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Rudy in the Slam Dunk Contest

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Just got home. Playing a little catch up here.  Here's the official release from the team on Rudy's slam dunk contest nomination. 

FANS SELECT PORTLAND'S RUDY FERNANDEZ TO

COMPETE IN 2009 SPRITE SLAM DUNK

- Fernandez Becomes the First International Player to Participate in the Competition -

-More than 2 million videos viewed online and 500,000 votes received by fans through NBA.com -

NEW YORK, Jan 19, 2009 - Portland Trail Blazer rookie Rudy Fernandez, a native of Spain, will become the first international player to participate in the Sprite Slam Dunk competition to be held during NBA All-Star Saturday Night Feb. 14, at US Airways Center (8 p.m. ET on TNT) in Phoenix, the NBA announced today. Fernandez was selected as the fourth and final participant exclusively through an online vote on NBA.com, marking the first time fans have had a say in choosing a competitor for the Dunk contest.

More than 500,000 total votes were cast on NBA.com/dunk to determine one of this year's dunkers as part of Sprite's "They Dunk. You Decide" campaign. Fernandez received 251,868 votes, beating out fellow rookies Russell Westbrook (147,279) of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Joe Alexander (114,963) of the Milwaukee Bucks. Fernandez, who is among rookie leaders in scoring, assists, steals, three-point field goal percentage and free throw percentage, will compete against the Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard, the reigning Sprite Slam Dunk champion, the Memphis Grizzlies' Rudy Gay, who participated in last year's contest, and the New York Knicks' Nate Robinson, winner of the 2006 contest in Houston.

Beginning today and running through the 2009 Sprite Slam Dunk contest on Feb. 14, the four participants will appear in a new series of videos previewing what they have in store for the competition and urging fans to vote for them during the contest. The videos will be available for fans to watch on various sites including NBA.com/dunk, YouTube, Facebook, and Yahoo! Sports. A series of videos featuring the three rookies eligible for the fourth participant vote garnered more than 2 million views across the same online sites over the course of the three week campaign.

For the second straight year, fans will have the final say in deciding the winner of the competition. Following the concluding round of dunks, fans will be able to cast their votes by sending an SMS TXT message to 38657 ("DUNKS) or by voting at NBA.com. The dunker with the most fan votes will be named the winner of the 2009 Sprite Slam Dunk.

The two dunkers with the highest first round scores will advance to the final round. The dunker with the lowest total score from the first round will compete first in the final round. Dunks then will alternate until each player has completed two. Time limit rules still apply. In the final round, fan voting polls will open via SMS TXT message and at NBA.com. The combined results from SMS TXT voting and NBA.com will determine the champion.

The Sprite Slam Dunk is part of NBA All-Star 2009, which also includes the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge & Youth Jam; Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout; PlayStation® Skills Challenge; Haier Shooting Stars; NBA All-Star Jam Session presented by adidas; and the 58th NBA All-Star Game.   

Given Rudy's heartthrob status he should definitely break out some Valentine's day inspired dunks to sway the judges.

This will be some nice visibility for the team.  Given his personality, I bet Rudy comes up with something good.  

-- Ben (benjamin.golliver@gmail.com)

BallHype: hype it up!