In the past two seasons, Duke has had two phenomenal athletes who have delivered some of the most ferocious and exciting dunks in Duke basketball history.
In most recent memory, we have Cassius Stanley, the high-flying guard from Los Angeles, Ca., who made a name for himself above the rim. The year before Stanley was scratching the rafters of Cameron Indoor Stadium, Zion Williamson took the nation by storm and had enough memorable slam dunks for a highlight reel of his own.
From the arrival of Stanley on Duke’s campus, there have been comparisons between him and Williamson’s athleticism. Most notably, Stanley broke the Duke record for a vertical leap which was previously held by Williamson. The two have very different styles of overall play, but their dunking abilities raise one question: who was the most exciting in-game dunker in a Duke uniform?
You have likely already seen videos of Stanley and Williamson concocting creative dunks in their own workout facilities, but for the sake of this article, they will not be included in the discussion. Any dunk conducted during a collegiate game is fair play and I have meticulously selected each of their top three dunks.
Let’s start with Williamson. His number one dunk has to be his 360 slam off of a steal against Clemson. It takes exceptional body control and composure to pull off a dunk of this magnitude during an ACC matchup and Williamson flawlessly completed the dunk as if it was a routine layup.
In second we have Williamson’s right-handed tomahawk against Virginia for the and-one. After grabbing the rebound himself, Williamson went coast to coast, dodging defenders and muscling through a foul from a Virginia forward to finish with his non-dominant hand. This was a pure display of Williamson’s incredible strength and power to allow him to finish in all the traffic.
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Last on Williamson’s list is his windmill dunk against Indiana in which his left arm goes all 360 degrees before sending Cameron Indoor Stadium into chaos. He may not have had any defender to work through on this one but the gracefulness and controlled ferocity behind this slam make it a showstopper.
Stanley has his own bag of dunks that he pulled from this last season. Topping his list is a one-handed tomahawk lob against North Carolina State. He leaped for a lob from Wendell Moore and reached back with such ease to make a one-handed catch and slam. The overall coordination Stanley showed and forceful finish are a true testament to his elite skills at the rim.
Next is the inbound dunk against Miami in which he levitated across the key for another vintage Stanley one-handed finish. This dunk may have lacked any fancy spin moves or off-hand finishes, but the sheer amount of hang time and vertical height he got even had Miami players scratching their heads.
Last on Stanley’s list is one of his earlier season dunks, this one coming against Brown. He only needed one dribble from the 3-point line and barreled ahead for what was by far his most vicious and rim-shattering dunk. When he slams it, the clank of the rim is blatantly audible in the video. It is a true showing of his combined athleticism and strength to rock the rim.
So where does this leave us? Williamson and Stanley can both obviously light up any stadium they choose, so how can we possibly determine who is the more exciting dunker?
It is a ridiculously close call, but the most exciting in-game Duke dunker goes to Williamson for one reason: versatility. When Williamson takes flight, it is like picking the winning lottery number to try and guess what kind of dunk he is going to finish with. Just out of the dunks listed above, Williamson showed a 360, an off-hand tomahawk and a windmill, and that is just the tip of the iceberg of all his ridiculous slams.
With Stanley, he is as fun to watch as a basketball player can be. He is a player with a 40-plus-inch vertical and is not afraid to use it. Stanley just lacks some of the in-game creativity that Williamson possesses, which is why he has to come in second. Out of his three dunks, every single one ends in the same way, a right-handed throw down, and there are many more to add to that list.
Is it ever tiring to watch? Absolutely not, but there is less mystery surrounding what Stanley will do when he soars up, which is why Williamson is the more exciting in-game dunker.