28


“I’m Back”: Michael Jordan’s 1995 NBA return

June 4


“The Bill Belichick You Don’t Know”: Belichick’s closest confidants reveal the side of the New England Patriots head coach the public doesn’t get to see.

June 11


“The Uniform Craze That Revolutionized College Football”: How the University of Oregon ignited a fashion arms race across the NCAA and all sports, by going from having Donald Duck as its mascot to trendsetting Nike uniforms that attracted five-star recruits to Eugene.

June 18


“Sean Taylor, the NFL Superstar We Didn’t Get to Know”: Untold stories that explain why the NFL’s biggest stars revere Sean Taylor, the Washington Redskins safety who was killed at 24 while protecting his family.

June 25


“Marathon on Ice”: How the Philadelphia Flyers & Pittsburgh Penguins survived seven hours of playoff hockey as they battled in the longest game of the NHL’s modern era.

July 2

Bay Area

“The Mysterious Disappearance that Changed a Super Bowl”: Barret Robbins in his own words -- from prison -- revealing the real reasons why he disappeared and missed playing in the Raiders’ loss in Super Bowl XXXVII.


NOTE: “Sports Uncovered” podcast episodes are available for download on ALL major podcast platforms, including: NBCSports.com/podcasts, NBC Sports’ Scores app, Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, Google Podcasts, TuneIn and iHeart.

NBC Sports Chicago, a partnership between the Chicago Blackhawks (NHL), Chicago Bulls (NBA), Chicago White Sox (MLB) and the NBC Sports Group, features over 275 live pro games in high definition each year.  In addition, NBC Sports Chicago delivers extensive pre/post-game coverage for its core pro team partners, as well as Chicago Bears and Chicago Cubs multi-platform coverage, plus - local sports discussion programs that includes SportsTalk Live, and massive cross-platform coverage provided by the network’s growing digital platform, NBCSportsChicago.com, the “MyTeams by NBC Sports” app, and its variety of fan-focused social media outlets. Fans can follow the network on Twitter via @NBCSChicago.  

NBC Sports Regional Networks is NBC Sports Group’s portfolio of nine regional networks that delivers more than 2,200 live sporting events and original content to more than 35 million homes. Aligned within Eastern and Western Divisions, the NBC Sports Regional Networks are: NBC Sports Boston, NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBC Sports Philadelphia +, NBC Sports Washington, NBC Sports Washington + and SNY; and NBC Sports Bay Area, NBC Sports California, NBC Sports Chicago/NBC Sports Chicago+, and NBC Sports Northwest. For more information on NBC Sports Group properties, including press releases, photos, talent and executive bios, headshots and logos, please visit www.NBCSportsGroupPressBox.com.