Richardson provides All-Star highlights

Posted: Sunday, February 09, 2003

ATLANTA -- Jason Richardson's bounce pass off Carlos Boozer's forehead was the highlight of the afternoon. His final throw-down in the dunk contest was the perfect ending to the night.

Richardson had the most dynamic day of any of the participants in All-Star Saturday -- even if one of his opponents in the Rookie Challenge wasn't all that happy about it.

Richardson led all scorers with 31 points in the rookie game, ending it by hitting a 3-pointer after he bounced a pass to himself off Boozer.

The second-year Golden State Warriors guard then became the first repeat winner of the dunk contest since Michael Jordan did it 15 years earlier.

Richardson finished things off with a spectacular dunk, coming in along the baseline, catching his lob pass, putting the ball between his legs and switching it from his right hand to his left before slamming it through.

Richardson raised his arms in triumph as Jordan, one of five judges, gave him a perfect score of 10. The other judges gave him the same score, giving Richardson perfect scores of 50 on three of his four dunks in the contest.

Peja Stojakovic of Sacramento also was a repeat winner, taking the 3-point shootout for the second straight year by defeating the same player he beat in the final round of last year's shootout, Wesley Person.

The big difference this time was that Stojakovic was awarded a do-over in the final round after a buzzer inadvertently went off as he was midway through shooting his five racks of balls.

Also, Jason Kidd of New Jersey won a new event, a sort of obstacle course involving dribbling, passing and shooting called the Skills Challenge.

And a team comprised of Magic Johnson, Lisa Leslie of the WNBA Los Angeles Sparks, Marko Jaric of the Los Angeles Clippers and celebrity Ashton Kutcher rallied in the Hoop It Up contest to beat a team led by former Hawks superstar Dominique Wilkins.

This version of All-Star Saturday will best be remembered for the doings of Richardson -- especially his act of bouncing the ball off Boozer's forehead and then catching it and shooting a 3-pointer that capped the Sophomore team's 132-112 victory over the Rookie team.

''He was just trying to get the crowd riled up, but he has no class. You don't do that,'' Boozer said.

Told that Boozer was offended, Richardson said he intended no disrespect to the Cleveland rookie.

''Fans like stuff like that -- a little streetball,'' Richardson said.

Richardson's Golden State teammate, Gilbert Arenas, scored 30 points and was picked as the MVP as the sophomores dominated the second half. But it was Richardson who provided most of the game's signature moments.

In the first half, he got a head start on defending his dunk championship with a couple of jaw-dropping moves.

He made a 360-degree spin on his way to a one-handed slam and followed that with a reverse two-hander that left the backboard shaking and crowd oohing and aahing.

''Fans come out to see some spectacular plays,'' Richardson said. ''When I got in the game, I tried to give them some.''

He wasn't through. With the clock winding down and the game in hand, Richardson dribbled leisurely outside the 3-point arc before a quick flip off Boozer's head. As if playing with a yo-yo, the ball bounced straight back to Richardson, who swished the shot for the game's final points.

''It was no different than Jay Williams putting the ball between my legs. It's not an NBA move, but it's streetball. It's no different than me doing a crossover on Carlos and putting him on the ground. He'd still be embarrassed.

''Carlos came up and said kiddingly: 'Why'd you do me like that?' I told him it was nothing personal, but I guess he sees it differently,'' Richardson said.

In the finals of the dunk contest, Richardson defeated the 2001 champion, Desmond Mason of the Seattle SuperSonics, to become the first repeat winner since Jordan did it in 1987 and 1988.

''I knew I had a winner when I threw it up. I think it was a pretty good dunk,'' Richardson said.

Three players competed in the final, but a playoff was necessary after Stojakovic and Person tied with 20 points apiece. Brent Barry of Seattle was eliminated with 17.

Stojakovic missed 10 straight shots after the buzzer went off, causing him to briefly hesitate on his third rack of balls. The crowd at Philips Arena began booing louder and louder as Stojakovic kept missing.

He hit his last two shots to finish with 12 points, but the public-address announcer quelled the furor by quickly announcing that Stojakovic would get another chance.

''When the buzzer went off, it threw me off,'' Stojakovic said. ''They did the right thing.''



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