ATLANTA, Feb. 8 (Ticker) -- Jason Richardson defended his Sprite Rising Stars Slam Dunk title at NBA All-Star Weekend on Saturday night, using an extremely difficult and acrobatic slam to impress the most impressive panel of judges in the 18-year history of the competition.

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The crowd went wild when Richardson delivered the winning dunk.
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The high-flying guard of the Golden State Warriors relied on a series of dunks that began with high ball tosses into the air. None was more spectacular than his final attempt, which displayed balance and defied gravity.

From the right baseline, Richardson tossed the ball in the air and caught the bounce while going into his leap. With his back to the rim, he put the ball through his legs with his right hand and dunked over his head with his left hand.

"The last dunk that I did, I tried to take what J.R. Rider started and threw it in reverse," he said. "Instead of going front to back, I went back to front. I think it was a little different and it won it for me."

It also brought a roar from the crowd at Philips Arena as Richardson pounded his chest. The judges -- all former Slam Dunk champions -- gave him a perfect score of 50, enough to inch him past Seattle swingman Desmond Mason, 96-93.

"Yeah, I knew I had it when I threw it," Richardson said. "I knew I could get it. It was a pretty good dunk."

"I knew it was a 50," Mason said. "I knew he had to get a 46 to win or tie. He pulled it off. That's what you do."

The win affirmed Richardson's status as the game's best open-court dunker and capped another big All-Star Saturday. Hours earlier, he scored a record-tying 31 points in leading the Sophomores to victory in the got milk? Rookie Challenge.

As a rookie last year, Richardson won the MVP of the Rookie Challenge and the Slam Dunk title, defeating Sacramento's Gerald Wallace. He became just the second player to repeat as champion, joining the legendary Michael Jordan.

"It's an honor to be only the second player to win it back-to-back," Richardson said. "I know Michael was the only guy to do it. To be in that category with a man who has done so much for this league and probably the best player that's ever played the game, it's an honor."

"I thought tonight's Slam Dunk Contest was very exciting," Mason said. "It was probably the best, especially in the end with the showdown."

Mason, the 2001 champion, also used a through-the-legs maneuver in the final round to tally a 50. His second dunk replaced a miss and was a bit ordinary as he glided left to right and "rocked the baby," receiving a 43 and leaving the door open for Richardson.

"I put my best dunks out there," Mason said. "I missed it. I had to make my second dunk, so I made it less difficult."

The discerning panel included famed dunkers Jordan, Julius Erving, Dominique Wilkins, Spud Webb and Dee Brown. Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire and New Jersey's Richard Jefferson were eliminated after the first round.

"To have (Jordan) as one of the judges up there, it was a dream come true," Richardson said.

Richardson advanced with a hanging 360 to close the first round, the second of two perfect dunks. In all, he totaled 196 of a possible 200 points.

The following are the results from Saturday's Sprite Rising Stars Slam Dunk contest:

FIRST ROUND
Top two advance

Jason Richardson, Golden State, 100
Desmond Mason, Seattle, 90
Amare Stoudemire, Phoenix, 79
Richard Jefferson, New Jersey, 74

FINALS
Jason Richardson def. Desmond Mason, 96-93

ALL-TIME WINNERS
2003: Jason Richardson, Golden State
2002: Jason Richardson, Golden State
2001: Desmond Mason, Seattle
2000: Vince Carter, Toronto
1997: Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers
1996: Brent Barry, L.A. Clippers
1995: Harold Miner, Miami
1994: Isaiah Rider, Minnesota
1993: Harold Miner, Miami
1992: Cedric Ceballos, Phoenix
1991: Dee Brown, Boston
1990: Dominique Wilkins, Atlanta
1989: Kenny Walker, New York
1988: Michael Jordan, Chicago
1987: Michael Jordan, Chicago
1986: Spud Webb, Atlanta
1985: Dominique Wilkins, Atlanta
1984: Larry Nance, Phoenix