NBA players are some of the best athletes in the world.
Speed, agility, stamina, strength, and vertical leaping ability are some of the main attributes that players work on all year. Playing basketball means constant running up and down the court, and players cannot afford to be a step behind their opponents. Time in the gym is important, but so is keeping the right nutritional plan and working hard on fitness in the offseason.
If players keep themselves in shape, they are capable of pulling off some of the most athletic feats in all of sports. A huge dunk, a big block, an athletic pass can mean all the difference when it comes to wins and losses.
Here are the top plays showing off the superhuman athleticism of NBA players:
10) DWIGHT HOWARD SWAT BLOCKS LUOL DENG
We start off with Superman (apologies, Shaq)--center Dwight Howard of the Magic. Blocking shots is nothing new for the three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, but on this particular swat, Howard takes an offering from Chicago’s Luol Deng and spikes it down like a beach volleyball player. Plus, check out the elevation from the big fella!
9) RUSSELL WESTBROOK TOMAHAWK SLAMS SHANE BATTIER
While he plays second fiddle to Thunder teammate (and reigning scoring champ) Kevin Durant, guard Russell Westbrook is an emerging superstar in his own right. At 6'3", he’s got a motor unmatched by most in the league and can finish around the rim in explosive fashion. Just ask Shane Battier, who was on the receiving end of this facial back in November 2010. Credit Durant with the sweet assist. [pagebreak]
8) SHANNON BROWN GOES ABOVE THE RIM
Guard Shannon Brown was blessed with one of the highest vertical leaps in the league (44.5 inches)—watch as his head nearly clears the net on this breakaway one-handed slam against the Suns.
7) DWYANE WADE SPINS AND SLAMS ON KENDRICK PERKINS
Nicknamed Flash, Heat guard Dwyane Wade is one of the quickest players in the league, not to mention an all-around talent who is a nightmare to defend. On this particular play, Wade goes baseline for one of his signature spin moves (agility at its finest), only to finish with a monster two-handed slam over 6'10" center Kendrick Perkins. Note the dance move that ensues.
6) LIL' NATE ROBINSON BLOCKS BIG YAO MING
Here’s a “David and Goliath” play for the ages. When 5'9" guard Nate Robinson goes up against 7'6" center Yao Ming, the disparity is supposed to favor the latter. But Nate, the three-time Slam Dunk champion with a vertical leap of 43.5 inches, is like an NBA transformer (read: there’s “more than meets the eye”). He unfathomably rejects the now retired Chinese big man, while adding insult to injury with an eye poke. (Or would this classify as injury to insult?)
5) KOBE BRYANT'S BEHIND-THE-BACK 360
The self-proclaimed “Black Mamba,” Lakers guard Kobe Bryant attacks his opponents in deadly quick fashion--by the time you recognize his strike, it’s often too late. For poor Vincent Yarbrough, formerly of the Nuggets, he probably still has no idea what hit him. After receiving a full court pass, Bryant manages a behind-the-back, 360 dunk that appears to defy every law of physics. Watch and behold. [pagebreak]
4) DERRICK ROSE'S CROSSOVER (AND OVER) ON DEREK FISHER
The reigning league MVP, Bulls guard Derrick Rose is revolutionizing the point guard position with his elite athleticism. While he can “jump out of the gym” with the best of them, Rose can kill you on the ground just as easily. Possessing one of the league’s deadliest crossover dribbles, Rose is liable for orthopedic bills across the NBA (i.e., he breaks ankles). Watch as he puts on a dizzying array of moves on Lakers guard Derek Fisher, before finishing for two.
3) LEBRON JAMES SOARS FROM THE FREE-THROW LINE
After his first eight years in the league, Heat forward LeBron James has already compiled a lifetime of amazing highlight reels. Whether it be his monster dunks or come-from-behind blocks, King James is a beastly player on both ends of the floor. As arguably the greatest athletic specimen on the planet--a 6'8" freight train of power and speed--LeBron can do almost anything on the court. For example, dunking from the free-throw line... during an actual NBA game.
2) BLAKE GRIFFIN DUNKS OVER THE KNICKS
Last season was the “Year of Blake Griffin” in the NBA, at least from a highlight perspective. After missing all of his real rookie season with a knee injury, the Clippers forward made his NBA debut last year in dominating fashion. Simply put, Griffin is a dunking machine that has malfunctioned; you can’t turn him off. The problem was especially apparent for the Knicks on Nov. 20, 2010, when Griffin made an example of now departed New York players Timofey Mozgov and Danilo Gallinari. Let’s just say it was a bad night to be a European dude on the Knicks.
1) VINCE CARTER POLE VAULTS FREDERIC WEISS AT THE OLYMPICS
Finally, while he isn’t quite “Half-Man, Half-Amazing” anymore, Suns guard Vince Carter will forever be immortalized for a dunk from the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. While on the break, Carter decided to negotiate center (and former Knicks draft flop) Frederic Weis, by leaping over the head of the 7'2" Frenchman, en route to a one-handed slam. The French media referred to it as “le dunk de la mort” (the Dunk of Death). ‘Nuff said.