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Posted: Sunday February 15, 2009 12:26AM; Updated: Sunday February 15, 2009 3:23AM
Arash Markazi Arash Markazi >
INSIDE THE NBA

Robinson dunk victory sets stage for LeBron's challenge in 2010

Story Highlights

Nate Robinson ironically needed Dwight Howard's help to win the dunk title

Robinson, a two-time winner, may enter the 2010 contest with LeBron in the fold

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Nate Robinson donned a green jersey/shoes ensemble for his last two dunks of the finals.
AP
2009 All-Star Weekend
 
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PHOENIX -- Start spreading the news, the New York Knicks finally have a championship.

OK, maybe Nate Robinson's Slam Dunk title isn't quite what the restless natives at Madison Square Garden had in mind. But for one night, at least the Knicks were center stage for a reason other than letting another player go off for a career night.

Robinson quite literally leaped over Dwight Howard and his Superman mystique for a surprise win in the dunk contest, thanks to the generosity of Howard, who looked like he had the contest wrapped up after a powerful dunk off a bounce pass from the side of the backboard.

Howard basically gift-wrapped the contest to Robinson by putting on his Superman cape and turning his back to Robinson, who was dressed in a "kryptonite green" Knicks uniform. Robinson then jumped over Howard for one of the more memorable dunks in Slam Dunk history -- if for no other reason than the fact that one of the two finalists helped the other one win.

"It's all about having fun," said Howard. "He won fair and square. We tried to put on a good show."

The fact that Robinson and Howard are two of the better showmen in the league helped make the finals one of the best ones, even if the competition, as a whole, failed to live up to the unprecedented hype that it couldn't possibly match.

There was no way Howard was going to duplicate his memorable Superman dunk that singlehandedly made the slam dunk contest relevant again and Robinson wasn't going to surprise anyone by dunking over a past slam dunk champion (Spudd Webb in 2006.) But they came close.

Howard produced one of the most theatrical dunks in contest history, in two parts: First, he stepped into a telephone booth to don a Superman's cape (with accompanying music, of course). Second, he had arena official bring another basket into the fold, but one with a 12-foot-high rim. He then threw down a rim-rattling slam from the new height.

For Robinson, his contest-clinching dunk over Webb (all of 5'7) from three years ago may have been a fan favorite; but he brought the admiration to a new level on Saturday, dunking over a 6'11 center wearing a Superman cape.

"I asked Dwight yesterday while we were in the elevator if he'd let me do it and he said he would," said Robinson. "I thought he was joking, but I knew that would be the final dunk -- if I got that far."

While Robinson said he would like retire from the Slam Dunk contest after becoming only the fifth player ever to win the competition twice, he smiled at the news LeBron James would be competing next year in Dallas (something he committed to during the competition).

Although the dunk contest was looked down upon in the 90s and even canceled for a couple years (due to the NBA lockout), Howard and Robinson have slowly helped bring it back up to prominence; and the addition of James would arguably make next year's competition the most anticipated since Michael Jordan beat Dominique Wilkins for the dunk title in 1988.

"It's getting there with evolution and time," said Robinson of the rebirth of the Slam Dunk contest. "It's going to be fun to see LeBron in the contest next year, but I think this is it for me unless they really, really want me to do it. I got to figure out some more dunks to do. "

 
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