Josh Smith Is Almost Perfect
DENVER, Feb. 19 (Ticker) -- Josh Smith made his own highlight film.
Smith, the teenage rookie of the Atlanta Hawks, put on a scintillating display Saturday night to easily capture the Sprite Rising Stars Slam Dunk.
From using Denver Nuggets forward Kenyon Martin in his repertoire to just relying on his sheer athletic ability, the 6-9 Smith dazzled the five judges that included the legendary Julius Erving.
Just 19, Smith also got to impress former Hawks great Dominique Wilkins, a two-time winner of the once prestigious event who garnered the nickname "The Human Highlight Film" for his array of jaw-dropping dunks.
Wilkins, who now works in the Hawks' front office, had a courtside seat to get a first-hand look at his young protege. Smith even went as far to emulate his mentor, donning a No. 21 Wilkins white Hawks jersey at one point during the competition.
"I kind of surprised him with that," Smith said. "He didn't know that I was going to do that but I was going to do a dunk symbolizing what he did in his previous years. I did that and he was real excited and shocked that I would do that."
After scoring a 45 on his initial dunk in the first round, Smith was perfect the rest of the way, garnering 50s on each of his final three dunks. He scored 195 of a possible 200 points.
Smith's best dunk came with some assistance from Martin.
On Smith's second dunk of the first round, Martin was seated below the free-throw line. Martin softly lobbed a pass for Smith, who flew over him, grabbed the ball and windmilled it home with his left hand, bringing a roar from the sellout crowd at the Pepsi Center.
That started the string of perfection for Smith, who used a flying left-handed dunk to start the finals, clearly putting the pressure on the 6-10 Amaré Stoudemire of the Phoenix Suns.
After Stoudemire scored a 45 on his first dunk of the finals, Smith put a stamp on his dominance by hammering home a "360" reverse on his final attempt.
He easily outdistanced Stoudemire, 100-87, to win the $25,000 first prize. Stoudemire garnered a 50 on his second dunk of the first round, getting some help from teammate Steve Nash, who won the Skills Challenge, earlier in the night.
Stoudemire lobbed the ball off the backboard to Nash, who headed it back to him before the star grabbed it with one hand for a 360 dunk.
"I think Steve and I brought a lot of creativity to the dunk contest tonight," Stoudemire said. "That's what the NBA needs. "I think it's one they'll play for years. That was real creative and Steve did a great job of using his head. Steve and I talked about it and figured we'd bring it out tonight."
The dunk also flustered Smith.
"Yeah, it did psyche me out," he said. "That was a good dunk by Amaré and Steve and I knew I had to pull something out of my hat."
But Stoudemire's power clearly did not make the impression on the judges that Smith's athleticism did.
Eliminated in the first round were New Orleans teammates J.R. Smith (95) and Chris Andersen (77).
Known as "The Birdman," Andersen brought more boos than cheers from the crowd. The former Nugget needed nine attempts before finally converting his first dunk, then six tries on his second.