Many consider him one of the most talented players in the history of the NBA; he is widely acknowledged as one of the game's best dunkers. While Connie Hawkins, "Jumping" Johnny Green, Elgin Baylor, Jim Pollard, and Gus Johnson performed spectacular dunks before Erving's time, Erving brought the practice into the mainstream. His signature dunk was the "slam" dunk, since incorporated into the vernacular and basic skill set of the game in the same manner as the "crossover" dribble and the "no look" pass. Before Erving, dunking was a practice most commonly used by the big men (usually standing close to the hoop) to show their brutal strength which was seen as style over substance, even unsportsmanlike, by many purists of the game. However, the way Erving utilized the dunk more as a high-percentage shot made at the end of maneuvers generally starting well away from the basket and not necessarily a "show of force" helped to make the shot an acceptable tactic, especially in trying to avoid a blocked shot. Although the slam dunk is still widely used as a show of power, a method of intimidation, and a way to fire up a team (and spectators), Erving demonstrated that there can be great artistry and almost balletic style to slamming the ball into the hoop, particularly after a launch several feet from that target.
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