Legends Approve, J-Rich Wins Sprite Rising Stars Slam Dunk


Jason Richardson became only the second player to win two straight dunk titles.
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If you're poised to make history, there isn't a more historic group for which you can perform.

With former champions Dee Brown, Julius Erving, Michael Jordan, Spud Webb and Dominique Wilkins -- dunking gods down from Mount Olympus -- judging him, Golden State's Jason Richardson, needing a 47 to win, threw home a between-the-legs, behind-the-head flush to win his second consecutive Sprite Rising Stars Slam Dunk contest.

Richardson became only the second player in All-Star Saturday history to win two consecutive titles.

"It's an honor to be the only 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.

"To have one of him as one of the judges up there it was like a dream come true. To bring something different to the dunk contest, it was just an honor."

With Richard Jefferson's pedestrian dunks and Amare Stoudemire's miss relegating them to the sidelines after the first round, Desmond Mason, the 2001 champion, and Richardson squared off in a what-will-soon-be a classic final round that was similar in many ways to final round of the 1988 contest between Jordan and Wilkins.

Mason, like Wilkins, could have won a slam dunk title in non-consecutive years. Richardson, like Jordan, was poised to win two in a row.

Mason and Wilkins were first to go in the final round. Mason left Richardson needing a 47 to win, Wilkins left Jordan a 48. Jordan and Richardson both nailed 50s to win back-to-back titles. Like Wilkins, Mason could only watch.

"I knew he had to get it," Mason said. "He pulled it off. That's what you do. You get down and you make plays at the end and he did it."

As for making it three titles in a row next year, Richardson is taking time to enjoy No. 2.

"I don't know, man," Richardson said. "It's going to be pretty tough. I'm going to have to think of some dunks when the time comes, but I'll be in the dunk contest next year, too."


Stojakovic Overcomes Interruption, Champion in 1 800 CALL ATT Shootout


Peja Stojakovic got a second chance in the final round, and won his second straight shootout.
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As for the 1 800 CALL ATT Shootout, most players are taught to play until you hear a whistle or in the case of All-Star Saturday Night sponsored by America Online, you go until the music stops.

Sacramento's Peja Sotjakovic, locked in a shootout with Memphis' Wesley Person, was halfway through the shootout round when the music that plays during the event stopped. So did Stojakovic.

But the rules for a shootout after the final round had changed this year. Instead of 30 seconds, Stojakovic had 60 seconds to go through the racks. He paused for two seconds before the MC encouraged him to keep shooting. Soon, the boos, because of the snafu, were raining down instead of Stojakovic's jumpers.

"I knew that they changed the rules from last year; that we should go another 60 seconds, but it's just that buzzer, it kind of threw me off," Stojakovic said. "I was just about -- usually by third rack, fourth rack, it just threw me off a little bit. I'm glad that they realized that." Much to the crowd's delight, Stojakovic was awarded another go-round. He used that extra round to defeat Person in a shootout for the second consecutive year.

The controversy threw Person off.

"The main thing that threw me off, I thought I would have won it myself going second in that contest, because that's very important, to see what's on the scoreboard," Person said. "I positioned myself to be there in the end. I shot before him and you know how it is when you compete, you see what's out there on the board and just try to go out there and beat that."

Stojakovic is now the fifth player to win the Shootout twice. Will he come next year to try to become the third person to win it three times?

"Who knows?" Stojakovic said. "Got to see what happens next year. Just enjoy myself right now."


Clips Rookie Leads L.A. to Victory in Jeep Hoop-it-Up


Former Lakers star Magic Johnson led L.A. to victory over Atlanta in Jeep Hoop-it-Up.
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Just hours after posting four points and three rebounds in the got milk? Rookie Challenge, Clippers guard Marko Jaric teamed with Magic Johnson, Lisa Leslie and Ashton Kutcher to win the Jeep Hoop-it-Up three-on-three game, 23-19 over the Atlanta squad. Jaric scored seven points and grabbed five boards in 12 minutes, knocking down three of his four shots, but the evening provided a more important highlight for the rookie.

"I think meeting Magic Johnson, and Lisa and everybody from the team [was most exciting]," said Jaric. "Magic Johnson, he was my idol when I started playing basketball in Yugoslavia, so it's hard to believe it, now you are playing together."

For Magic's part, he brought the court vision, ball distribution and killer instinct that made him an NBA superstar, dishing a game-high five assists and instructing Kutcher to cash in on the big height advantage he had over defender Frankie Muniz.

"Magic kept waving me down to cut," said Kutcher, "and it's not like I'm going to tell Magic Johnson, 'No, I'm not going to cut to the lane' when he asks me to. But I didn't want to post [Muniz] up. I play fair."

Johnson's fellow legend on the Atlanta team, Dominique Wilkins, also showed he could still make the highlight reel, providing the play of the game when he jammed home an alley-oop from Hawks guard Jason Terry.

Said Kutcher, "I was really amazed. I couldn't believe he could still get up like that. That was incredible."

Leslie agreed. "We were all giving Dominique five like he we were on the same team as him. It was a good play."


Kidd Takes 989 Sports Skills Challenge


Jason Kidd dribbled his way to a win in the debut of the 989 Sports Skills Challenge.
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Perhaps the most pressing question surrounding the debut of the 989 Sports Skills Challenge was not which player won, but whether the participants enjoyed the brand-new competition. As champion Jason Kidd pointed out, the players involved -- Gary Payton, Stephon Marbury, Tony Parker and Kidd -- had a lot to do with the event's success.

"Throwing in these four guys was great, cheering each other on, but at the same time we wanted to win. The older guys wanted to place, and we did that. We beat out the younger guys."

Parker, a second-year San Antonio guard, had the unfortunate privilege of running the first circuit through the obstacle course consisting of dribbling, passing and shooting. After missing all five shot attempts from the station at the top of the key, he finished with the evening's slowest time of 45.5 seconds. The times progressively improved in the first round as Marbury clocked in at 41.9 seconds, Kidd at 35.3 and finally Payton with the fastest time of the night at 31.3.

The champ didn't find it easy.

"I mean, the first time, the first round is nerve-wracking," said Kidd. "If you threw a bad pass, which I can do, if it hits one of the hinges and doesn't go in clean, then you start to press and then you start worrying about the clock."

With the two senior statesmen advancing, the final-round matchup featured Kidd and Payton, who played together on the courts in Oakland as teenagers and now rank as the league's elite point guards.

Kidd improved his time by two-tenths of second, completing the course in 35.1 seconds, but Payton ran into trouble at the chest pass station, taking four attempts to find the target. After Payton's final time of 40.3 seconds made the victory Kidd's, the Nets star suggested he'd let Gary know about it.

"You have the top point guards in the league competing in this," he said, "and I think you might have bragging rights for half the season or until All-Star break before you do it again."

More importantly for the league's up-and-coming point guards who might wish to compete, Kidd said he'd return to defend his title next year.

"Hey, I got one title. Why not defend it. I would love to come back and defend my title and have fun. Again, I thought it was a great set up and I thought the league did a wonderful job and I finally won something at an All-Star Game."