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Howard Soars in Spectacular Dunk Contest

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By Tom Withers
Associated Press
Saturday, February 16, 2008; 11:50 PM

NEW ORLEANS -- Look, up in the sky! It's a bird. It's a plane. It's Dwight Howard -- super slam dunk champion. A red cape trailing behind him, Orlando's man of steel made like Superman and won perhaps the best dunk contest, definitely the most creative, in NBA history to close a memorable All-Star Saturday.

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Using a variety of props as well as teammate Jameer Nelson, Howard scored perfect 50s from judges on his first two dunks before the contest was turned over to fan voting for the first time in the final round.

Fans, too, picked the 6-foot-11 Howard, who dispelled an old dunking myth: Big men can fly high.

"It's really for the big men," Howard said. "Everybody always says, big men can't jump and big men don't look good dunking. I just tried to add a little bit of my personality. With me being so tall, I knew it was going to be tough. I tried to play to the crowd and have fun."

In any other year, Minnesota's Gerald Green would have easily walked away with his second straight dunking crown, but he was upstaged by the amazingly athletic Howard, whose performance has to rank up there with anything Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter or even tiny Spud Webb ever did above the basket.

The dunk contest, bland for so many years as the game's high risers seemed to run out of ideas, was freshened up by some of the most creative aerial assaults in memory.

Howard, Green, Toronto's Jamario Moon and Memphis' Rudy Gay all used tape, ladders, teammates and even a tasty dessert to show their stuff.

"I think the dunk contest is back," said Howard, who was disappointed when he failed to make it out of the first round last year. "I don't think people want to see the same old dunks. They want to see something else, see some spice."

Howard started things off with a dunk he has been practicing for two years. Standing on the baseline, he tossed the ball off the reverse side of the backboard, caught it with both hands, and after peering through the glass at the rim, dunked left-handed.

The crowd roared and a celebrity panel of judges including Magic Johnson, Karl Malone as well as Dominique Wilkins, Julius Erving and Darryl Dawkins _ three of the game's most famed dunkers _ all gave him perfect 10s.

Not to be outdone, Green tried to blow the field away. Literally.

After Timberwolves teammate Rashad McCants climbed up and placed a cupcake with a single candle in it on the back of the rim, Green soared in and puffed out the flame before throwing down a nasty left-hander.


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