Feb. 18, 2005 - Maybe it's the thin air in Denver, but there's just something about this city and its love affair with dunk contests. The Mile High City -- site of the original ABA dunk contest in 1976 and the first-ever NBA dunk contest in 1984 -- will host the 2005 edition as part of NBA All-Star Saturday Night presented by America Online.

Earlier this week, David "Skywalker" Thompson, a participant in the 1976 ABA contest, gave his thoughts on this year's Sprite Rising Stars Slam Dunk field: "They have a lot of young players and I donít think there is a clear-cut favorite, unless LeBron decides to enter. Iíve seen Josh Smith and J.R. Smith this season throw down some great dunks. Those guys can really leap."

On Friday, NBA.com caught up with the young aerial acrobats, trying to get the lowdown on the high-flyers.

CHRIS ANDERSEN, New Orleans Hornets

Q: When was the first time you dunked?
Andersen: Ninth grade. It took me half-court to run up there and get it. I got it, so after that it became uphill after there. After I did that first one, I wanted to do it even higher and even more. It just made my adrenaline go sky high and thatís how I jump.

Q: Is the dunk the best way to poster-ize somebody?
Andersen: If youíre trying to poster-ize somebody, thatís probably the best way to do it is dunking on somebody. Iím a shot-blocker as well, so Iíd rather be on a poster trying to block the dunk than like this (does a cowering motion).

Q: What did you learn last year that will help you this year?
Andersen: Strategy. Which dunk to which and which one to do first.

Q: When did you decide that you were going to try the dunk contest again?
Andersen: When I heard it was in Denver, I was hoping I would be in it. When I found out at the last minute it was overwhelming.

Q: Do you have any special dunks youíve been working on?
Andersen: Yes. Yes I do.

Q: Whoís your biggest competition this year?
Andersen: Every one of them. All three of those guys over there can get up and flat-out dunk it. So, Iíve got to go in there with my momentum and just try to sky as high as I can and take it home.

Q: Who are you most excited to see?
Andersen: J.R. Smith because I know heís got some tricks that everybody hasnít seen yet but I have. So, Iím ready to see what he can do.

J.R. SMITH, New Orleans Hornets

Q: How would the dunk contest change if LeBron James is in it?
Smith: Itís a drastic change because I think everybody would have to rethink their game plans because everybody knows he has the most hops in the NBA right now. So, everybodyís going to have to change what theyíre going to do and try to come up with something bigger.

Q: Have you ever been in a dunk contest?
Smith: Yeah, I've been in three dunk contests before and it's fun. Youíve gotta come in with a game plan on what you want to do and then just let it happen.

Q: Do you have any dunks that youíre going to do or are you going to wait to see what everybody else is doing?
Smith: No, I pretty much know what Iím going to do. They give us four dunks.

Q: Who were some dunkers you looked up to?
Smith: Michael Jordan, Vince Carter.

Q: What were some of the dunks they did that stood out in your mind?
Smith: Jordan took off from the foul line, Vince Carterís 360 windmill, Jason Richardsonís between-the-legs, Larry Nanceís two-ball dunk.

JOSH SMITH, Atlanta Hawks

Q: Any predictions for tomorrow?
Smith: Getting the win.

Q: A lot of people are saying whenever you develop a jumpshot, your game is going to take off. Have you been working on your shot?
Smith: Yes, Iíve been working on that a whole lot. Iíve been in the gym before and after (practice), just working on shots, working on things to make my game better.


Q: With so many dunks that have already been done, are you going to do something unique or are you going to do a version of what you have seen?
Stoudemire: A little bit of both. Iím going to try to mix it up a little bit. But itís going to be exciting.

Q: How physically challenging is it? Are you tired at the end?
Stoudemire: A little bit, but I have young legs and itís something I always wanted to do. Itís my second time entering the dunk contest. Itís a lot of fun.

Q: What did you learn from the first time?
Stoudemire: The first time I was extremely nervous, me and Richard Jefferson. But I think now Iím more relaxed, calm and I think this time around Iíll do better.

Q: Do you wish you had a shot at LeBron James in the dunk contest?
Stoudemire: Yeah, sorta kinda. But itís cool, you know. Iíll take what they give me.

Q: How much thought do you put in to the dunks youíll do?
Stoudemire: I put a lot of thought in to it. Itís going to be something that comes naturally. I canít think too much about it because thatís when youíve got the tendency to mess up a little bit. Iím just going to go do what I can do.

Q: Do you remember when you first dunked?
Stoudemire: The first time I dunked I was in sixth grade. I was at the park all by myself. I dunked and I ran back and told my friends and all my family and nobody believed me. It took me about another month and a half before I dunked again. So, it was a time to remember.

Q: How tall were you?
Stoudemire: Iím not quite sure. Maybe about 5-11.