Magic show

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:20 AM ET

For sheer originality, it might have been the most memorable dunk in the history of the NBA slam-dunk competition. And Canadian Steve Nash was part of it.

Dunking participant Amare Stoudemire of the Phoenix Suns threw the ball off the backboard.

Nash, a Suns teammate and a longtime soccer player, headed the ball, soccer-style, back toward the basket.

Stoudemire caught it, spun 360 degrees in the air and slammed it home. Wow.

"It's just something Steve and I dreamed up in practice," Stoudemire said.

On a later attempt, Nash back-kicked the ball into the air, but Stoudemire's slam was too pedestrian to impress anyone. And at the end of the night, it was Atlanta Hawks rookie Josh Smith, rather than Stoudemire, who was named the dunking champion.

Smith did something memorable,too, donning an old Hawks No. 21 Dominique Wilkins jersey before executing a vicious -- albeit familiar -- slam.

"(Wilkins) has taken me under his wing," the 19-year-old Smith said.

Added Wilkins, "You talk about filling shoes, but (Smith) has his own shoes now."

LeBron James, the 20-year-old Cleveland Cavaliers phenom and the most famous young player in the NBA, was invited to participate in the dunk contest, but he backed out because of a sore ankle and a mild case of the flu. James could not have been more coldly blunt when asked on Friday night why so few of the big-name players want to take part anymore.

"Because all the dunks is taken," James said. "Ain't no more dunks."

James needs to work on both his grammar and his theories, given the Stoudemire-Nash effort. But James' dissing of dunking from a creative point of view did not represent total honesty, since he admitted he would have taken part had he been close to 100% healthy.

"You can see my jumping ability right now is not where I want it to be," said James, who felt well enough to play in the sophomores-versus-rookies game on Friday. Chris Bosh of the Raptors got royally hosed when Carmelo Anthony of the home-town Nuggets was named the MVP, by the way.

Suns swingman Quentin Richardson won the three-point shootout, besting defending champion Voshon Lenard of the Denver Nuggets and Ashton Kutcher-lookalike Kyle Korver of the Philadelphia 76ers in the final round.

Nash won the skills challenge, a dribbling, passing and shooting event designed for point guards.

"I think those other guys (Luke Ridnour of the Seattle SuperSonics, Earl Boykins of the Nuggets and Gilbert Arenas of the Washington Wizards) are all quicker than me," said Nash, who also will play in the main all-star game tonight. "So I just tried to keep up with them and luckily I made my shots."


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