Do You Have To Touch The Rim For It To Be A Dunk?

Have you seen the insane Blake Griffin dunk when he was elbowed and pushed but still made the dunk?

But the real question is – can it really be considered a dunk?

After all, he didn’t even touch the rim!

In basketball, a dunk doesn’t mean that a player needs to touch the rim. Dunks without touching the rim can be counted as long as the player elevates high enough and throws down the ball to the basket. But there’s actually a guideline that lets you know what’s considered a no-contact dunk or not.

In this post, we’ll explain to you what exactly a no-contact dunk is and what separates it from other shots.

Do you have to touch the rim for it to be a dunk?

A lot of people seem to debate what a dunk truly is. Today, we’re going to tell you why exactly you don’t need to touch the rim to call it a dunk.

1. No definition says it

If you want to be technical, then let’s get technical.  Here are the definitions of dunk according to the most trusted dictionaries:

Merriam-Webster: to throw (a basketball) into the basket from above the rim.

Cambridge Dictionary: If you dunk a basketball, you score by jumping high enough to throw the ball down through the goal.

Britannica: to jump high in the air and push (the ball) down through the basket.

Nowhere does it say in these definitions that you have to touch the rim for it to be considered a dunk.

Even FIBA says that a dunk occurs when the ball is forced downwards in a basket with one or both hands.

All these definitions technically don’t say that you’ll have to touch the rim. 

2. It has the same mechanics as a dunk

Let’s leave the technical definitions for a second and imagine the shot.

Normally, a dunk happens when a player jumps and forces the ball through the rim with one or both hands. He’ll then touch the rim as he goes down.

But what happens when there’s a no-contact dunk? It’s basically the same except that the player won’t touch the rim.

So, we can conclude that they have the same mechanics:

  • A player needs to jump high enough
  • A player will need to force the ball through the basket

3. It doesn’t belong in any other shot category

If it’s not a dunk, then what is it?

Let’s be honest here for a second. It’s obviously not a layup since you’re not laying the ball up. You’re forcing it down.

Then could it be a teardrop? No, as most definitions define a teardrop as a high-arching shot.

Then a dunk is the only logical category that it falls in – which it REALLY is!

What Qualifies as a No-Contact Dunk?

Now we can say that dunks that don’t touch the rim can still be considered as such.

But where do we draw the line?

How would we know which are considered dunks? Can you just throw the ball from far away and it’s already a dunk?

Of course NOT!

That’s why to avoid any confusion, here are some guidelines. These are the ways to identify a no-contact dunk:

  • If a player jumped high enough that he could touch the rim if he wanted to or if he was closed enough
  • If a player threw the ball downward using one or both his hands
  • If a player didn’t lay it up or used a tear-drop shot (delicate throw)

With these guidelines, you should have a clear idea of what constitutes a no-contact dunk.

Where does the confusion come from?

Dunks aren’t really an important stat in basketball compared to points, assists and rebounds.

They’re merely used to identify the type of shot the player has made. Sure, you could argue that most leagues count the dunks of players.

So, some fans are actually upset that some no-contact dunks are called dunks.

That’s why they’re commenting on players’ videos that those dunks aren’t actually dunks.

But now that we know that players don’t need to touch the rim to dunk, hopefully, this calms everyone down.

NBA Players Who did the No-Contact Dunk

There have been plenty of NBA players who did the no-contact dunk in game or on dunk contests. But only a handful stand out from the rest.

Here are the most memorable ones:

1. Blake Griffin

The Clippers Lob City was a different era of basketball. At the center of it all was the number one pick Blake Griffin.

But what’s actually amazing is that Blake didn’t just do the no-contact dunk one time in game, but a couple of times!

There was one where he did it against OKC while being pushed away. The second one was against Boston and he hung in the air for a long time.  

2. Deandre Jordan

The Clippers were known as the Lob City for a good reason. They had a lot of talented passers and dunkers on that team!

One of their go-to dunkers was Deandre Jordan. Aside from his monster dunk against Brandon Knight, he also threw down a couple of no-contact dunks in game!

One was against the Spurs and the other was against Milwaukee Bucks. He throws down his dunks with such authority that opponents can’t help but fall.

3. Dwight Howard

Although Dwight Howard did it in a dunk contest, it’s still an impressive and iconic feat.

He wore a Superman cape and launched just after the free throw line and threw down the ball hard.

Why do Players do a Non-Contact Dunk?

Normal dunks are done by jumping 10 feet in the air and throwing down the ball inside the basket.

They can either do it with one or both hands but that means their hands can be as high up as 11 feet.

But if players can dunk normally, why would they even dunk without touching the rim?

There’s only ONE main reason why they do it. 

Basketball players dunk without touching the rim because they’re being blocked by the defender.

Such is the case with most no-contact dunks in the NBA. For instance, Blake Griffin was being elbowed and fouled hard by the defender so his elevation was cut short.

Still, he was able to chuck the ball through the basket by throwing it down.

But there are also instances when players would dunk barely grazing the rim with their hands. When they do this, it’s usually to save energy.


Dunks are one of the most electrifying shots in basketball. Most professional leagues like the NBA sees numerous dunks per game.

But we shouldn’t discount dunks that don’t touch the rim. So long as they satisfy the conditions for a no-contact dunk, they’re good to go!

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