With the news coming out today that the NFL is banning the crossbar dunk celebration, it's high-time that we pay homage to one of the best touchdown celebrations the NFL has ever known. Here's a look at some of the NFL's best dunkers, as well as a look back at where it all began.
The Pioneer: Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson
It's no surprise that some of the best touchdown celebrations have come from some of the NFL's biggest personalities. Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson didn't earn the nickname "Hollywood," but rather gave it to himself after an appearance in the football film "Semi-Tough" and several commercials convinced him he ultimately wanted to be a movie star after his football days were over (his career took a different turn.) Henderson was a Dallas Cowboys linebacker during the late 1970s, and boldly proclaimed that his touchdown dunk celebration would make him "famous" after he performed it in a 1977 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Henderson intercepted a Gary Huff pass, took it 79 yards to the house and slammed the ball over the crossbar. It didn't take the fad long to catch on, as Tampa Bay Bucs linebacker Richard Wood attempted a dunk in the same game after returning a Tony Dorsett fumble for a touchdown. Henderson also allegedly attempted a dunk two years prior after he returned a kickoff for a touchdown, but it wasn't a clean attempt. This one, however, kickstarted a beloved part of NFL history, and we have the gold-toothed Henderson to thank.
The Best: Tony Gonzalez
While he attended the University of California, Tony Gonzalez was a two-sport athlete in both football and basketball and was even part of Cal's run to the Sweet Sixteen in the 1997 NCAA Tournament. So it's no surprise that in the illustrious history of the crossbar dunk, it was Gonzalez who made sure the celebration remained in the public's eye during his NFL career. Gonzalez dunked on pretty much every crossbar in the NFL over his 17-year career, but his final dunk came in Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints (see above.) Gonzalez thought about dunking at times last season, but perhaps he sensed that his patented move was coming to an end. That, or 17 years of dunking finally caught up to him. He even weighed in on Twitter today to bid his move farewell. It truly is the end of an era.
The Flashiest: Calvin Johnson
The crossbar really didn't stand a chance when Megatron eyed it up. At 6-foot-5, with an almost 43-inch vertical leap, the crossbar was basically a hurdle to Megatron. Over the years he made a habit of exhibiting his dominance on the football field by making it look easy to dunk over the crossbar. If only that were the case.
The Fiercest: Jimmy Graham
While Johnson made dunking look easy, no player struck more fear into the inanimate hearts of crossbars like Jimmy Graham. Graham played college basketball at the University of Miami, and since entering the NFL in 2010 he's set his sights on destroying every crossbar in his path. Look no further than Week 12 of last season when Graham actually tilted the entire goal posts after such a celebration. The full video is above. The game even had to be delayed momentarily while the grounds crew realigned the posts. Perhaps it's for the best that Graham's favorite celebration has been stymied by the NFL. I'd hate to see what happened when someone tried to one-up Graham's goal post bending act.
The Improviser: Vernon Davis
Up next on the list is Vernon Davis, who has had his share of struggles completing the crossbar dunk. The video above illustrates his rather hilarious attempt, in case you had forgotten. However, credit should be given where credit is due, as Davis found ways around the crossbar dunk with his own unique flair.
The Finisher: Malcolm Smith
Malcolm Smith was a relatively unheralded player for the Seahawks who took home the Super Bowl XLVIII MVP trophy. Many thought Smith might become the next Dexter Jackson, being only remembered for his Super Bowl performance, but that won't be the case now that Smith holds the distinction of being the last NFL player to "legally" use the crossbar dunk as a celebration. Smith sent the move out in style by dunking in Super Bowl XLVIII after returning a Peyton Manning interception for a touchdown.
BONUS! White Men Can Jump: Drew Brees
Click HERE for the full video.
Feel someone was slighted by not being included on this brief history of the crossbar dunk? Send your thoughts to @AlexGelhar to keep the discussion going. It might no longer have a place on Sundays, but at least the crossbar dunk will forever have a place in our hearts.