Lots of dunking on competition


PHILADELPHIA - The NBA held its second dunk contest of All-Star Weekend, but with an interesting dimension. This time it came during the West's 135-120 victory over the East at the First Union Center. It gave the East some solace in its defeat and the Orlando Magic's Tracy McGrady a small shred of the spotlight.

While the results were unofficial, the clear winner was McGrady. Standing between the foul line and the top of the key, the 6-foot-8 McGrady tossed a pass to himself off the backboard and slammed it down with a little under eight minutes left in the second quarter.

McGrady said later that he had done it before in a preseason game against the Boston Celtics last year, and a few times in high school.

"I kind of wanted to do it all along, but it was a great opportunity to pull it off," he said. "I got the ball in transition; there was only one guy back there, I think. It was Dirk [Nowitzki], and he bit on the lob. I guess he thought I was throwing it to one of my teammates, and I just threw it down."

And how would he rate it?

"I definitely think the dunks in today's game could have won the Slam Dunk Contest," McGrady said, referring to the competition won Saturday night by Golden State's Jason Richardson.

Said Charlotte's Baron Davis, "That was the dunk of the year so far."

It certainly impressed a couple of Hall of Famers who know something about the art of dunking.

"If he had done that in the dunk contest, it probably would have been a 9 [out of 10]," said Julius Erving, who set the standard while playing for the Virginia Squires and New York Nets of the old American Basketball Association, and later for the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers. "But since he did it in a game, and in traffic, I'd probably have to give him an 11."

Former Baltimore Bullets and New York Knicks guard Earl Monroe said that he felt something in the back of his seat after McGrady's dunk, the first of two he made in a span of 58 seconds.

"Bill Russell was sitting behind me and he kicked my chair," Monroe said. "He said, 'Do you believe that?' "

It was one of nine dunks during the first half - and one memorable botched dunk. That was done, or not done, by Michael Jordan with 3:20 left in the second quarter. Taking a pass from Philadelphia's Allen Iverson in the open court, Jordan went up with one hand.

And missed.

Jordan, who earlier had made a terrific baseline dunk over Minnesota's Kevin Garnett, could do nothing but laugh.

"If I can't laugh at myself, I can't laugh at anybody," Jordan said.

Francis in funk

It was a fun but somewhat unfulfilling weekend for former University of Maryland star Steve Francis. First, Francis was knocked out of the dunk contest after the opening round, then he was nearly shut out in yesterday's game.

Francis missed his first seven shots before hitting a 22-foot jumper with 7.6 seconds left in the game. Francis had scored his first point in his All-Star debut by banking in a free throw earlier in the fourth quarter.

"I had to make a shot," said Francis, the first Terrapin to play in an All-Star Game since Buck Williams in 1986.

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