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In three-point contest, Bullet can't stop Kerr Legler back from injury, but fails to defend title; Bryant wins dunk contest; NBA All-Star notebook


CLEVELAND -- It was a strange feeling for Washington Bullets guard Tim Legler, taking center stage to defend his three-point shootout title last night.

Legler hadn't shot in front of a crowd since last April 17, when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

"My heart started racing a little bit," Legler recounted of his trip onto the floor in front of the sellout crowd at Gund Arena.

There was no storybook ending, however. Chicago Bulls guard Steve Kerr, the NBA's career-best three-point shooter, beat Legler in the final round, 22-18.

At one point, Kerr hit nine consecutive shots, and he hit all five "money" balls, the final ball in the rack worth two points.

Kerr shot first in the finals. The competition was Legler's to lose, and he did by running into trouble on the second and third racks. On those, he hit only two shots each and missed both money balls.

A year ago, Legler scored more than 20 in each of the three rounds, the first shooter in the history of the competition to do so. This time, he scored less than 20 in two of three rounds. "I

had it in my hands to win it, and I'm a little bit disappointed," he said.

Bryant wins dunk contest

In the slam dunk competition, Los Angeles Lakers rookie Kobe Bryant -- who was playing at Lower Merion (Pa.) High at this time a year ago -- became the youngest champion ever.

Bryant scored 49 of a possible 50 points on the winning dunk. He dribbled toward the front of the rim, jumped, switched the ball between his legs and slammed it with his right hand.

"I saw J. R. Rider do it a couple of years back," Bryant said. "I've been practicing the dunk in practice from different angles, and decided to do it from the center."

The runner-up was the Minnesota Timberwolves' Chris Carr, who scored 45 on his final dunk.

Boos follow 76ers' Iverson

When Philadelphia 76ers guard Allen Iverson was introduced before last night's rookie game, he was booed. And those boos grew even louder when Iverson hoisted the game's Most Valuable Player trophy above his head.

"I guess many people thought Kobe [Bryant] should have won it. He played a great game," Iverson said. "But I came out with the victory."

Iverson scored 19 points and had nine assists as the East team defeated the West, 96-91. Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers' rookie guard, scored 31 and had eight assists.

Criticized for being a trigger-happy point guard over the first half of the season, Iverson took just two shots in the first half, instead choosing to pass. He had eight assists. In the second half, Iverson changed gears, scoring 15 and collecting one assist.

"Coming to the game, everyone figured I was going to shoot, and that I had something to prove," Iverson said. "But I wanted to come out and give my teammates the ball. I wanted to try to send a message to people."

Bryant's 31 points were the most in the brief history of the rookie game. The 12 rebounds by Marcus Camby broke the record of 10 set by Chris Webber in the first rookie game in 1994.

The East team was coached by Red Auerbach, who coached Georgetown coach John Thompson with the Boston Celtics.

"Coach Thompson told me to come out and play hard, because I was playing with a great coach," Iverson said. "It was a great experience and something that I will treasure for the rest of my life."

Rules changes discussed

The Competition Committee met on Friday to discuss the lack of scoring. Although there won't be any rule changes made this season, there's a possibility some will be adopted this summer.

Possible changes: the three-point distance, the rules on blocks and charges, the width of the lane and the time for moving the ball past half-court (currently 10 seconds).

"I think you're going to see a bunch of these things that are going to be looked at very closely over the course of the next few months," said Russ Granik, the league's deputy commissioner. "Again, if there's something done it's probably not going to be drastic."

Today's NBA All-Star Game

Site: Gund Arena, Cleveland

Time: 6 p.m.

TV: Chs. 11, 4

Pub Date: 2/09/97

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