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Golden State's Stephen Curry beats last year's winner Chris Paul to take the Skills Challenge.
Photo by Kevork Djansezian/NBAE via Getty Images

Stephen Curry takes the 2011 Taco Bell Skills Challenge

Posted Feb 20 2011 2:27AM

LOS ANGELES -- Zig-zagging around stationary objects and passing balls into fixed receptacles is one way to demonstrate the varied skills required of the NBA's most talented ballhandlers and speed demons.

But it's not necessarily the only way.

Golden State guard Stephen Curry, the 2011 winner of the Taco Bell Skills Challenge at All-Star Saturday, wasn't at a loss when asked if there were other tests that could be added to what he called the "unorthodox obstacle course."

"Maybe some different ballhandling drills that you have to do," Curry said after posting a final round time of 28.2 seconds to beat Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook. "Cross hands, behind the back, stuff like that. Make it difficult going around the cones. ... Maybe it would show off more skills that we have in our tank."

Given the field of dynamic playmakers Saturday at Staples Center -- Chicago's Derrick Rose, New Orleans' Chris Paul and Washington's John Wall -- one intriguing showdown might have been a baseline-to-baseline dash, dribbling the ball, to determine the NBA's fastest man.

"I would like to see that race, actually," Curry said, "They should do that right now."

Might have to tweak the guest list. Asked for his choice as the NBA's No. 1 speedster, Westbrook said: "[Denver guard] Ty Lawson."

Maybe next year. Curry dominated the Skills Challenge this time around, posting the only sub-30 second score of the night. Westbrook had navigated the course in 30 seconds flat to advance from Round 1, but struggled a few minutes later after Curry -- who had a 34.1 time in his first run -- upped the ante to 28.2.

The Warriors' second-year guard, averaging 18.4 points, 3.4 rebounds and 6.0 assists while shooting 41.5 percent from 3-point range this season, didn't seriously threaten the Skills Challenge record of 25.5 seconds set by Utah's Deron Williams in 2008. But his score was good enough to get in Westbrook's head.

"I only messed up twice going through, so that's a pretty good performance to put the pressure on him in the second round," Curry said.

Westbrook's final-round time was a fat 44.2, bloated by missed bounce passes, jump shots and three tries to complete the course's outlet pass. "I wish that [first score] was my second one," Westbrook said.

Rose (35.7 seconds), Wall (39.3) and Paul (42.7) all encountered snags along the way. The Chicago guard also said he was being methodical which cost him time, yet initially veered the wrong way heading into his "speed dribble."

"I was about to go the other way. Stupid mistakes like that led to me losing," Rose said. "[Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is] definitely going to be on me, probably cracking a couple of jokes."

Curry finished his first run with a rare-for-him dunk ("For all of the guys that are making fun of my dunking ability," he said). Then, by winning the Challenge overall, he earned a $30,000 college scholarship for Karen Batani, a member of the Boys & Girls Club of Southern California. Each Skills participant represented a student (the others received educational scholarships) in the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens' "Graduate To Go" program.

"Thank you so much for winning," said Batani, seated next to Curry afterward. "It's like the best day of my life."

Not a bad one for Curry either.

-- Steve Aschburner

The players taking part in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge were:

Player Team Height Weight
Chris Paul Hornets 6-0 175
Stephen Curry Warriors 6-3 185
Derrick Rose Bulls 6-3 190
John Wall Wizards 6-4 195
Russell Westbrook Thunder 6-3 187

2010: Nash flies to victory in Taco Bell Skills Competition
To win the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, the winner had to successfully make a layup, a chest, bounce and outlet pass through hoops, a jumper and then a dribble with a finishing layup.

Steve Nash tacked on a bit more at the start: Fly to Vancouver, carry the torch in the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympic Games, fly to Dallas to practice for the Western Conference All-Stars, then do the Skills Challenge. All in a 24-hour-plus period.

Nash out-dueled Deron Williams in the final round to take home his second Skills Challenge title (he also won in 2005).

2009: Top Pick Rose Finishes Skills Challenge With Flair
Finishing off his winning time of 35.3 seconds with an emphatic double-pump reverse dunk, the Chicago Bulls guard became the first rookie to win the PlayStation Skills Challenge when he defeated New Jersey's Devin Harris in the championship round of the 2009 Skills Challenge.

2008: Deron Williams Breezes To Skills Title
Deron Williams shook off some jitters in the first round and was flawless in the finals (no missed shots, every pass through the hoops) to edge Chris Paul for the 2008 Playstation Skills Challenge title. Williams' final time of 25.5 seconds was just one tick off the all-time mark set by Steve Nash in the first round in 2005.

2007: Wade Repeats
Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade took home the PlayStation Skills Challenge title for the second straight year, posting a final-round time of 26.4 seconds to best Los Angeles' Kobe Bryant. Wade's first-round time of 31.3 seconds was second only to Bryant (29.8) and eliminated Cleveland's LeBron James (35.4) and New Orleans/Oklahoma City's Chris Paul (39.6).

2006: Wade Bests LeBron To Earn Skills Championship
Miami's Dwyane Wade was crowned as the 2006 PlayStation Skills Challenge champion, defeating Cleveland's LeBron James in the final round by completing the obstacle course in 26.1 seconds to James' 33.7-second time. New Orleans/Oklahoma City rookie Chris Paul and 2005 champion Steve Nash of Phoenix were eliminated in the first round with times of 42.6 and 52.8 seconds, respectively. Wade had the top first-round time with 39 seconds flat while James finished the course in 40.5 seconds to reach the finals.

2005: Nash Dominates To Claim Skills Crown
Steve Nash clearly distanced himself from the rest of the field in 2005 and easily won the PlayStation Skills Challenge. The Phoenix point guard posted the top times in both the first and final rounds, claiming victory with a contest-best 25.4 seconds.

More All-Star history >>

Taco Bell Skills Challenge Year-By-Year Winners

2010 -- Steve Nash, Phoenix
2009 -- Derrick Rose, Chicago
2008 -- Deron Williams, Utah
2007 -- Dwyane Wade, Miami
2006 -- Dwyane Wade, Miami
2005 -- Steve Nash, Phoenix
2004 -- Baron Davis, New Orleans
2003 -- Jason Kidd, New Jersey

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