(AFP) – Feb 16, 2008
NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (AFP) — Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard used a Superman outfit plus great creativity and leaping skills to win a spectacular National Basketball Association Slam Dunk Contest here on Saturday.
The flamboyant 22-year-old American was a runaway winner with 78 percent of the votes from viewers by internet and text messaging to defeat cupcake-aided 2007 winner Gerald Green of the Minnesota Timberwolves in the finals.
"It means a lot to me. This one was really for the big men," Howard said. "People say big men don't look good dunking. I really wanted to win it for all the big men. I love dunking - 90 percent of my shots are dunks."
Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Vince Carter were among the high-leaping heroes who excited crowds to win the slam dunk throne in past years but few stars have taken part recently. But the sparkle has returned with a vengeance.
"We decided we were going to1 add as much flair and personality to the dunk contest as we could this year. I think the dunk contest is back," Howard said.
It was the first time a high-tech vote system had been used to crown an NBA slam dunk king, although five former NBA greats such as Julius Erving and Magic Johnson who had judged the first round unanimously saw Howard as the winner.
Howard wore a blue Superman tunic and red cape on a first-round alley-oop dunk after having electrified the crowd by slamming in a left-handed dunk after first bouncing the ball off the rear side of the backboard.
"People like to see that. They don't want to see the same old dunk. People want something with some spice," Howard said. "This year all the guys tried to bring some spice to the dunk contest."
Howard, who will start for the Eastern Conference in Sunday's 57th NBA All-Star Game, received perfect scores of 50 for both first-round dunks to advance while Memphis' Rudy Gay and Toronto's Jamario Moon were eliminated.
"The first one I've been working on it for about two years but I could never really get it down. I had my legs under me and got it down," Howard said.
"The Superman dunk, I wanted to get the crowd into it, put some of my personality in it with the Superman cape. To make the dunk after that was unbelievable. The cape and the Superman outfit, I think it really worked."
Green had a cupcake with a single lit candle in the middle placed on the back iron of the rim in the first round and blew out the candle as he jammed the ball through the hoop.
"I figured he had something like that planned. I thought that was very impressive," Howard said. "At first I thought he was going to take the cupcake and try to eat it then make the dunk. If he had done that he would have won."
Green opened the final with a between-the-legs one-handed slam but Howard answered with a between-the-legs pass followed by a left-handed bounce off the backboard and a right-handed grab and jam move to a thunderous ovation.
"I didn't think I was going to do that dunk but I was getting a lot of calls from my friends and they said I've got to let the world see it," Howard said. "I had to do it."
Green took off his shoes and made a between-the-legs pass and dunk in sock feet but Howard finished by attaching a miniature rim to the bottom right corner of the backboard, placing the ball on the little rim, then grabbing it and making a windmill slam dunk into the real hoop.
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