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Little guy wins dunk title in tall guys’ sport

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Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki fires a shot en route to winning the three-point contest Saturday.

Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki fires a shot en route to winning the three-point contest Saturday.

Sue Ogrocki, Associated Press

HOUSTON — A big guy won the 3-point shootout. A little guy won the slam dunk contest.

The NBA's All-Star Saturday turned basketball inside-out as 7-foot Dirk Nowitzki of Dallas proved the best sniper from beyond the arc, and the New York Knicks' 5-foot-9 rookie Nate Robinson became the NBA's new jam king.

Robinson beat out 6-foot-6 Andre Iguodala of Philadelphia, 6-9 Hakim Warrick of Memphis and 6-9 defending champ Josh Smith of Atlanta, conjuring up memories of Spud Webb — and then dunking over the smallest slam champ the NBA as ever seen.

Miami's Dwyane Wade won the skills competition.

Robinson and Nowitzki are part of the changing NBA game, in which giants roam the perimeter while guards go hard to the hoop.

"When people look at me, they really don't understand where the hops are coming from," said Robinson, who edged Iguodala in a dunk-off to earn a $35,000 first prize.

Big men don't need hops to dunk. But it helps if they have a reliable jump shot. "I think when you look at the game now, a lot of big guys can step out and make that 16-, 17-, 18-footer," Nowitzki said.

Nowitzki drew a warm ovation from the Toyota Center crowd. But Robinson, a first-round draft pick out of Washington, electrified the building by taking a bounce pass from Webb, the 1986 champion, and leaping over the 5-7 former Atlanta Hawks guard to jam. The stunt earned a perfect 50-point score from the five-judge panel to force a dunk-off against Iguodala, who had received two perfect scores.

Robinson gave an assist for the memorable dunk to Knicks teammate Jamal Crawford. "We were on the plane and he was like, 'Man, I have the perfect idea,' " Robinson said. "I was like, 'What?' He said, 'You should jump over Spud Webb. It's been 20 years (since Webb won the title).

"We had to get in touch with him, so we did and he was like, 'Yeah, sure,' " Robinson said.

Webb, the only other player shorter than 6 feet to win the popular contest, said he enjoyed sharing the spotlight with Robinson. "He doesn't know what he did tonight," Webb said. "He made history. One day he can tell his kids about this."

In the dunk-off, a tiring Robinson needed 14 attempts to dunk. He finally caught his own pass off the backboard and jammed, earning 47 points to edge Iguodala by one. Iguodala shook his head when the final score was posted but wasn't bitter.

"(Robinson) deserved to win," Iguodala said. "This is for the crowd. If that's what they wanted, then that's what they got. I'm not too worried about it."

Webb had a reply to those who thought Iguodala should have won. "Let me answer that for you: Big guys shouldn't judge the dunk contest," Webb said.

Each player dunked twice in the first round, with judges awarding composite scores between 30 and 50 points. The top two scores advanced to the finals.

Robinson's high-flying act highlighted All-Star Saturday.

In the 20th three-point shootout, Nowitzki outshot Seattle's Ray Allen and Washington's Gilbert Arenas in the final round to win the $35,000 first prize. Nowitzki scored 18 points, topping Arenas' 16 and Allen's 15. Players circle the three-point arc, pulling balls off racks and hitting as many shots as they can in 60 seconds.

"You know, that's kind of my game," said Nowitzki, who is shooting 41.7 percent from beyond the arc this season. "I'm a shooter first and then everything else comes second."

Last year's champion, Quentin Richardson of the New York Knicks, was eliminated in the first round.

Wade edged Cleveland's LeBron James in the final round of the fourth skills challenge. In the skills challenge, four players dribble, pass and shoot their way through a timed obstacle course. The players with the fastest times in the first round meet in the final round.

In the final round, Wade won the $35,000 first prize by navigating the course in 26.1 seconds, punctuating his final dunk by jabbing a finger toward the grandstand. His time was .3 seconds off the record set last year by Phoenix guard Steve Nash. That easily beat James' time of 33.7 seconds.

Chris Paul, the rookie guard with New Orleans, finished third in 42.6 seconds. Nash finished last in 52.8 seconds after missing all five three-point shots.

In the fifth shooting stars competition, San Antonio's Tony Parker, Steve Kerr and Kendra Wecker defeated teams representing Los Angeles, Houston and Phoenix. In the event, a present NBA player, WNBA player and a "legend" from the same city shoot from six spots of increasing difficulty.

San Antonio hit all six shots in 25.1 seconds, with Parker draining a shot from just inside the half-court stripe to clinch the $45,000 first prize.