- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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For the second succesive year, Dwight Howard's proposal to have the rim raised to 12 feet during the annual dunk contest at All-Star Weekend has been rejected by the NBA, adding to a week of frustration for Howard after his recent play and focus was publicly questioned by coach Stan Van Gundy.
The league office confirmed to ESPN.com on Tuesday that the Orlando Magic's All-Star center has again formally requested to have the rim hiked from the regulation 10 feet to 12 feet for at least one of his dunks in New Orleans this weekend, as Howard continues to seek ways to prove that his leaping ability is no less impressive that the hops possessed by shorter rivals.
Yet as with last February in Las Vegas -- when Howard was planning to wow judges with a 360 dunk at 12 feet and an attempt at 11½ feet which called for him to shift the ball between his legs in mid-air -- league officials balked.
They've ruled that changing the height of the rim, while easily done mid-contest with the help of hydraulics, clashes with their intent to apply as many standard NBA rules to All-Star Weekend contests as possible.
The decision also potentially affects Memphis' Rudy Gay.
The 6-9 swingman recently issued a challenge in an NBA.com blog entry in which he vowed to match whatever the 6-11 Howard did on a 12-foot rim.
Gay wrote: "Before I go, I have a message for Dwight: You have that idea about moving the goal to 12 feet? If you want to do it, go ahead and do it. I'm pretty confident in my jumping ability. If you go before me, I'll leave it up there and do my dunk."
Minnesota's Gerald Green, the defending champion, followed up with a claim that he'd seek to have the rim raised three feet higher than regulation to 13 feet because "12 feet might be a little too short for me."
Toronto rookie Jamario Moon is the other entrant in a four-man field.
Howard is attempting to be the tallest dunk champion ever. Larry Nance was a 6-10 champion in the NBA's inaugural contest in 1984, nearly two years before Howard was born.
To back his argument that dunks are not easier for big men, Howard unveiled a "sticker dunk" in Vegas in which he slapped a sticker 12 feet, 6 inches high on the backboard with his left hand after catching a bounce pass from Magic teammate Jameer Nelson and dunking with his right hand. But the dunk didn't score high with judges who were apparently unclear on the sticker part, leading a frustrated Howard to initially say that he would boycott future contests.
The 2008 contest will be the first in league history that gives fans final say on who wins. A panel of judges will decide which two dunkers advance to the finals, but fans voting on NBA.com or by text message will choose the champion.
Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here.
12hMatt Walks, ESPN.com
13hMatt Walks, ESPN.com