LeBron's a 'last-minute person'
CLEVELAND -- Usually the one with his feet off the floor, LeBron James has everyone else hanging.
With the NBA's All-Star dunk contest in Denver just a few days away, the Cleveland Cavaliers star forward hasn't decided whether he'll take part against the league's other premier leapers.
"It is a 'yes or no' answer," said James, who has been pressed about a decision nearly every day for the past few weeks. "I just haven't decided if I'll do it or not. You know me, I'm a last-minute person."
James skipped last year's dunk contest in Los Angeles, partially because he was upset at not being picked as a reserve for the Eastern Conference's All-Star team as a rookie. James, who recently missed a few games with a sprained ankle, may wait until Friday before he makes up his mind.
|NBA Slam Dunk Winners|
|2005||Josh Smith, Hawks|
|2004||Fred Jones, Pacers|
|2003||Jason Richardson, Warriors|
|2002||Jason Richardson, Warriors|
|2001||Desmond Mason, SuperSonics|
|2000||Vince Carter, Raptors|
|1997||Kobe Bryant, Lakers|
|1996||Brent Barry, Clippers|
|1995||Harold Miner, Heat|
|1994||Isaiah Rider, Timberwolves|
|1993||Harold Miner, Heat|
|1992||Cedric Ceballos, Suns|
|1991||Dee Brown, Celtics|
|1990||Dominique Wilkins, Hawks|
|1989||Kenny Walker, Knicks|
|1988||Michael Jordan, Bulls|
|1987||Michael Jordan, Bulls|
|1986||Spud Webb, Hawks|
|1985||Dominique Wilkins, Hawks|
|1984||Larry Nance, Suns|
The league has not yet officially announced the participants in Saturday night's dunk contest, at one time the highlight of All-Star Weekend festivities. Atlanta rookie Josh Smith said he has been asked to compete along with J.R. Smith of New Orleans and Amare Stoudemire of Phoenix.
Denver was the site of the NBA's first dunk contest in 1984 and the ABA dunk-off between Julius Erving and David Thompson in 1976.
James has a standing invitation from the league, which would love to see him compete and possibly help fans forget about some of the turbulence from the first half of the 2004-05 season.
If he doesn't dunk, who does James think will win?
"I know if Josh Smith is in it, he's got a great shot," he said. "If Jason Richardson is in it, he's always got a great shot. Everyone thinks I should be in it."
James, arguably the league's best in-game dunker, would certainly help elevate the event, which has lost some of its luster in recent years. It's not like the old days when Erving, Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, Larry Nance -- the first champion -- or even tiny Spud Webb dazzled crowds and TV audiences with their gravity-defying stuffs.
James, too, wishes the league's top young stars took part. But with other commitments, it's not easy to get them out there.
"It would be nice for the fans, but you don't want to force anybody to do it if they don't want to do it," he said.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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