Sunday, February 15, 2004

Pacers' Jones wins dunk contest despite miss

By Chris Sheridan
The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - LeBron James pulled off the best move of All-Star Saturday - leaving early.

After seeing missed dunk after missed dunk and some highly questionable rulings in the final round, the 19-year-old Cleveland Cavaliers rookie phenom uttered a dismissive "no contest" as he walked out of the arena before the night's final dunk - or dunk attempt, in this case.

A missed dunk by two-time defending champion Jason Richardson on the final attempt of the night gave the title to Fred Jones of the Indiana Pacers, providing a disappointing finish to All-Star Saturday night.

"I think I've had better," said Jones, a 6-foot-4 guard from Oregon who was the 14th overall pick of the 2002 draft.

Peja Stojakovic of the Sacramento Kings also failed to become a third-time winner, missing his final attempt of the 3-point shooting contest - a shot that would have forced an extra round.

The miss made a winner of Voshon Lenard of the Denver Nuggets, who hit all five of his 2-point money shots using the red, white and blue ball that's shot last from each of the five designated perimeter spots.

In early events, Baron Davis of the New Orleans Hornets won the skills challenge, and Derek Fisher, Lisa Leslie and Magic Johnson - representing the hometown Los Angeles Lakers - won the inaugural skills challenge.

The best dunks of the dunk contest came from the two finalists - Richardson and Jones - and earned perfect 50-point scores.

Jones earned a 50 in the first round with a high-velocity toss-and-dunk throwdown, while Richardson got his perfect score for passing the ball to himself off the backboard, catching it and bringing it between his legs from his right hand to his left before slamming it through.

All five judges stood up in appreciation as they held up placards reading "10."

"I wanted to go out there and try to do something hard. It's really hard to come up with something new," Richardson said.

Jones earned a 50 on the first dunk of the final round, tossing the ball toward the basket, reaching far back to grab the ball and hammer it through.

"That's where I wanted it - as far away as possible so I could extend all the way and give it a little more flair," Jones said.

It ended up being the last great dunk of the night.

Richardson missed his first attempt of the final round and was given three more chances to try it, though he missed each time. He eventually switched to a more conventional 360-degree dunk and earned a score of 45.

Jones surprised the crowd before his final attempt by tossing the ball to a young man in a Pacers jersey four rows back in the stands, a former AAU teammate of his from Portland, Brandon Brooks.

Brooks tossed a high-arcing pass to Jones, who caught it on a bounce but couldn't convert - twice. That left Richardson needing only a score of 42 to win, but he clanged his final attempt off the back of the rim.

The contest was over, even though the crowd didn't seem to realize it.

By then, James and his entourage were well on their way out of the building. The "Chosen One" had made the right choice.

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