Timberwolves' Rider lands in spotlight with winning 'Funk' dunk


MINNEAPOLIS -- You can call him cocky, but credit Minnesota Timberwolves guard Isaiah Rider for his ability to back up a promise.

Soon after he was drafted, Rider predicted he would win the slam-dunk contest, and last night he made good as he defeated Seattle Supersonics forward Shawn Kemp and Portland Trail Blazers guard Robert Pack in the final round to the delight of the hometown fans at the Target Center.

The dunk that ignited the crowd -- the "East Bay Funk" -- earned Rider a 49 (out of 50), the highest total in the competition. On the dunk, Rider dribbles from the left baseline and, as he soars, passes the ball between his legs from his left hand to the right hand. The move is finished with a thunderous one-hand slam, that had the All-Star Game participants on their feet.

"I've been doing that dunk since I was a sophomore in high school," said Rider, who won $20,000 and instant marketability. "I used to do it with two hands, but as I got older and picked up weight I could only do it with one."

The dunk contest, part of the league's 44th All-Star Weekend, followed the initial Rookie Game between the "Sensations" and the "Phenoms."

Orlando Magic guard Anfernee Hardaway won the Most Valuable Player award while scoring 22 points for the Sensations, but it was the Phenoms that came away with a 74-68 win.

In the night's final event, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Mark Price -- defended his title by scoring 24 points in the final round of the three-point competition, defeating Dana Barros of the Philadelphia 76ers.

Kemp, seen as the biggest threat to Rider in the dunk contest, missed on his two dunk attempts in the final round. The Sonics' All-Star had 46.6 points in the first round -- second only to Rider's 46.8.

Rider, who said he was nervous, didn't sound too pleased afterward about his performance. With both Kemp and Pack missing their final dunks, Rider didn't have to do anything fancy in his final attempt.

"I think I did the one dunk that added new flavor," Rider said. "But nothing else wasn't out of the ordinary. I had one more dunk that I wanted to do, but I didn't have to do it."

There wasn't much defense in the rookies' game, and hardly a player on the court broke a sweat. But no one seemed to care.

"I just came to have fun," Hardaway said, as he accepted the MVP trophy.

About four minutes into the game, played in two 15-minute halves, the fun and loose style won out.

How loose? How about the Golden State Warriors' Chris Webber grabbing a rebound on one end, dribbling the length of the court and delivering a wrap-around pass on the other. It was that type of game, with Hardaway scoring 11 points and Washington Bullets' guard Calbert Cheaney adding eight for the Sensations.

"It was fun -- it wasn't taken too seriously, and I thought it would pretty much be like this all the way," Cheaney said.

In the three-point competition, Price scored 21 points in the semifinals and made his first six shots in the final round. Barros, who had 17 points in the semifinals to advance to the finals, had 13 points in a last effort to dethrone Price. There were eight players participating in the event.

"I just kept getting warm," Price said. "After the first round, I felt relaxed."

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