Three years ago, Julius Erving — Dr. J, then 63 years old — dunked. There is video evidence of this. It barely got over the rim, but 1) it counts and 2) the guy was 63 years old. Give him a break.
What my good friend Tom Linnemann wants to know — and this is something we spent a good hour or so debating last night, in various venues and stages of the evening — is who is the oldest living former NBA player who can still dunk RIGHT NOW.
Is it Dr. J, now 66? Or have the past three years taken juuuuust enough off his hops to the point that he can no longer throw a ball down?
Should we be thinking about someone a little younger?
Michael Jordan could still dunk at 50 (three years ago), and I have little doubt that he will be dunking for a while. But he’s almost certainly not the oldest former player who can currently dunk.
Or should we be thinking about someone a little older? A common name brought up last night was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who is now 69 years old. Kareem is nearly 7-2 without shoes (seven inches taller than Dr. J) and has a 7-5 wingspan. He needs far less of a jump to get to the rim than Dr. J. and many others, and outside of some serious health scares over the years appears to have stayed in good athletic condition for his age.
Maybe it’s someone even older — someone who wasn’t even a “name” player in the NBA. Most likely it would be someone tall like Kareem who stayed in good shape (and still has good knees), as opposed to an athletic shooting guard/small forward type who was a great leaper in his day.
What I do know is this: 1) I would absolutely watch a retired NBA player dunk competition, broken into age category, that would help settle this question. 2) Dunking, even on a shorter hoop, is an amazing feeling.