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Saturday March 3, 2007 4:51 PM

Ballin' on the Blacktop

Rockets host three-on-three tournament and skills competitions in downtown

HOUSTON -- Tremaine Lewis had been waiting over a year to collect his first slam dunk competition trophy at the Houston Rockets' Blacktop Battle.

On Saturday, he finally collected the sizable piece of hardware -- after jumping over it.

Lewis, a 23-year old with professional hoops aspirations, provided the most memorable performance over this weekend's Blacktop Battle by leaping over a six-foot tall trophy for a one-handed slam.

Over a year after finishing second in the same event in Houston, the acrobatic, final leap earned Lewis a perfect score to win the dunking competition.

"I started coming up with ideas yesterday for what I was going to do," Lewis said. "I watched some old tapes of (former Bulls legend) Michael Jordan, (Celtics guard and current NBA Dunk Contest champ) Gerald Green and (New York and former dunk contest champion) Nate Robinson because he's a small guy like myself. I told myself that I was going to come out and win it this year. And that's what I did."

The much-anticipated slam dunk contest was part of a two-day event outside Toyota Center where Rockets fans were given the chance to compete in a three-on-three basketball tournament and a collection of skills competitions on the blacktop in downtown Houston. Participants received a free ticket to the Rockets' game against the Orlando Magic on March 11.

Lewis was competing with a group of friends in the tournament, but returned to the Blacktop Battle with his eye on the slam dunk competition trophy.

He was trying to come up with an idea for his final dunk when his friends suggested that he should dunk over the championship trophy. He did it -- clearing the top of the trophy with several inches to spare.

After being given the award, Lewis realized that he was actually shorter than his new prize.

"It's got an inch or two on me," said Lewis, who is 5-foot-11. "Honestly, I thought I was going to knock it over."

Lewis easily won over the four-man panel of judges -- Rockets legends John Egan, Major Jones, Robert Reid and Ali Taylor -- with his creativity.

During the final round of competition, Lewis initially excited the crowd when he pulled off a shirt to reveal Jordan's No. 23 Chicago Bulls jersey. He streaked down the baseline for a one-handed, vintage Jordan dunk in which he was waggling his tongue as he was airborne.

How did he top that? He pulled four kids, ranging from ages 8 to 13, among a crowd of spectators and dunked over all of them to cap off a perfect final round.

"There were some worried people saying, 'Don't hurt those kids,'" Lewis said. "But I had done that dunk before. I knew I wouldn't have any trouble getting over them."

Lewis said he is attempting to get a professional basketball career on track and is eyeing several possibilities in Europe. He was most recently playing for the Austin Toros of the NBA's Developmental League.

No matter where he ends up, Lewis said he would return for next season's dunk competition to try to pick up another trophy.

"I'm going to defend it," Lewis said.