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Not even Rudy Fernandez is sure he should be in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest.

There's never a guarantee that the NBA Slam Dunk Contest will be slammin', but now that the league has introduced online fan voting to determine one of the four contestants, the outlook is murkier than Third World water (and the competition may be as shit-filled). Yesterday the NBA announced that Portland Trailblazers shooting guard Rudy Fernandez (251,868 votes) had beaten out fellow rookies Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook (147,279) and Milwaukee Bucks small forward Joe Alexander (114,963) for the spot...

The Spaniard, who won a silver medal in the Beijing Olympics, is the first international player to compete in the dunk contest (and we hope he's the first to dunk in a garish skin-tight matador's outfit). He will lucha con ("do battle against," you ignorant, unilingual gringo) defending champion Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic, 2006 winner Nate Robinson of the New York Knicks and Rudy Gay of the Memphis Grizzlies after a bunch of wholly irrelevant All-Star Saturday events in Phoenix on February 14.

Fernandez, who averages 26.5 minutes on an exciting 25-16 Blazers team is far more visible than Westbrook, who logs 30.8 minutes on an 8-34 team that only tumbleweeds follow, or Alexander, who plays 11.6 minutes for a 20-24 squad that is really just an excuse for Wisconsinites to drink their considerable body weight in beer. Looks surely played a factor, too. Women go weak in the knees for the scruffy Fernandez, whose romance language skills could make "Ma, nice titties" sound really suave and sophisticated; Westbrook, who is 20, has a baby face only his mom and pedophiles could love; Alexander skies high thanks to Dumbo ears (though we figured his fluency in Mandarin would have been good for at least a billion Chinese votes).

As is the case whenever fans are allowed to vote for All-Star competitions, popularity may have played a larger part in the selection than athletic superiority did. It's too late to alter the vote now, but check out the three players' pitch tapes and let us know who you think'BASED ON DUNKING ABILITY ALONE'deserved to be taking it hard to the hole on All-Star Weekend.

RUDY FERNANDEZ

RUSSELL WESTBROOK

JOE ALEXANDER

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