Kapono narrowly misses contest record in 3-point win
LAS VEGAS -- Boston's Gerald Green capped All-Star Saturday with an acrobatic leap over a table to win the dunk contest, and Miami's Jason Kapono fell just short of an event record while winning the 3-Point Shootout.
Green, the Celtics' 20-year-old swingman, performed his two most memorable dunks in the first round before that final leap over a table bearing the All-Star game logo for a windmill jam and perfect 50 score to cap an event that gets tougher to revolutionize every year.
"I've always dreamed about being in the dunk contest, [but] I never dreamed about actually winning," said Green, who was in high school in Texas two years ago. "Just coming out here to Las Vegas and winning it for my fans in Houston, my fans in Boston, is tremendous."
Green first made an electrifying two-handed slam on an alley-oop pass off the side of the backboard from teammate Paul Pierce in the first round. Green then jumped over fellow finalist Nate Robinson while wearing the No. 7 Celtics jersey of 1991 dunk champion Dee Brown -- and shielding his eyes in the crook of his elbow in an homage to Brown's memorable no-look dunk.
Green easily won over the five-man judges' panel of Michael Jordan, Julius Erving, Dominique Wilkins, Kobe Bryant and Vince Carter -- particularly when Robinson, the diminutive 2006 champion, missed nine straight times on his final dunk before finally landing a one-handed spin slam.
"I knew they were going to be tough, because those guys had the creativity and the dunking style," Green said. "I tried to come out with something they never did before, [and] hopefully they could give me a score."
It was no surprise that Jason Kapono won the NBA's Three-Point Shootout in Las Vegas. Kapono has shot 89-for-159 (56 percent) from behind the line this season, the best pre-All-Star Game long-distance shooting performance ever by an NBA player with at least 75 attempts.
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While catching a high bounce pass from teammate Jameer Nelson for a right-handed slam, Howard reached nearly to the top of the backboard to slap a sticker bearing his face onto the glass -- 12 feet, 6 inches off the ground, according to Nelson.
Earlier, Kapono beat stars Gilbert Arenas and Dirk Nowitzki with a final-round 24 -- just one shy of the event record. Kapono, the fourth-year pro who finally blossomed with the Heat this season, tied Mark Price's final-round record and fell just one point shy of Craig Hodges' overall mark with an impressive performance leading off the last round.
"It's something that I dreamed of as a kid," Kapono said. "You watch Larry Bird and all those guys shoot, and obviously I learned early on that I wasn't ever going to be in on the slam dunk part of this [event]."
Kapono leads the NBA this season with 56 percent shooting on 3-pointers while averaging 11.1 points per game. He has finally found an NBA role as an outside shooting specialist after playing for three teams in his first three seasons.
After one of the toughest opening rounds in the event's history, the final wasn't terribly competitive after Kapono led off with his 24. He made 11 straight early shots and finished with six baskets in his last eight, earning ecstatic high-fives from Miami teammates Shaquille O'Neal and Alonzo Mourning.
"I could definitely hear those guys on the sideline telling me to shoot it, all that good stuff," Kapono said. "It definitely helped me."
After defending champion Nowitzki struggled to a 9, Arenas posted a 17 -- and Kapono became the latest in a long line of shooting specialists to best more complete players in this particular event.
Memphis' Mike Miller was eliminated from the six-man competition despite posting an 18, the highest score by a first-round loser since 1996. Cleveland's Damon Jones and Dallas' Jason Terry also failed to advance from the first round, and Arenas was the runner-up in the event for the second straight year.
"Do I get a trophy for that?" the Wizards' star asked.
Even before Kapono's performance, Las Vegas put on a show on the All-Star weekend's busiest night, complete with a disqualification and a repeat champion. There also was an entertaining sideshow: NBA star-turned-broadcaster Charles Barkley beat 67-year-old NBA referee Dick Bavetta in a footrace for charity.
Though Barkley, who turns 44 on Tuesday, has gained weight exponentially since his playing career, he still had enough spring to outrun Bavetta over three lengths of the court. Barkley nearly lost when he began running backward for the final feet, but tumbled over the half-court line just before Bavetta made a headfirst dive.
Barkley, whose gambling exploits have been well-documented, looked at the oversized check donated to charity for the event and commented it was "two blackjack hands."
The evening got off to an appropriately silly start in the Shooting Stars competition, featuring three-person teams composed of an NBA player, a WNBA player and a former NBA great from the same city.
Detroit's team of Chauncey Billups, Swin Cash and Bill Laimbeer won when the Chicago's team was disqualified from the final round for shooting out of order. Scottie Pippen, the 41-year-old who announced comeback plans Friday, thought he had led his club to victory when he banked in a half-court shot, but video replay revealed Ben Gordon's mixup with Candice Dupree.
Dwyane Wade defended his title in the Skills Challenge with a perfect final run through the obstacle course to beat Kobe Bryant in 26.4 seconds. Wade and Bryant eliminated LeBron James and Chris Paul in the first round.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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