LOS ANGELES — Blake Griffin leaped over a car and threw down a two-handed dunk to the accompaniment of a gospel choir, winning the slam dunk contest before his hometown fans on All-Star Saturday.
The Clippers' rookie caught a pass thrown out of the sunroof from teammate Baron Davis and easily cleared the 2011 Kia Optima's hood as the Crenshaw Select Choir sang I Believe I Can Fly at midcourt.
The inventive slam drove home the obvious point of the All-Star weekend's silly Saturday: Griffin has both the raw athleticism and the showtime flair to be the NBA's next big star.
With an entire building solidly behind Griffin, finalist Javale McGee of Washington and Toronto's DeMar DeRozan really didn't stand a chance despite their own creative dunks at Staples Center.
Griffin, 21, started the contest with a 360-degree spin dunk before converting a bounce pass off the side of the backboard in the first round.
The first rookie All-Star in eight years then brought back a difficult favorite with his first dunk of the final, sticking his arm into the hoop and hanging from it by his elbow, as Vince Carter did while winning the 2000 contest.
And when fans saw the car driving out of the arena tunnel, the contest already seemed over.
MAKING NICE: Kobe Bryant needed only a quick survey of the All-Star rosters for the names to jump out at him. "We're playing the Celtics and the Heat," he said. "And the Hawks."
Forget that last one. Those first two should spice up tonight's game on Bryant's home floor, particularly the presence of a record-tying four players from that hated team in green.
Boston coach Doc Rivers leads an East team that includes Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo. He also gets Miami's Big Three, including LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in his starting lineup.
So tonight the Celtics and Heat, developing their own rivalry, must play nice.
"For that weekend, as hard as it is, we'll kind of put the rivalries and the dislikes aside for the better of the fans and the better of the game," James said.
Rivers is glad to hear it — even if he doesn't necessarily buy it.
"I've always been amazed by it, even when you know guys don't like each other," he said. " … You know, boy, they're so … phony right now. That's what you want to say."
WINNERS: Miami's James Jones held off Boston teammates Pierce and Allen to win his first 3-point shootout. Jones had 20 points in the final round. Golden State's Stephen Curry beat Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook to win the Skills Challenge, and a three-person team from Atlanta won the Shooting Stars competition.
NO MOVE, NO MEETING: Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov met with Nuggets All-Star Carmelo Anthony just hours after a spokeswoman for the Russian billionaire said they would not meet. Nets minority owner and rapper Jay-Z also was involved, according to the New York Daily News. Several outlets had reported that Anthony would not sign an extension with the Nets if they got him in a trade.
Stern on labor talks: 'It's time to start'
Commissioner David Stern said "it's time to start negotiating" a new collective bargaining agreement and kill the rhetoric.
But shortly after he said the players largely agreed with the league's financial figures, the union said it still disagreed. Stern said the league and the players association realize the importance of a deal before the current one expires June 30.
The sides met Friday and agreed to hold more talks in smaller groups over the next few months.
The league is leaning toward a hard salary cap, which union executive director Billy Hunter has called a "nonstarter."