Howard's sticker slam wins buzz but not contest

Originally Published: February 17, 2007
By Henry Abbott | ESPN.com

Twelve and a half feet is very high.

I walked down on the court after the dunk contest and looked up at the custom sticker Dwight Howard had stuck way up there. It was a little dizzying. Not to be gushy, but it was way up there. I suspect that if I stood on Dwight Howard's shoulders, I still wouldn't be able to even reach it. And I'd be scared to be up there.

I peered up at that sticker. Unfathomable, but apparently real -- as the whole thing was on international TV and exceedingly well documented. All the same, I urge you to look up at the top of the backboard from down below some time. Imagine a sticker a few inches shy of the top, and wonder: Could a human put that up there? Without divine intervention?

Yes.

Or no.

A photographer with a telephoto lens helped me get a good look at that sticker, and in addition to a pre-printed image of Howard's face, his initials, and his number, there was handwritten marker. Not too big. In fact, even with the lens it was very tough to read.

In this life, you always have to read the fine print. And the fine print on that sticker made clear that Howard, at least, doesn't believe he did it alone.

"All things through Christ" Howard had written in marker. Then "Phil 4:13." That's Philippians 4:13.

Asked about it, Howard recited in a heartbeat: "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."

Strengtheneth indeed.

Remember, Dwight Howard's Plan A for this contest was to dunk on a 12-foot rim, but the league nixed the idea earlier in the week. So Howard needed an inventive way to demonstrate his singular advantage: combining his height, his reach, and his hops to get a hand up higher than anybody else.

It was so inventive that at first plenty of people here in the arena couldn't even understand it. This was an idea from Mars, or Lovetron, or wherever it is the good dunks come from. It stretched the mind. For a few seconds, nobody knew exactly what happened. He put a sticker up there? He had a sticker? In his hand? What?

ESPN.com contributor David Thorpe of Scouts Inc. text-messaged me seconds after it happened: "I hate dunk contests," he wrote. "But that was the coolest dunk I've ever seen."

Who can disagree?

No one I have talked to, except, apparently, the judges. Howard got a measly 42, the second-lowest score of any dunk in the first round. Julius Erving and Michael Jordan both gave it an 8. I don't know what criteria they were judging by, but whatever it was, I say inventiveness was undervalued.

Hats off to 2007 Slam-Dunk champ Gerald Green, a worthy champion, but a year from now that sticker dunk is the one we're all going to remember.

Henry Abbott writes TrueHoop.com.

Henry Abbott | email

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