Robinson stands tall as slam-dunk champ

Wade, Nowitzki win other skills contests

February 19, 2006|By FRED MITCHELL | FRED MITCHELL,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

HOUSTON -- Convincing many of the NBA's elite All-Stars to participate in the league's marquee promotional event hasn't been, well, a slam-dunk the last few years.

While guys like Dominique Wilkins, Michael Jordan and Julius Erving once spiced up All-Star weekend, this year's dunk masters included defending champion Josh Smith along with Nate Robinson, Andre Iguodala and Hakim Warrick.

The New York Knicks' 5-foot-9 Robinson prevailed over the Philadelphia 76ers' Iguodala. His signature dunk was a leap over 5-7 Spud Webb, the 1986 dunk champ.

The league's new collective-bargaining agreement includes language that requires the top players to participate in one of the Saturday night events. Thus, more recognizable names such as LeBron James, Steve Nash, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul chose to skip the dunk contest for the more intricate, if less spectacular, Skills Challenge.

The four players competed in the double-round timed obstacle course in dribbling, passing and shooting.

Wade defeated James in the final of the event with an impressive time of 26.1 seconds.

"The passes were pretty easy, but the shot was a tough one," the Miami Heat's Wade said.

The Three-point Shootout featured defending champion Quentin Richardson, Dirk Nowitzki, Ray Allen, Chauncey Billups, Gilbert Arenas and Jason Terry.

Arenas, Nowitzki and Allen advanced to the finals, and the Dallas Mavericks' Nowitzki took the trophy with a score of 18. Arenas had 16 and Allen 15.

"It's a little bit different shooting off the [ball] rack," Nowitzki said. "It's totally different. We really didn't have much time to practice, but I am just glad to be here. It's all about having fun."

In another event, Tony Parker, Steve Kerr and San Antonio Star Kendra Wecker won the Shooting Stars competition in record time, hitting six shots from various spots in 25.1 seconds.

There were four teams in the event, all composed of a current and former NBA player and one WNBA player.

The competition also included big-name participants from Houston (Tracy McGrady, Clyde Drexler and Sheryl Swoopes) Los Angeles (Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson and Lisa Leslie) and Phoenix (Shawn Marion, Dan Majerle and Kelly Miller).

Note -- The NBA might not stand in the way if the SuperSonics ask to leave Seattle, and it doesn't sound like the league will do anything to stop bad playoff draws like the one that appears imminent this season. Commissioner David Stern touched on both topics during his annual address, and he also reiterated that he sees nothing preventing the Hornets from returning to New Orleans after next season. As for the SuperSonics' future in Seattle - that one sounds a little up in the air. "I fully expect to be visiting Seattle in the relatively near future to weigh in on that subject and I'm quite on record as saying that Seattle has what is the least competitive lease in the league, which is a decided economic disadvantage," Stern said. Stern and retiring deputy commissioner Russ Granik also dealt with questions regarding the playoff format. Though Dallas and San Antonio have the two best records in the West, they could be headed to a matchup in the second round of the postseason. The Mavericks (41-11) would have the No. 1 seed if the season ended today, but the Spurs (40-12) would only be fourth because the teams play in the same division. The three division winners in each conference get the top three seeds. Also, Stern said an exhibition was planned for Monterrey, Mexico, in the future.

Fred Mitchell writes for the Chicago Tribune. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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