DALLAS - If only an NBA season consisted of 82 slam dunk competitions instead of actual games, Nate Robinson would be a superstar and out of Mike D'Antoni's doghouse for good.
Robinson may be struggling with the Knicks but here at All-Star Weekend, Lil' Him is still the king. Robinson became the first three-time slam dunk champion Saturday night, beating a weak field in a competition that failed to measure up to last year's showdown in Phoenix between Robinson and Orlando's Dwight Howard.
Robinson beat Toronto rookie DeMar Derozan in the final and did something Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, Vince Carter and Kobe Bryant never did.
"No more titles," Robinson said. "I'm finished. It's the last one."
Robinson received 51% of the fan vote to edge Derozan, a player selected after the Knicks drafted Jordan Hill eighth overall.
In his final dunk, Robinson got creative. He asked four Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders to join him on the court. Last year, Robinson morphed into his alter-ego, Krypto-Nate, and jumped over Howard, the self-proclaimed Superman. Last night, Robinson's final dunk consisted of him throwing the ball off the backboard to himself for an emphatic slam. He then raced to midcourt, took a set of pom-poms from one cheerleader and began waving to the crowd. It was a gimmick he stole from former Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens.
"I had to be creative and think of something fast," Robinson said. "I'm a football guy. Why not? We're in Dallas so why not pay homage to them."
Robinson has had an eventful season. D'Antoni benched him for 14 games in December, which led to Robinson, via his agent Aaron Goodwin, requesting a trade. Although Robinson never said publicly that he wanted out of New York, the NBA fined him $25,000.
He'll always have a home at All-Star Weekend. Robinson's victories in Houston and Phoenix were far more exciting but that may have had more to do with the competition. Last night, the Lakers' Shannon Brown and Charlotte's Gerald Wallace were unimpressive in their first two dunks. Derozan had one incredible dunk but he doesn't resonate with the crowd the way the 5-foot-8 Robinson does.
Robinson's victory salvaged the night for the Knicks. Danilo Gallinari finished tied for fourth in the 3-point shootout, which was won by the Celtics' Paul Pierce. Gallinari guaranteed a victory in the contest even before he was selected to compete. But following a practice session on Friday, Gallinari didn't sound confident about beating the field.
"It's not like shooting in a game," he said. "I like to watch my shot go through the net. But you can't do that here. You have to grab the next ball and shoot."
Gallinari finished tied for fourth with former Knick lottery pick Channing Frye of the Suns, and last year's champion, Miami's Daequan Cook. Those three were the last to shoot in the first round and all finished with 15 points.
Pierce, Chauncey Billups and Stephen Curry started off the competition and Curry gave the building some life by scoring 18 in the first round. As the crowd cheered, Gallinari removed his warmup suit, took a deep breath and was ready to fire away.
However, he was essentially iced by a long television break. When Gallinari's time finally came, he barely struck iron on his first shot from the corner. To get to 15, Gallinari made four of his last five threes.