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As much as we love the NBA Dunk Contest, it will simply never compare to the exhilaration of a well-executed in-game poster dunk. The brief moment of anticipation when you see the player load up, the hesitation when you think for a split-second, "there's no way he's actually going to finish this," and finally, the thrilling explosion when the ball is thrown through the rim.

I've been a connoisseur of dunks for the better part of my time on this Earth. I religiously re-watched my recorded VHS versions (yeah, yeah ... laugh it up, Gen Z) of Vince Carter, Steve Francis and Tracy McGrady's legendary 2000 NBA Dunk Contest and James White's 2001 McDonald's All-American Dunk Contest. In 2004, I jumped out of the camping-style folding chair in my college dorm room when Jason Richardson went between-the-legs off the glass, forgetting that my Minolta digital camera was in my lap -- it shattered upon impact with the hardwood floor, but I have no regrets. I gawked at the epic 2016 showdown between Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon alone on my tablet in a Paris AirBnB at 4 a.m., while the rest of the family slept.

This history is why my reaction to Ja Morant's face-melting poster dunk against the Indiana Pacers on Saturday was so telling. When the Memphis Grizzlies guard seemingly bounced off a trampoline, cocked his fully-extended arm behind his head and posterized poor Jalen Smith, I didn't scream. I didn't jump. I didn't spit out my adult beverage.

The dunk actually, literally, left me speechless. I leaned forward, gesticulated wildly with my fists and looked around my empty house to see if any non-existent spectators saw what I just saw. I was flabbergasted, but my entire post-dunk celebration was on mute -- a silent movie. Shortly afterward I started shouting, going into Slack and my group messages to relay what had just happened. When my wife got home from work, I showed her the dunk about 50 times, using the convenient "every angle" post from the NBA.

Dunk of the Year? How about best in-game dunk of all time?

Contest dunks, obviously, have the highest degree of difficulty. But the element of surprise from an unbelievable dunk in the middle of an NBA game is impossible to top. When thinking about the best ever, we have to make a couple caveats: First, wide-open fast breaks don't count. Guys have done 360s, gone between the legs, done windmills when alone in transition -- sorry, that's just too much like a dunk contest. The dunks that Morant is up against must be during genuine game action. Second, these are NBA dunks only, so unfortunately Carter literally dunking over Frederic Weis in the 2000 Olympics won't make the list.

Here are some of the best in-game dunks of all time (I wouldn't dare say these are ALL of the best), and you can judge for yourself whether you think Morant's tops them.

Julius Erving (1983)

Might as well start with a classic. Dr. J's "rock the baby" dunk is one of the most iconic in league history, and has really never been duplicated. Not only was it one of the smoothest dunks we've seen, but it also came against the reigning champs and an all-time defender in Michael Cooper. It was punctuated by the incredible call from GOAT NBA broadcaster Chick Hearn, who came up with "rocks the baby, and put it to sleep" on the fly. Doesn't get much better.

Dominique Wilkins (1984)

His nickname was the "Human Highlight Film" for a reason. There are plenty of potential Dominique submissions, but this one gets the nomination for sheer power and creativity. Not only does 'Nique spin away from a double team, but he also dunks (basically sideways) on Hall of Famer Bob Lanier, who didn't speak to Wilkins for nine years afterward.

Tom Chambers (1989)

Poor Mark Jackson. While playing for the Phoenix Suns, the 6-foot-10 Chambers rose ... and rose ... and rose ... until he was about elbow level with the rim, and threw down a vicious two-handed poster over the future NBA head coach and ESPN analyst. The side angle best shows just how high Chambers got, but he might get some micro-points deducted because of a possible boost after hitting Jackson.

Michael Jordan (1991)

You knew MJ had to be here somewhere. This dunk speaks for itself, but it gets some extra juice because it was a playoff game, and because of how Jordan repeatedly devastated the Knicks over the course of his career.

Shawn Kemp (1992)

Oh baby, the Lister Blister. This dunk has everything: The cuff, the poster, the point. Add in the fact that it came during a playoff game? Kemp is up there with the best of them.

John Starks (1993)

The Bulls beat the Knicks a lot in the 90s, but Starks will always have this dunk over Horace Grant and (kind of) Michael Jordan. A right-handed player, Starks elevates and contorts his body to throw down a sick lefty dunk in the closing seconds of an Eastern Conference Finals game. This is one of the standout moments in Knicks history.

Ricky Davis (1999)

This is a deep cut, but deserves more love than it gets. Look at how high Davis is! His head is literally at the rim. When it comes to put-back dunks and sheer athleticism, this is hard to beat.

Vince Carter (1999)

Carter took the NBA by storm en route to winning Rookie of the Year in 1998-99, and this is one of the dunks that made us realize we weren't dealing with an ordinary being. This would have legitimately won a dunk contest in the 90s, and he did it mid-game in traffic. Absolutely filthy.

Vince Carter (2005)

Plenty of Carter dunks to choose from, but he ranked this as his personal favorite, so who are we to disagree? First he hits the smooth behind-the-back dribble to evade Jason Williams, then he reaches back and dunks all over Alonzo Mourning, one of the best shot-blockers in NBA history. If you're choosing the best dunker ever, V.C. has to be at the top of the list.

Baron Davis (2007)

The lasting memory of the "We Believe" Warriors is probably most similar to Morant's dunk aesthetically. Davis cocks it back and unleashes over 6-foot-9 Andrei Kirilenko, sending the Oracle Arena crowd into madness.

Blake Griffin (2010 and 2012)

We couldn't pick just one. First Griffin created a new verb when he "Mozgoved" the 7-foot-1 Russian center. Then, in the very next season, he possibly outdid himself by destroying another big man, Kendrick Perkins. Some will argue that these aren't technically dunks because Griffin doesn't touch the rim. Get out of here with that. When you're high enough to throw the ball downward through the net, you can come back to me with those arguments. Griffin has two extremely impressive candidates for best in-game dunk of all time.

Gerald Green (2012)

Green is one of the best dunkers of all time, and this may be his crowning in-game masterpiece. Yes, it's in transition, but there's enough defenders in the area for this to qualify. To even think of doing a windmill in this situation is pure lunacy, but I guess that's what goes through your head when you can get eye-level with the rim.

LeBron James (2012)

The King has plenty of NBA accolades to his name -- he's about to become the league's all-time scorer, for one -- but he also is one of the few players to ever jump over a whole damn human being for a dunk. John Lucas III never knew what hit him, because LeBron never actually hit him. He just went over him, clearing him like a traffic cone on the way to this alley-oop finish.

DeAndre Jordan (2013)

Griffin deservedly gets most of the flowers, but D.J. is right up there with him for best in-game dunks. If some of the dunks on this list are ballets, this one is a monster truck rally -- pure, unadulterated carnage. It led to countless memes of poor Brandon Knight getting pounded into the floor and into outer space. He even poked fun at himself after the catastrophic event. This was the "Lob City" Clippers at their finest.

Giannis Antetokounmpo (2018)

Remember when LeBron jumped over a person? Well, Giannis jumped over an even bigger person and made it look way too casual. There's a reason they call him the Greek Freak.

Aaron Gordon (2022)

Just to throw in a recent one, Gordon gets extra points for context here. Not only did this take place during a Christmas Day showcase game, but it also came in the final seconds of a one-point game in overtime. When you body somebody one one of the most crucial possessions of a game, that takes some confidence.

As I said, this is by no means a comprehensive list. Feel free to hit me up on Twitter @ColinCBSSports with the dunks I forgot. No matter where you place Morant, he's certainly joined the pantheon of in-game NBA dunks.