FEBRUARY 21, 2007
(STAR) PORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson - The NBA All-Star Weekend played out like advertised. The glitz was evident from the onset as celebrities joined in the celebration of the pro league’s traditional midseason event.

Even Michael Jordan, who has snubbed the last few All-Star Weekends, couldn’t stay away from the bright lights. He showed up wearing a black leather coat and denim pants to join Julius Erving, Dominique Wilkins, Vince Carter and Kobe Bryant on the judges panel for the Slam Dunk contest.

It was "Viva Las Vegas" from start to finish. Over 100,000 fans trooped to the South Convention Center of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino for the five-day "Jam Session." The NBA used 400,000 square feet of space to set up the interactive basketball theme park which has become part and parcel of the All-Star extravaganza.

The Rookie Challenge got the show off to a hot start. New York’s David Lee won MVP honors as the sophomores blasted the rookies, 155-114, last Friday. It was no-contest from the get-go as the second-year pros ran the freshmen to the ground with a scorching fastbreak attack. The sophies’ biggest lead went to 43 points as they shot a lofty .747 from the field.

The four-in-one Saturday show was a rouser even as the Shooting Stars contest featured a disqualification in the final round.

Detroit’s Chauncey Billups, Bill Laimbeer and Swen Cash took the Shooting Stars crown by completing the six-shot course in 1:06. Chicago’s team of Ben Gordon, Scottie Pippen and Candice Dupree mixed up the mandatory sequence of shots and lost in the finals by default. The Bulls had clocked 48.9 seconds in the first round compared to Detroit’s 50.5. Also-rans were San Antonio and Los Angeles.

Miami’s Dwayne Wade won his second straight Skills Challenge title by timing 26.4 ticks in the final round. Bryant missed four chest passes and failed to finish faster than Wade. LeBron James and Paul were eliminated in the preliminaries.

Wade’s teammate Jason Kapono scored 24 points in the final round to dethrone Dirk Nowitzki in the 3-Point Shootout. In the 3-way finals, Nowitzki faltered with only nine points and Gilbert Arenas tallied 17, treating the fans to a series of one-handers in his last rack.

Boston’s Gerald Green wore No. 5 on his jersey and No. 2 (for Red Auerbach) on his headband but was clearly No. 1 in the Slam Dunk competition. He was by far the most creative among the contenders. In his first stuff, Celtic teammate Paul Pierce threw up the ball on the side of the board from the baseline and Green, trailing him, caught it in mid-air for a soaring two-handed jam. Then, Green used defending titlist Nate Robinson for a prop and jumped over him, peeking out from an elbow across his eyes like former Celtic Dee Brown in winning the 1991 edition. His final slam was a towering leap over a table for a thunderous windmill.

Robinson had his moments but took 10 tries to make his last slam, disappointing the fans and judges in the process. Next year, there should be a limit in the slam attempts.

Dwight Howard came up with an innovative trick as he jumped over Orlando teammate Jameer Nelson to plant a Las Vegas All-Star sticker, showing his face, at the top of the backboard with his left hand and slam the ball in with his right. But it wasn’t enough to convince the judges.

In the All-Star Game last Sunday, Bryant stole the show with a 31-point eruption as the West won, 153-132.

Now that the All-Star Weekend is over, it’s time to send in your entries to our contest where 20 lucky STAR readers will be picked to win exclusive All-Star merchandise exclusively flown in by the NBA.

Just write on a slip of paper who won this year’s Slam Dunk, Skills Challenge, 3-Point Shootout and Shooting Stars contests, which team won and the score of the Rookie Challenge, which team won and the score of the All-Star Game and whom you think deserves to be the MVP of the All-Star Game and why in 50 words or less. Entries must be sent in or mailed to the "NBA All-Star 2007" Philippine Star sports, 13th and Oca Streets, Port Area, Metro Manila, by this Friday, Feb. 23. Winners will be announced in this column on Feb. 27. Don’t forget to write your name, age, address, occupation (if student, what year, course/school) and telephone number.

The prizes include Las Vegas All-Star caps, shirts and long-sleeved fleece shirts. They’re yours for free.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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