LOS ANGELES, Feb. 13
-- Something was askew.
With slightly more than five minutes left in Friday's got milk? Rookie Challenge, Denver's Carmelo Anthony casually passed the ball to Seattle's Ronald Murray who then tossed a failed alley-oop attempt back to Anthony. Problem was, they were on opposing teams.
While the defense looks on, LeBron James throws down one of many uncontested dunks.
Jesse Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images
"All-Star Weekend is all about the fans," said LeBron James
, who finished with a team-high 33 points for the rookies. "We've got to give the fans what they come to see. Once the game got out of hand, I went up to all the players and just said, you know, let's give the crowd what they came to see, and we did that for last three and a half minutes. That's just what it's all about."
Ultimately, it hardly mattered that the Sophomores routed the Rookies 142-118 in a game that was close only briefly in the first half. Nor was it of significant consequence that Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire dunked his way to a 17-of-23 shooting performance, winning MVP honors and setting a got milk? Rookie Challenge record with 36 points.
This game was all about dunks. And in an unprecedented display during the final minutes, both teams dropped any pretense of playing defense, engaging instead in an aerial dual of one-upmanship -- Chris Kaman oop from James, Carlos Boozer from Murray, Stoudemire from Murray, James between the legs, Tayshaun Prince between the legs, James reverse from Anthony. The jams came at a frenetic pace, drawing a rousing ovation from the Staples Center crowd.
Said Stoudemire, "That was after the game got out of hand and the sophomores took over and just put on a show at the end."
But James, who finished with a team-high 33 points on 15-of-26 shooting for the rookie squad, believed that it was he who emerged victorious from the impromptu dunk competition.
"Everybody wanted to match my dunk tonight," he said. "Booz matched my dunk off the glass -- I took mine a lot further than Booz's, too. I went between the legs and Tayshaun came and I had to do something else, and nobody else could finish what I did."
In all, there were 15 dunks in the final 6:08, capping a game that included 184 points scored in the paint, 41 points scored off fast breaks and a combined field-goal percentage of .604 (119-for-197). The squads also totaled 64 assists, with Murray dishing a game-high 10 -- six in the final 5:16 -- to go with his 25 points.
"It was one of those nights where guys were more inclined to want to show you what they can do on the offensive end of the floor," commented rookie team head coach Doug Collins. "I hope the fans enjoyed it. From a coaching standpoint you're sitting there going, 'Well, not much I can do.'"
Also spectacular was the chemistry between rookie phenoms Anthony, who contributed 17 points, and James, who effortlessly connected with one another on a series of six dunks and layups.
"We have worked out in the summertime before," said James, "and I know a lot of his stuff and he knows a lot of mine. So I know where he is going to be and he knows where I'm going to be and that's why we was able to hook up so good. I guess we'll be playing next year in the Rookie-Sophomore game, and hopefully we'll be playing against each other in the Sunday game."
Added Anthony, "At the end of the game somebody said to me it looked like our chemistry is like we've been playing for a long time. When we get out there, we know each other's games and what we are going to do on the court."
Murray could take notes -- for the next time he wants to dish an assist to the opposition.