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HOWARD: MAN OF SLAM

Look, up in the sky! It's a bird. It's a plane. It's Dwight Howard - super slam dunk champion.

Sporting a red cape, Orlando's man of steel made like Superman and won the most creative dunk contest in NBA history to close a memorable All-Star Saturday.

Using a variety of props as well as teammate Jameer Nelson, Howard scored perfect 50s from the judges on his first two dunks before the contest was turned over to fan voting for the first time in the final round.

Howard won the vote in a landslide, receiving 78 percent.

At 6 feet 11, he becomes the tallest man to win the event; 6-9 Larry Nance won it in 1984.

"It's really for the big men," Howard said. "Everybody always says, big men can't jump and big men don't look good dunking. I just tried to add a little bit of my personality. With me being so tall, I knew it was going to be tough. I tried to play to the crowd and have fun."

In any other year, Minnesota's Gerald Green would have walked away with his second straight dunking crown, but he was upstaged by the athletic Howard.

"I think the dunk contest is back," said Howard, disappointed last year when he was ousted in the first round. "I don't think people want to see the same old dunks. They want to see something else, see some spice."

Howard started with a dunk he has been practicing for two years. Standing on the baseline, he tossed the ball off the reverse side of the backboard, caught it with both hands, and after peering through the glass at the rim, dunked left-handed.

A celebrity panel of judges including Magic Johnson, Karl Malone, Dominique Wilkins, Julius Erving and Darryl Dawkins all gave him perfect 10s.

Green's turn. After teammate Rashad McCants placed a cupcake with a single candle in it on the back of the rim, Green soared in and puffed out the flame and jammed it left-handed.

In the second round, McCants sat on the top step of the ladder and handed the ball to a rising Green, who slammed it.

That was when Howard stripped off his blue Magic jersey to reveal an "S" on his chest and tied the cape around his shoulders.

"I didn't have time to get the telephone booth," he quipped.

Nelson placed a piece of tape to mark Howard's take-off spot just inside the free-throw line. After a running start, Howard fired down the ball.

In the final round, Green had two acrobatic dunks, one in only green socks after removing his sneakers. But neither of those could top Howard's last two efforts.

First, Howard bounced the ball off the floor, tapped it left-handed off the backboard and dunked with his right hand. Then Nelson affixed a miniature Orlando backboard next to the rim and balanced a ball on it.

Howard flew in from the right side, picked the ball off and slammed it in.

Other events: The NBA's best 3-point shooter this season, Toronto's Jason Kapono, won his second straight 3-point Shootout, tying the 22-year-old record of 25 by Craig Hodges.

Cleveland's Daniel Gibson, who made 11 3-pointers in Friday's rookie challenge, finished second with 17 points.

In the Skills Challenge, Utah's Deron Williams defeated New Orleans' Chris Paul, finishing the obstacle course of dribbling, passing and shooting in a record 25.5 seconds to Paul's 31.2.

San Antonio's Becky Hammon, David Robinson and Tim Duncan won the Shooting Stars competition, featuring teams consisting of an NBA player, a WNBA player and a former NBA great from the same city.

Bryant to play: Despite suffering a torn tendon and broken bone in his pinkie, the Lakers' Kobe Bryant will play in tonight's All-Star Game, ESPN reported on its Web site.

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