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They're showing love for Rudy

Maybe it was the Spanish vote, or maybe it was that dunk on Dwight Howard at the Olympic Games. Whatever the reason, fans have spoken and Portland's Rudy Fernandez is headed to Phoenix for the All-Star weekend's dunk contest.

Fernandez got 251,868 votes on nba.com, far more than Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook (147,279) or Milwaukee's Joe Alexander (114,963). It was the first time a vote has been taken to choose a competitor.

The Spaniard will be up against Orlando's Howard, the defending champion, 2006 winner Nate Robinson of New York and Memphis forward Rudy Gay, all previously named to participate.

The Trail Blazers rookie is the first international player to appear in the contest.

In videos he made for his campaign, Fernandez dunks, sings and plays guitar. He croons — badly — "Vota mi, por favor."

"It is very famous, the song now, in Spain," he said. "The NBA proposed me the song, the guitar. I think I'm better at playing basketball. I'm no singer."

Fernandez, who is still learning English, marveled that when he was in Spain he used to wake up at 4 a.m. to watch the slam dunk competition, and now he's in it.

"It's incredible," he said.

Fernandez is averaging 11 points, 2.1 assists and 3.1 rebounds off the bench this season. He has had at least one 3-pointer in 40 of 41 games this season, and was the first rookie ever to have a 3 in his first 20 NBA games.

Known for his no-look passes, alley-oop dunks and even the flashy behind-back-dribbles, fans at the Rose Garden often chant "Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!" Some female fans have taken to wearing "I (heart) Rudy" T-shirts.

Fernandez was lured to Portland from DKV Joventut Badalona of the Spanish ACB League. Last season he averaged 21.2 points, 3.1 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.2 steals for the team.

He became something of an internet sensation this summer when he dunked over Howard at the Olympics. The U.S. team won the gold medal with a victory over Spain in the final.

The dunk contest will take place Feb. 14 as part of the All-Star festivities in Phoenix.


ODEN'S POLITICS: Greg Oden, coming off one of the best games of his rookie season, didn't wake up in time to watch Barack Obama's inauguration as the nation's 44th president.

That didn't mean he wasn't interested. He was just tired.

Oden wrote about what Obama's presidency meant to him on his blog later that day.

"Today was a really amazing day. It was good to see President Obama in the office FINALLY and im excited for everything to start going. Its goin to be a fun year, and I know some big things will come out of it. I know it's going to be hard, but I know he can do it and I wish the best for him and his family," he wrote.

Oden, who turned 21 on Thursday, cast his first vote for Obama and campaigned for him through ads that ran in Ohio. The 7-foot center played a season at Ohio State before going pro.

Oden recorded Obama's swearing in and his speech to watch later. The night before, he scored a career-high 24 points and had 15 rebounds in Portland's victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.

Portland Trail Blazers' Rudy Fernandez (5), of Spain, shoots over Milwaukee Bucks' Luke Ridnour (13) during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Monday, Jan. 19, 2009. The Trail Blazers beat the Bucks 102-85. (AP Photo/Greg Wahl-Stephens) - AP