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Smith's Dunk Title Is a U-'Nique Experience

Associated Press
Monday, February 21, 2005; Page D06

DENVER -- Josh Smith went retro to win the NBA's dunk contest.

Smith scored a 50 on his first dunk of the finals wearing the jersey of former Atlanta star Dominique Wilkins, then had another perfect score on his second dunk in his own Hawks jersey to beat Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire on Saturday night.

Hawks' Josh Smith, who later wore the jersey of his idol, Dominique Wilkins, soars over Nuggets' Kenyon Martin to earn a perfect score on his second shot of the first round of the dunk competition. (John Gress -- Reuters)

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"He didn't know I was going to do that, but I was going to do a dunk symbolizing what he did in his previous years," said Smith, Atlanta's first-round pick in 2004 after making the jump from high school. "He was real excited and shocked that I would do that."

Wilkins, a two-time dunk champion, handed the mantel and his jersey over just before Smith's first dunk of the final round, and the rookie didn't disappoint. Looking a whole lot like 'Nique -- other than being left-handed -- Smith leaned in for a windmill dunk that left the backboard and rim shaking and earned him a perfect score.

Smith switched back to his No. 5 Hawks jersey and earned another 50 off a reverse-spin 360 -- a la Vince Carter at the 2000 dunk contest in Oakland, Calif.

"I think the whole jersey thing kind of made everybody a little nervous," said Wilkins, who won the dunk contest in 1985 and 1990. "Like I said, he shocked me with that one. That was outstanding."

But it wasn't the only outstanding part.

Though former Nuggets player Chris Andersen drew some boos after needing eight tries to finish his first dunk, Smith and Stoudemire got the crowd going with their second dunks of the first round.

Smith started things off, earning a 50 by taking a pass from Denver's Kenyon Martin, who was seated in a chair, and throwing it down with a vicious windmill dunk after soaring over Martin.

Stoudemire did him one better on the next dunk, passing the ball off the backboard to teammate Suns teammate Steve Nash, who headed the ball back to Stoudemire for a one-handed 360 dunk.

"That was a good dunk by Amare and Steve, and I knew I had to pull something out of my hat to get by and win," Smith said.

Smith did and it prevented the Suns from completing a sweep on All-Star Saturday.

Phoenix's Quentin Richardson won the three-point shooting contest, making his final nine shots of the finals after opening with an air ball to edge Philadelphia's Kyle Korver by one point.

Richardson appeared to have no chance at catching Korver after missing his first four shots, but he hit four of five money balls -- worth two points each -- and had the strong finish to close with 19 points.

"In the first round, I felt like I was shooting a little too hard, so the first shot [in the second round] I tried to shoot softer and it got a little too soft," Richardson said. "Then I got it going."

Denver's Voshon Lenard, who hasn't played this season since tearing his Achilles' tendon in the season opener, had the final chance to pass Richardson but couldn't come through. The leader after the first round with 17 points, Lenard needed to make all five shots in the final rack, but missed the first one and finished with 16 points.

Nash won the skills challenge, completing the final dribbling, passing and shooting course nearly 12 seconds faster than Denver's Earl Boykins.

Nash was the leader after the first round at 31.4 seconds, then completed the course in 25.8 the second time around. His only mistake in the final was missing his first chest pass, but he got the second one and breezed through the rest of the skills after Boykins needed four tries to hit a three-pointer.

Shawn Marion, Diana Taurasi and Dan Majerle made it 3 for 3 for Phoenix by winning the shooting stars competition, making shots from six spots in just 28 seconds. Majerle capped the competition by hitting his second shot from half court to help Phoenix beat Denver by 16 seconds.

"It's fun -- we even got Thunder Dan back in the equation," Nash said. "It's great for the organization."

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