How Many Dunks Have There Been in the WNBA?

The WNBA may not see as many slam dunks as the NBA, but the athletic plays still bring fans to their feet. Since the league’s inaugural season in 1997, a small but mighty group of women have defied expectations by throwing down dunks that electrify crowds and make history.

So how many thunderous jams have there been in the WNBA record books? Which barrier-breaking players etched their names into basketball lore with gravity-defying dunks? Let’s break down the numbers and relive some of the most memorable aerial displays in women’s basketball.

Counting WNBA Dunks Throughout History

In over 25 completed WNBA seasons, only eight women have ever dunked in a game. This exclusive group includes:

  • Lisa Leslie
  • Michelle Snow
  • Candace Parker
  • Sylvia Fowles
  • Brittney Griner
  • Jonquel Jones
  • Liz Cambage
  • Brittney Sykes

Considering over 350 players take the court each WNBA season, the fact that so few have successfully slammed one home demonstrates the exceptional athleticism required.

Stars like Candace Parker and Brittney Griner may make dunking look effortless, but it takes a rare combination of height, vertical leap, timing, and power that few possess.

Parker became the first woman to dunk in an NCAA tournament game in 2006 before bringing her rim-rattling skills to the pros. The 6’4″ legend led the resurgence of the WNBA dunk with her backboard-shaking slams.

Meanwhile, the 6’9″ Griner entered the league in 2013 as the first true dunking specialist in the women’s game. With an 88-inch wingspan to palm the ball and extraordinary leaping ability, she racked up a record 16 dunks in her first season alone.

But before these recent stars stole the highlight reels, one woman laid the foundation as the WNBA’s first ever dunker.

Learn More: Get Your Dunk On: This Dunk Calculator Will Help You Get There, Discover the Secret to Perfect Slam Dunks!

The First Dunk in WNBA History

The first slam in WNBA history belonged to the Los Angeles Sparks’ Lisa Leslie on July 30th, 2002.

The three-time MVP and champion floated baseline past her defender before elevated for the one-handed stuff. She made history by becoming the first woman to dunk in a professional league game.

Leslie’s athletic pioneer moment smashed perceptions about women’s capabilities and inspired the next generation. Since that groundbreaking dunk, a handful of other stars have followed in her footsteps by throwing a few jams down themselves.

How Many Dunks in WNBA History?

In total, there have been 54 regular season and playoff dunks in the WNBA’s 25 years, as of 2022.

So while dunks remain a relatively rare sight in the women’s game, their numbers continue rising. The 2020 and 2021 seasons saw more combined dunks (13) than the previous five seasons total.

In 2022, 26-year-old Jonquel Jones became the first player not named Griner or Parker with a dunk in four years. Standing at 6’6”, the Connecticut Sun’s All-Star is one of a handful of players physically capable of replicating such a feat.

Second-year pro Brittney Sykes also joined the club by flushing two of her own dunks home in the same summer. As athleticism in the women’s game keeps accelerating, more players may soon be throwing it down as well.

Full List of WNBA Dunks

Here’s the full rundown of every single in-game dunk in WNBA history:

YearDunkerTeamDunks
2022Brittney GrinerPhoenix Mercury1
2022Jonquel JonesConnecticut Sun1
2022Brittney SykesAtlanta Dream2
2021Brittney GrinerPhoenix Mercury2
2020Brittney GrinerPhoenix Mercury5
2019Liz CambageLas Vegas Aces2
2018Brittney GrinerPhoenix Mercury1
2018Liz CambageDallas Wings2
2015Brittney GrinerPhoenix Mercury3
2014Brittney GrinerPhoenix Mercury2
2011Candace ParkerLos Angeles Sparks1
2011Sylvia FowlesChicago Sky2
2010Candace ParkerLos Angeles Sparks1
2007Michelle SnowSan Antonio Silver Stars1
2006Candace ParkerLos Angeles Sparks1
2004Lisa LeslieLos Angeles Sparks1
2003Lisa LeslieLos Angeles Sparks1
2002Lisa LeslieLos Angeles Sparks1

Brittney Griner holds the WNBA career record with 17 total dunks, including a single-season best of 7 slams in 2014.

Meanwhile, Candace Parker’s consistency earns her second place with 5 career dunks across a decade from 2006 to 2016.

And Lisa Leslie’s 3 regular season throwdowns plus 1 in the playoffs cements her legacy as the trailblazer who started it all.

But which players hold some other dunk-related records and superlatives? Let’s dive deeper into the WNBA dunk dominance leaderboards.

Learn More: Who Has the Most WNBA Championships? 

Who Has the Most WNBA Dunks?

Most WNBA Dunks

As mentioned above, Brittney Griner is far and away the WNBA’s most prolific dunker with 17 total across nine seasons from 2013 to 2022. She has executed at least one dunk per season heading into 2023.

In fact, Griner rattled off dunks in her first five appearances as a rookie phenom, capped with two alley-oops in a playoff game against Seattle.

With a 88-inch wingspan and renowned leaping ability, the 6’9” Mercury center remains a formidable above-the-rim threat every season. Any lob or post-up mismatch near the hoop almost always ends with Griner detonating the rim with authority.

Griner set a record by flushing seven slams in 2014, then nearly matched it again with five jams in the 2020 bubble environment. For years coaches could simply run lob plays for the “Griner Dunker Spot” that would likely end with an epic poster.

Griner Dunker Spot
Griner Dunker Spot

Among active players, Jonquel Jones and Brittney Sykes are tied for second with two dunks each after their breakthrough 2022 performances.

Meanwhile, legends like Candace Parker (5 career dunks) and Lisa Leslie (4) still rank highly despite concluding their careers which elevates their feats further given shorter seasons played.

Who is the Shortest WNBA Player to Dunk?

At 6’3”, Candace Parker registers as the shortest player to ever dunk in the WNBA. But just two inches taller than the average hooper, Parker generates jaw-dropping lift using her 40+ inch vertical and flawless technique.

The Sparks legend first smashed international barriers with a cupcake jam playing overseas in a Russian League game. She finally brought her high-octane athleticism to throw one down in the WNBA playoffs versus Seattle in 2006.

Parker immediately pulled up from the right baseline off the catch and drove hard left across the paint for the emphatic right-handed slam. She hung 15 feet in the air with such forcefulness that the backboard glass splintered and actually required replacement!

During her decorated career, Parker added four more quality dunks at key moments like fast breaks, lobs, and put-backs that reveal all her capabilities. For a woman the same height as the average player to pull off even one professional dunk remains tremendously rare. The fact Parker has five while anchoring championship teams only elevates her all-time great status.

Learn More: Average WNBA Height in 2024: Tallest, Shortest, and Team Breakdowns

Best WNBA Dunks

Narrowing down the most eye-popping aerial displays in WNBA history poses a challenge. But a few key dunks still manage to stand out as pinnacles of women’s basketball that inspired shock and awe across generations of hoop fans:

1. Lisa Leslie’s Pioneering Dunk

It may not have had the flashiness of today’s viral contends, but Lisa Leslie’s modest baseline reverse layup finish changed women’s basketball forever.

Gliding past her opponent with purpose then extending her 6’5″ frame and launching off one foot captured an athletic spectacle never witnessed before on the big stage. This dunk made WNBA history and smashed perceptions by proving women could sky high and throw it down with authority like their male counterparts.

By breaching the final athletic frontier people claimed women could not reach, Leslie’s dunk sparked a movement. Stars like Parker and Fowles soon followed her lead with slams of their own in the years after.

Without Leslie’s courageous first leap that sparked shockwaves, perhaps women’s sense of what was physically possible alters.

2. Candace Parker’s Consecutive Game Slams

Candace Parker detonated the rims over consecutive games by throwing down ridiculous dunks that awed fans.

In the penultimate clash of the 2008 regular season, Parker drove baseline off an inbound find. She elevated for a smooth one-hander that smacked hard off the glass to push her team ahead.

Just three days later with L.A. having already clinched a playoff spot, Parker posterized again on the fast break. Sprinting down court, she launched off one foot outside the restricted area to violently punch another righty jam.

Parker scored 24 and 16 points in those games respectively while securing the No. 2 seed. With teams wary of her around the basket, she diversified her scoring portfolio as a true hybrid forward mugging defenders inside and out.

3. Sylvia Fowles All-Star Farewell Dunk

For her final All-Star appearance in front of a roaring home crowd, Sylvia Fowles bid the Chicago fans farewell with an emphatic exclamation point.

In the 2018 matchup featuring Candace Parker, Elena Della Donne, and A’ja Wilson, the 6’6″ Sky legend caught a last-second outlet pass from Sue Bird up 58-57.

Rather than winding down the clock, Fowles accelerated down the floor in three dribbles then rose for the crushing one-handed jam right at the buzzer. Besides sending the United Center into hysterics for their long-time hero, Fowles also earned an extra $10,000 by winning the event’s MVP honors.

4. Brittney Griner’s Day-One Dunks

Brittney Griner entered the league dunking from game one by introducing her breathtaking aerial abilities to the world instantly.

The 2013 Mercury No. 1 pick barely needed a quarter of play before banging her first professional flush. On just her sixth career shot attempt, she corralled an offensive board before bouncing back up for the stuff finish.

In the following quarter, she caught the ball on the left block and elevated for a devastating one-hander that made the whole backboard shake violently. Griner racked up two more jams the very next day en route to four dunks through her first two appearance

Rarely has an incoming player demonstrated such instant box office appeal with physics-defying plays that wowed the crowds. Griner’s early dominance signaled the coming of a new era women’s basketball hadn’t witnessed before.

Historic Dunks Light Up the WNBA Playoffs

Putting down slams in high-stakes playoff scenarios ratchets up the intensity even further for WNBA dunkers. Stars must have the confidence and clutch factor to throw it down with seasons on the line.

So far six decorated players have registered seven dunks over elimination games, tournament settings, or during Finals matchups upping their iconic moments:

  • Lisa Leslie (2002): Dunked driving baseline past Utah defender in Game 2 sweep of Western Conference Finals.
  • Michelle Snow (2007): Slammed home a put-back jam in 2OT loss to Phoenix during second round clash.
  • Candace Parker (2006): Shattered backboard with righty tomahawk as L.A. finished off Seattle in Round 1 duel.
  • Candace Parker (2016): Flushed a last-minute tip jam to ice elimination game win over Chicago.
  • Brittney Griner (2014): Capped 24 point outing with a pair of fourth-quarter alley-oop slams to oust rival Seattle.

Dunking amid the high stakes of playoffs raises the degree of difficulty for WNBA throwdowns. Stars must channel big game mentalities and shut out pressure to tomahawk these unforgettable moments into history.

How Many WNBA Players Can Dunk?

Out of the 144 players across 12 active rosters, roughly five to eight women likely possess the traits and ability necessary to potentially dunk in today’s modern game. But only Brittney Griner executes them regularly each season.

The current group of WNBA dunkers and leading candidates includes:

  • Brittney Griner (Career 17 Dunks): The 6’9″ phenom defines today’s archetype for the shot-blocking, rim-running big capable of detonating if uniquely athletic and tall.
  • Jonquel Jones (2 Dunks): Like Griner, Jones boasts size at 6’6″ plus a 37-inch max vertical and quality handles enabling aggressive moves to the cup.
  • Brittney Sykes (2 Dunks): Despite standing just 6-foot, Sykes packs unbelievable bounce and hustle to sky high for put-back slams on the move.
  • A’ja Wilson (0 Dunks): While more ground-bound, the 2020 MVP has excellent reach and coordination at 6’4″ that could produce a eventful dunk.

Other outside possibilities include athletic marvel Kelsey Plum, skilled big Stefanie Dolson, Russian center Maria Vadeeva, and finesse forward Alysha Clark. Intriguing 2022 No. 2 pick Caitlin Clark also has potential over time.

But realistically, only all world talents like Breanna Stewart or an aerial outlier like 5’5” Krystal Thomas could possibly expand the club further. Unless more young stars evolve into that Griner/Parker mold, the number of WNBA dunkers may stay steady going forward.

Why don’t WNBA Players Dunk more often?

With so many phenomenal athletes on the floor each game, why don’t we see more high-flying dunks in women’s basketball?

Firstly, the 10-foot WNBA hoop simply stands four inches higher than the men’s professional or college rim making dunks harder. Critics call for lowering it to 9 feet, but detractors argue taller players would then dominate and lower overall diversity in the league.

Secondly, dunking requires a combination of traits like genetics for height, fast-twitch muscles for jumping ability, large hands for palming control, and general coordination that remains rare even among pro female ballers.

Lastly, critics speculate women face implicit bias against executing “masculine” style plays which discourages developing dunking skills further. Young women playing youth basketball grow up lowered rims that practically eliminate dunking in favor of fundamentals. By adolescence when males begin practicing explosive dunking daily, females lack chances to work on comparable skills.

Nonetheless, modern WNBA stars continue gradually erasing doubts about women’s capabilities. Record numbers of girls now grow up witnessing their idols like Parker and Griner shattering stigmas about female players’ athletic ceilings inspiring the next wave.

Dunking Impact on the Game

The impact from witnessing WNBA icons defy norms by dunking like their male counterparts proves multidimensional.

Seeing dunks electrify formerly skeptical fans by spotlighting next-level athleticism that draws buzz. Casual viewers realize female players’ capabilities surpass outdated expectations.

From young athletes perspective, watching idols like Candace Parker break barriers builds confidence girls can achieve anything with enough skill and dedication. Sentiments about biological limitations evaporate.

Plus dunk symbolism empowers women and minorities broadly by visually shattering restrictive stereotypes. Images of Parker flexing after monster jams communicate powerful cultural messages transcending basketball.

Ultimately WNBA dunks broadcast messages about limitless human potential if given equal opportunities. Visualizing elite women executing dazzling plays once deemed impossible makes broader dreams appear achievable.

Statistical Data about Dunks

Let’s break down some key statistical data points behind WNBA dunks:

  • 54 Total Dunks in League History
  • 8 Dunkers Ever
  • 17 Brittney Griner Career Dunks (Most All-Time)
  • 88 inches Brittney Griner Wingspan
  • 1 dunk every 4 games Griner’s career dunk rate
  • 7 Most Dunks in a WNBA season (Griner, 2014)
  • 5’3″ Listed height of shortest dunker (Parker)
  • 37 inches Jonquel Jones vertical leap
  • 9’6” Minimum running vertical leap to dunk typically
  • 15 feet Highest WNBA player running vert (Leslie)
  • 10 feet Height of a WNBA rim (vs. just 9 feet in G League/Collegiate men’s)
  • 8% Estimated share of current WNBA players physically capable of dunking

So while still rare overall, mammoth momentum exists behind the evolution of aerial artistry in the women’s game. More young stars like Jones, Wilson, or Sabally could soon sky high for history following in the footsteps of WNBA dunking trailblazers.

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