Watch any Corey Maggette highlight tape, and there are bound to be a lot of dunks. The 6’6” wing had the perfect body to throw down any dunk imaginable during his prime.
In a game dominated by amazing athletes, Corey Maggette stood out amongst his peers at every level. He was a man amongst boys in high school, came into college as a dominant force on the game’s premier team, and overpowered NBA players at times for 14 seasons.
His one season at Duke went by quickly, but he left plenty of highlights for fans to enjoy years later. Out of all of his dunks, three stand out above the rest over 20 years later.
Florida Backboard Slap
To say the 1998-1999 Duke Blue Devils were dominant would be an understatement. They lost one regular-season game in Alaska against Cincinnati, and that was on a last-second play. They had an average margin of victory of 28 points per game heading into a December matchup with the Florida Gators at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The coaching staff can say all the right things to try to keep players motivated, but Duke was great, and they knew they were great. At times, the team would come up with games within the game to help push forward.
Midway through the second half, Corey Maggette had a breakaway dunk for a two-hand slam. The game was already pretty much wrapped up, and Maggette wanted to test the limits with an emphatic dunk.
The dunk was delivered with plenty of power, but it is what happened after that made it so memorable. Maggette pulled himself up and slapped the backboard before coming down. Many people were quick to label the play as immature and selfish, as it did lead to a technical foul. Once the story behind the dunk came out, people could make a little more sense of why he did that.
Sophomore Elton Brand would later say that the dunk related to a case of some mild rookie hazing. Before the game against Florida, Brand came up with this idea to put a big handprint on the backboard. He would tell Maggette that one of the Florida players made the handprint, and how it was disrespectful of them to do that.
As Brand’s story goes, he then told the freshman to clean the backboard off. Maggette started thinking of ways to do it, but Brand asked him to take care of it in the game. The only way Maggette was going to reach those heights would be to dunk and pull himself up on the rim a bit to slap it. Brand, and all the other players who knew about it, could not believe Maggette found a way to meet the demands.
Was it a bit excessive? Sure, but it also illustrates in a lot of ways just how dominant that Duke team was. They had to come up with new things to try during games to stay motivated, even against really good teams like Florida.
Dunking on the rivals
The dunk against Florida instantly became memorable to fans everywhere. Even though he received a technical foul for the dunk, it did not change the outcome, so no one was too upset about it.
A breakaway dunk at home against a non-conference opponent certainly fired up Cameron Indoor Stadium, but dunking on a rival feels different. Dunking on the main rival, in their gym, can silence a home crowd and leave players just as satisfied as home cheers.
In the final game of the regular season, Duke was in the middle of blowing out North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Maggette had an isolation opportunity on the right-wing against a defender and put a pair of crossovers together to open up an opportunity for a two-handed jam. It was not quite as emphatic as the dunk against Florida, but he pulled himself up and slapped the backboard to add insult to injury again.
Maggette received a technical foul for the dunk, but again, it was at the point in the game where the result was not in doubt. Coaches are always going to be against picking up technicals, but players and fans were fired up by his dunk to help seal the victory.
What makes the dunk so memorable is that he put together a combination of moves to get to the basket. In the college game, there are not nearly as many isolation opportunities for players to take advantage of defenders like that. This type of play showed just how great he could be as a professional, breaking down defenders and getting to the basket with a quick first step and explosion off the ground.
Sweet 16 follow up dunk
Heading into the NCAA tournament as the number one overall seed, expectations were very high for the Duke Blue Devils. On the first weekend of the tournament, they cruised to a pair of 41 point victories. The second week proved to be a little more challenging, although they pulled away from Southwest Missouri State and Temple in the end.
The Temple matchup was the toughest opponent up to that time in the tournament. Duke was up by ten towards the end of the first half when William Avery shot a contested three-pointer. His shot was off the mark, but Maggette came soaring in from the right side to follow things up with a two-hand jam over multiple Temple players.
What happened to Corey Maggette?
The young NBA star stormed the scene the same time another California legend Kobe Bryant and we’re all super impressed with Maggette’s signature power and his love for hanging on the rim a little was there with this dunk as well, but he did not receive a technical foul for this dunk. That is because he not only got off the rim fairly quickly compared to the other two, but there were players underneath him to justify hanging on the rim. The rules state that if a player needs to protect themselves from landing, they can hang on the rim.
The game ultimately ended up as a 21-point blowout, but it was still relatively close at the time. Since this came in the tournament, many consider this to be Maggette’s most memorable moment when the games really mattered.
Where is Maggette in All-Time Duke Dunking History?
Duke’s rich basketball history has seen several athletic players come and go over the years. While the team seems to bring in new highflyers every year these days, there was not as much competition when Maggette hit campus in 1988 and was still going strong at 31 in the 2010-2011 NBA Season.
Many put Grant Hill, Robert Brickey, Grant Hill, Gene Banks, and Johnny Dawkins as the best dunkers in Duke history until Maggette’s arrival, and he proved to be just as talented as them. With just one year in Durham, he does not have the numbers of these players, but the three highlights above show that he was a special athlete.
Since Maggette, Gerald Henderson, Dahntay Jones, Zion Williamson, Cassius Stanley, Mason Plumlee, and Jay Williams are just a few names thrown into the mix as well. Many believe that Williamson solidified himself as the top dunker in Duke history with all of his highlights and now he’s crushing it with the BIG3 and has been a role model for youths in sports in Southern California. However, Maggette still belongs in the discussion when looking at the history of Duke basketball.