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It'll be a slam dunk

Previewing what should be a great All-Star jam event

Posted: Wednesday February 14, 2007 3:17PM; Updated: Wednesday February 14, 2007 3:54PM
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I know. You're skipping the Slam Dunk contest because it'll never be as good as it once was ... because you've seen every dunk before ... because today's players are punks with too many tattoos. Well, I got news for you: This year promises to be the most exciting one of the last decade.

For starters, the judges are arguably the five greatest dunkers of all time -- Julius Erving, Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, Kobe Bryant and Vince Carter -- so don't expect a sympathy win like Nate Robinson received last year. Second, the league has added a two-minute time limit and a stipulation that one dunk must incorporate a teammate. And if that's not enough, the field is the most intriguing in years. While some may think it's free money, all four candidates have a good chance of winning. Who'll come out on top? Here's our preview:

Gerald Green

Why he'll win: Genes. At 6-foot-8, 200 pounds with a 48-inch vertical, Green is tailor-made for this event. Plus, he's won just about every dunk contest he's ever been in.

Why he won't win: Celtics. He's on them. They had lost 18 consecutive games through Tuesday, though it could work for him because of the pity factor.

Dunk you need to see: The "over-the-blackjack-table" dunk, or this montage.

Wild card: Green has hired Paul Pierce as his "Slam Dunk assistant," which is a curious choice since Pierce isn't exactly known for his dunking.

Closing thoughts: One move we can't question is the "Banner Dunk" Green has been working on in practice. A teammate bounces a ball off the Celtics' 1986 championship banner that hangs 30 feet over one of the baskets, and Green grabs the descending rebound and dunks it. Though this will be impossible to replicate in Vegas (there are no banners hanging at the Thomas & Mack Center), Green has awakened the last piece of positive karma associated with the squad.

Odds: 2-1.

Dwight Howard

Why he'll win: Creativity. If the heavily rumored "kiss-the-rim dunk" -- in which he'll somehow dunk two balls and kiss the rim while in midair -- comes to be, who knows what else the big man has in store.

Why he won't win: Height. The last true big man to win the event was 6-10 Larry Nance in the first dunk competition. That was 1984. Howard wasn't even born yet.

Dunk you need to see: It may not be contest-worthy, but Howard's game-winning alley oop against San Antonio last week was the best play of the NBA season.

Wild card: If I'm an Orlando fan, I'd be afraid to watch because of all the Magic's freak injuries this year. Trevor Ariza hasn't played since slipping on a wet spot on Jan. 12. Keyon Dooling has been out the last three weeks after banging his thumb against a courtside camera. Hedo Turkoglu hasn't been able to shake a flu-like virus all season and Grant Hill ... well, he's Grant Hill, so he's always injured (the latest is a sprained right knee that has forced him out of action since Feb. 2).

Closing thoughts: Howard's biggest problem is that at his size, even the hardest dunks don't look so hard. If Amaré Stoudemire didn't win the contest after pulling off this dunk (with a little help from Steve Nash's head), we don't know if another big man will ever win.

Odds: 5-1.

Nate Robinson

Can the
Can the "short guy dunking" factor be enough for Nate Robinson to win for the second year in a row?
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

Why he'll win: Height. Everyone loves watching short guys dunk. It's that simple.

Why he won't win: Time limit. Unlike last year, Robinson won't have 14 attempts to complete a dunk. With the new rules in place, there's less margin for error.

Dunk you need to see: It's not quite a dunk, but when Robinson blocked the shot of 7-6 Yao Ming earlier this season, it served as inspiration for vertically challenged people everywhere.

Wild card: Bad karma from the Denver-New York brawl may come back to haunt Robinson. If you recall, he was one of the fight's instigators, and those who wonder about frozen Ping-Pong balls and other conspiracies may be inclined to believe that the powers that be don't want him as the champion.

Closing thoughts: In the past year, Robinson has turned into one of the league's more unlikable players, whether it's from the brawl, his stunningly low 1.5 assists per game or this stupid play. Unless he pulls off something miraculous, it's looking like one and done for N-Rob.

Odds: 10-1.

Tyrus Thomas

Why he'll win: He's a freakish athlete who can jump through the roof.

Why he won't win: His mouth. The Bulls' forward told the Chicago Tribune that his main motivation for participating in the event was "free money," which promptly earned him a $10,000 fine from the team and contempt from 98 percent of the NBA audience. Luckily, karma stepped in and took care of things, in the form of Thomas embarrassing himself the night after he made those comments with an awful missed dunk.

Dunk you need to see: While still playing at LSU, Thomas somehow saves this alley-oop pass from going out of bounds and manages to dunk it. Probably the best dunk in college basketball last season.

Wild card: We searched hard to find an anecdote or story that would spin Thomas in a positive light, and we found one, courtesy of the Arlington Daily Herald, which profiled the relationship between the Bulls' rookie and his longtime friend Ryan Francis, who was shot and killed last May. Also, the Chicago Sun-Times reports that Thomas plans to donate his winnings to his old high school. Good work, Tyrus, but too bad that'll be only $16,125, the share for coming in last place (first prize is $35,000, second is $22,500 and third also takes home $16,125).

Closing thoughts: Sorry, Tyrus, but you've got no chance in this one, not with these judges. On the positive side, LSU is only 14-10 this year (3-7 in the SEC), so you're not missing anything too great in Baton Rouge.

Odds: 20-1.

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