- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 17, 2008

NEW ORLEANS — Last night’s festivities were some of the most entertaining of All-Star weekend, featuring the Shooting Stars contest, the Skills Challenge, 3-point Shooting Contest and the Slam Dunk Contest.

Dwight Howard won the Slam Dunk contest after scoring perfect 50s from the judges on both of his preliminary dunks and receiving 78 percent of the fan vote in the final round.

On his first dunk, Howard threw the ball off the back of the backboard and came around with a one-handed tomahawk jam. On his second attempt he donned a Superman cape and took a lob from behind the backboard and slammed a monster jam down.

In the finals, Howard bounced the ball to himself, caught it in midair, threw it off the backboard with his left hand and then slammed it with his right.

On his final dunk, Howard had the ball set on a mini-hoop that was attached to the backboard, grabbed it off the rim after taking off along the baseline and then threw down another tomahawk dunk.

He defeated Gerald Green, Jamario Moon and Rudy Gay.

In the 3-point contest, Toronto’s Jason Kapono defended his title, tying the event record with 25 points in the final round.

Utah’s Deron Williams won the Skills Challenge with a record time of 25.5 seconds, beating out fan favorite Chris Paul and Jason Kidd.

The San Antonio team of Tim Duncan, David Robinson and Becky Hammon won the Shooting Stars competition, downed Chicago’s trio of Chris Duhon, B.J. Armstrong and Candice Dupree in the final and knocking off Detroit’s defending champion trio of Chauncey Billups, Bill Laimbeer and Swin Cash.

Wizards having fun

One day closer to taking part in his second All-Star Game, Wizards forward Antawn Jamison said the excitement continues to build.

“Just being in the locker room with these guys before practice, joking around, having a good time, telling stories, them joking me about my shot, this is what the All-Star weekend is all about,” Jamison said. “And C.B. [Caron Butler] being here, talking to him about the weekend, definitely makes it more special.”

Butler — still recovering from a strained left hip flexor — wore practice gear but only served as rebounder for his teammates.

“I’m just here enjoying myself,” Butler said. “Coming out here, like I said, I’m here for Antawn. Seeing him taking shots, enjoying himself in warm-ups, it’s just real gratifying.”

Stern: League thriving

Commissioner David Stern praised the state of the NBA during his state of the league address, which preceded last night’s festivities.

Stern cited the continued growing global growth — evident by the broadcasting of the All-Star festivities in 215 countries — along with the maturity on and off the court of this year’s rookie class, which Stern attributed to the league’s 19-year-old age limit, and resurgent seasons of Portland, New Orleans and Boston as evidence that the NBA is alive and well.

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