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Robinson bails out dunk contest

DALLAS -- New York Knicks guard Nate Robinson was the one bright candle on an otherwise deflated cake. Robinson became the NBA's first three-time dunk champion by outlasting Toronto rookie DeMar DeRozan in what was a rather forgettable dunk contest.

Be prepared to have the discussion re-ignited about the way in which the league can add some pizzazz to the capstone of All-Star Saturday night.

What this contest really needed was LeBron James to participate, adding a degree of celebrity that would have boosted the interest and expectation level befitting of Texas, where everything is reportedly bigger. James indicated all season that he was likely to take part. But a few weeks before All-Star Weekend James said he had a "change of heart," failing to follow in the footsteps of other young stars like Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins and Vince Carter.

So while the rest of the NBA All-Stars sat in courtside seats, they watched as the dunk contest failed to capture the imagination as it has in recent years, when big man Dwight Howard and little man Robinson volleyed back and forth for supremacy.

Frankly, James executes more thrilling dunks on a nightly basis during the regular season than many that were witnessed during Saturday's event. In fact, it wasn't really until Robinson's final dunk -- a self-pass off the backboard, catch and a compact and powerful reverse jam -- that the crowd exuded any electricity.

Afterward, Robinson jogged over and took two pom pons from some Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders he specifically trotted out as props, shaking them in a well rehearsed cheer. He even went so far as to bring the four cheerleaders into the media room for his news conference.

"The best part is right there, the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders," Robinson said. "I'm a football guy. I watch a lot of football. So I see them all the time. I was like, 'Why not, we're in Dallas, just pay homage to them.'"

Of course, he later said he was a fan of his hometown Seattle Seahawks. But who can argue with a lack of allegiance to a cheerleading squad?

Robinson quickly announced that he would not be pursuing a fourth title, perhaps because he had run out of creative ways to impress an increasingly hungry crowd. It is certainly easier to make the dunks look impressive when a player stands only 5-foot-9, but there also seems to be a finite number of permutations one can use to throw a ball through a basket.

"You just have to figure out a dunk that nobody's tried, or kind of a tribute dunk or a copycat dunk," Robinson said. "I see if I can get people's attention."

Robinson faced difficulty getting to Dallas from New York because of the snowstorms that blanketed the East Coast this week. Then, as he competed, his mother, Renee Busch, was in a Seattle hospital with an IV in her arm because she was dehydrated from vomiting from illness.

"She said she won't be able to make it but she told me to just go out there and be me, and I did that for her," Robinson said.

Beyond two nice dunks from DeRozan, Robinson had very little competition. In the first round, Lakers guard Shannon Brown ran the length of the court, clearing out about six tons of fat male dancers, only to throw down an ordinary left-handed dunk.

Charlotte's Gerald Wallace then did two ordinary dunks that drew yawns and derision. Neither advanced to the second round.

DeRozan actually got into the contest by winning a dunk-in against Clippers guard Eric Gordon on Friday night. He performed more impressively on Saturday, but his two best jams were not better than Robinson's one.

"Downstairs he was practicing some different dunks I thought he was going to do" in the contest, Robinson said. "But I guess they were just for warmups."

Meanwhile, Boston veteran Paul Pierce won the 3-point shooting contest, outlasting Golden State rookie Stephen Curry, son of sharpshooter Dell Curry, and Denver point guard Chauncey Billups. Pierce had 20 points while Curry had 17 and Billups had 14.

"I said throughout my career, I've always been known as a pure scorer," Pierce said. "If I just sat outside and shots 3s, and just really focused on that ... I would be probably more known as one of the great shooters in NBA history."

Phoenix point guard Steve Nash defeated Utah's Deron Williams in the final of the Skills Competition.

And Team Texas, made up of Dirk Nowitzki, Kenny Smith and Becky Hammon, won the Shooting Stars competition, which requires the participants to make a series of shots that culminates in a half-court contest.

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