The other day, I was working on answering some questions I had in regards to all-time NBA dunk leaders. I was a little surprised to find that these stats are actually quite difficult to find.
I sorted it out, but it took me a little longer than it should. So here I want to show you how to find NBA dunk stats easily and efficiently.
You should note, reliable stats on dunks only go back to 1996. It’s a bummer. There are ways to get at some unofficial older stats, but that involves a lot of manual hunting, and the results are mostly unreliable.
Still, with these techniques, you can get back to 1996 pretty easily. And if you need to go further, well, it can be done. It’s just a lot harder. I’ll explain in the last section.
NBA Dunk Stats
The NBA keeps official dunk stats on their site, dating back to 1996. You have to do some clicking, and they’re not organized well, but they’re there.
To find them, start by going to nba.com/stats. Click a player to enter their stats page. you should see a dropdown that says ‘Profile’. Click that dropdown and select ‘Splits’, like in the screenshot here.
A second dropdown should now appear, just to the right of the first that says ‘Traditional’. Click that dropdown and select ‘Shooting’ from the resulting list.
Honestly, none of this really makes sense, so don’t feel bad if you think it sounds crazy. But it works, and the result is an intricate set of stats that covers all kinds of shooting categories. It’s pretty amazing actually, take a look around.
But to get to the dunks, just scroll down to the subsection titled ‘Shot Type Summary’ to find a stat line labeled ‘Dunks’. If you’re having trouble finding it, just click cmd+F and type ‘dunk’ to search the page for the term.
This is your dunk stat line for the current season. It shows makes, attempts and percentage. You can go back to the top and change the season if you want. You can also segment to specific parts of the season. Or you can scroll down further to find deeper breakdowns. It’s wild, you can break it down to alley oop dunks, slam dunks, running dunks, etc.
Dunk Stats on Basketball Reference
Basketball Reference also maintains dunks stats, and they appear to be very consistent with the NBA stats. Presumably, Basketball Reference is getting their dunk stats from the NBA. Now, because their dunk stats are organized slightly differently, it may be easier to find what you’re looking for there.
To find them, head over to the player directory on basketball-reference.com and select the player you’re interested in. You can also use the search bar to find your player.
To find dunks, head down to the shooting subsection and you should find a column labeled Dunks. Here you should find dunk stat lines for the given player’s entire career after 1996 (when dunks started getting counted in shooting stats).
In addition, you can view player stats by season, and this includes shooting stats. This is also a difficult line to find, but I have a special link for you, check it out. If the link is still valid, you should see some columns for dunks. Click the ‘#’ under the dunks section and you can order the spreadsheet by number of dunks. If you change the year in the URL, you can view other seasons.
What about NBA Dunk Stats Before 1996
So, officially, they don’t exist. Well, that’s mostly true. A bunch of interesting stats, including Dunk stats, were added to NBA official stat lines for the 1996-97 season.
But it’s not like dunks just didn’t exist before then, or that nobody was counting them. In fact, plenty of statisticians were keeping track. One in particular is quite noteworthy.
His name is Harvey Pollack, and he is a Philadelphia basketball legend that you really don’t hear near enough about. Harvey worked for Philadelphia Warriors before they joined the NBL. When the 76ers filled the gap left when the Warriors left to California, he picked right up with the new team.
Pollack was there at the birth of the NBA, and he stayed connected to the 76ers for the majority of his 93 years on this planet. When he passed in 2015, he was the last living employee of the NBA’s inaugural season.
And Pollack was obsessed with stats. He maintained and collated obscure stats on a ton of weird metrics for many of his years with the league. In the middle of the 1966-67 season, he crammed 24 pages worth of these stats into the first 76ers Media Guide.
The Sixers Media Guide would become something of a league tradition. Every year, Harvey and his team, which eventually came to include his son Ronnie, would parse thousands of box scores to put together the most intricate and meticulous collection of NBA stats in existence. By the 90’s, the guide had ballooned to 200+ pages. It’s still published today
Back to the topic at hand. Pollack’s guides are the most reliable source of NBA dunk stats before 1996. It’s not particularly easy to find these guides anymore. The older ones can get a little pricey on the collectible market. But you can find dunk stats in these books that are reliable, and not available anywhere else.
Official NBA dunk stats are just not complete. So we need to be wary of making conclusions here. There are plenty of sites out there that appear to be waving random figures around as facts.
But the honest truth is, we only have strong data on dunking back to 1996 and I’ve found evidence that a number of the dunk records based on this data, and often presented as fact, are provably false.