Orlando Magic center

Dwight Howard

will defend his Slam Dunk championship during the NBA all-star weekend in Phoenix in February.

In New Orleans last season, Howard edged defending champion

Gerald Green

for the title in one of the most creative competitions in recent history. Howard scored perfect 50s on both of his first-round dunks - one of which included his donning a cape for a "Superman" dunk.

Howard will face off against Memphis'

Rudy Gay

and 2006 winner

Nate Robinson

of the New York Knicks. A fan vote will pick the fourth competitor from among Milwaukee's

Joe Alexander

, Portland's

Rudy Fernandez

and Oklahoma City's

Russell Westbrook

.

An NBA-record string of 108 games with at least one steal ended yesterday for New Orleans guard

Chris Paul

in the Hornets' loss to Orlando. Paul is the league steals leader (3.7 average).

Colleges

Oklahoma State football coach

Mike Gundy

will receive a $400,000 bonus for getting the Cowboys to their third consecutive bowl appearance.

A clause in Gundy's contract indicates that he is to receive the bonus if the Cowboys make three bowl appearances in any five-year period. Gundy coached Oklahoma State to a 34-31 win over Alabama in the Independence Bowl in 2006, and a 49-33 victory against Indiana last season in the Insight Bowl.

No. 13 Oklahoma State (9-3) will face No. 15 Oregon (9-3) in Tuesday's Holiday Bowl in San Diego.

Miami punt snapper

Chris Ivory

will not play in tomorrow's Emerald Bowl because he violated an unspecified team rule. He is the fifth Hurricane suspended for the final game of the season.

The Hurricanes (7-5) will face California (8-4) in San Francisco.

Delaware volleyball player

Elena Delle Donne

will be interviewed Sunday on ESPN's

Outside the Lines

about her decision to give up basketball.

The freshman was the nation's top basketball prospect at Wilmington's Ursuline Academy a year ago.

It will be Delle Donne's first television interview since she returned her basketball scholarship in August to Connecticut, the nation's top-ranked team.

Delle Donne, whose volleyball season recently ended, was named to the Colonial Athletic Association all-rookie team.

Baseball

Minnesota and free-agent knuckleballer

R.A. Dickey

, formerly with the Seattle Mariners, reached agreement on a contract, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported yesterday.

The Twins see Dickey, 34, as a middle reliever and spot starter.