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Pop superstar Ke$ha finds fan in Oklahoma City All-Star Russell Westbrook

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HOUSTON - Ke$ha didn't pay much attention to the NBA until recently when she realized she had a fan in the league.

The pop star was shown a video of Oklahoma City All-Star Russell Westbrook singing along to her hit "Die Young" before a recent game against the Mavericks.

"It was the cutest, hottest thing ever to see a basketball player doing that to my song," Ke$ha said.

Told that Westbrook is known as one of the NBA's most fashionable players because of his unique ensembles, Ke$ha wasn't surprised.

"I'm sure he is, if he likes my music then he must have good taste," she said with a giggle.

Westbrook isn't the only NBA player who has taken a liking to Ke$ha's tunes. She's also been alerted to other video clips of ballers enjoying her work.

"Lots of basketball players like to dance around to my songs, so it's made me more and more of a fan," she said.

Ke$ha, who has an upcoming documentary miniseries on MTV called Ke$ha: My Crazy Beautiful Life, headlined a pre-game concert at Sunday night's All-Star game.

"It's really exciting because it was made by just me and my brother and one of my brother's friends and we travelled around the world together," she said of the documentary. "It was very guerrilla style, do-it-yourself capturing everything that you could imagine or not want to see about my life. The documentary is so much more intimate than people would expect it to be."

Another star in town to help out with All-Star festivities was R&B crooner and nine-time Grammy Award winner John Legend.

Legend performed the National Anthem before Sunday night's game. Before that he raved about how much he loves basketball.

"I'm a true NBA fan and this is something that I always look forward to as a fan, and to be a participant in such a big event is always a good thing," he said.

Legend's organized basketball career ended in elementary school, but his affinity for the game never has.

"I grew up in a family that really had two loves, sports and music and they were about equal," he said. "We grew up big football and basketball fans and both of my brothers played basketball very well, but I'm not very good. I always played to just for fun, but I was always better at music."

Legend has a new album coming out in June and is looking forward to seeing how fans will respond to it.

"Everyone always says: 'This new one is my best one yet,'" he said. "And I feel like that, too, but I'll let the people be the judge. I'm really proud of it, and I feel like it's a great statement of where I am in my life and musically right now. I think people are going to dig it."

Ludacris, who also performed in the pre-game concert, has been involved in several All-Star games throughout his career. Still, the excitement of being involved hasn't worn off.

"It's just all in fun and it's good," he said. "It brings a lot of artists and a lot of players together, and we're all friends with each other so we all motivate each other from the players to the rappers and it's just good to see everybody."

Grammy-nominated rapper B.o.B., who is wrapping up a new album, joined Ke$ha and Ludacris in the pre-game concert. He believes professional athletes and musicians share similar qualities.

"I think it's so parallel because you have to pull so much out of yourself to perform on a professional level," he said. "You can't be that good at something unless you love doing it."

Grammy Award-winning singer NeYo performed during player introductions. He enjoyed the chance to part of such an eclectic group assembled for the event.

"It is absolutely a blast," he said. "Everybody who is anybody is here, from R&B stars to rappers to just any kind of celebrity you can think of that is a fan of basketball, so you're definitely going to have a good time."

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SPECIAL TREAT: Past and present NBA stars and WNBA players joined a dozen Special Olympics athletes in a charity game on Sunday afternoon.

Dikembe Mutombo, Detlef Schrempf and Chris Mullin were among the former players and Portland guard Damian Lillard, Denver forward Kenneth Faried and Golden State forward Harrison Barnes were among the current ones who participated in the second NBA Cares Special Olympics Unity Sports game as part of the NBA's All-Star Weekend. WNBA stars Candice Wiggins, Ruth Riley, Nicole Powell and Ticha Penicheiro also played.

"It's not about how good you are," Mutombo said, "it's just about sharing the same value and love on the basketball court, and in any sport. Just enjoy it."

NBA commissioner David Stern shook hands with the Special Olympians before the game and Yao Ming watched from a courtside seat. Yao and Mutombo are just back from South Korea, where they watched the Special Olympics World Winter Games.

The NBA has partnered with Special Olympics for 30 years, and the league's Basketball Without Borders program has sponsored international basketball clinics for Special Olympics athletes.

Yao became involved with the Special Olympics in 2003, and the organization's 2007 Summer Games were held in Shanghai, Yao's hometown. Yao greeted the two Chinese players in Sunday's game, Jian Gong and Xue Mao.

"Special Olympics is a unified sport," Yao said. "We live together with all kinds of people. We share the same air, the same day and night. That's why we come together."

The dozen Special Olympics players included the two from China, one from Italy and one from Namibia. Jose Benitez, a player from Puerto Rico hit a floating shot over the 7-foot-2 Mutombo, second on the NBA's list for career blocks.

"Some of them, they can be in any sport, whether in college, even professional," Mutombo said. "They're good."

NBA Cares, the league's charity initiative, and corporate partner Coca-Cola presented a $50,000 check to the Special Olympics before the game.

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WHAT IF?: Michael Jordan wonders if he could have won nine titles. Bill Russell, under different circumstances, could've ended up winning none.

Two of basketball's greatest champions discussed those aspects of their careers for programs that will air Monday on NBA TV.

The programs are part of a three-hour block of specials featuring interviews with three Hall of Famers.

In "One on One with Ahmad Rashad: Michael Jordan," Jordan talks about what could have happened had the Chicago Bulls stayed together. He retired again and Phil Jackson didn't return after they won their sixth title in 1998.

"We have to live the rest of our lives with this idea of, wow we could have won seven, or we could have won eight, or we could have won nine," said Jordan, who turned 50 on Sunday. "We could have done all that."

Russell did all that and more, winning an NBA-record 11 championships with the Boston Celtics. But in "Mr. Russell's House," he tells ESPN's Bill Simmons that he never even would have been an NBA player if he was picked to play elsewhere.

"St. Louis was overwhelmingly racist," Russell said. "If I would have been drafted by St. Louis, I wouldn't be in the NBA. I would not have gone into the NBA."

He also talks about an offer he had to come back after retiring with the Lakers — who already had Wilt Chamberlain playing for them.

"How would he feel playing backup centre?" Russell said he asked owner Jack Kent Cooke.

The Jordan episode airs at 8 p.m. ET with the Russell special to follow. The programming wraps up with "Sir Charles at 50," featuring Charles Barkley as he turns 50 talking to Turner Sports colleague Ernie Johnson after his life.

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SLAM DUNK: When Michael Jordan edged Dominique Wilkins to win the 1988 slam dunk contest, many people thought Wilkins would have been the champion if the event had been anywhere but Chicago.

Did Jordan?

"We talk about it all the time," Wilkins said. "Mike and I are such great friends, great competitors, and he said, 'Hey, if it was any other arena, it could have turned out different.'"

Wilkins was one of the NBA's great dunkers, helping make the slam dunk contest the marquee event of All-Star weekend for many years. But his losses to Jordan and teammate Spud Webb were probably more famous than his victories — even if Wilkins wasn't too sure he actually lost some of them.

"I did it five times. Won it four, got credit for two," he said with a laugh.

He said players during his time never declined to participate and didn't even care who won. Those days are gone now, with LeBron James never dunking and the field filled with such lower-level names Saturday that it received far less buzz than it did for so long.

Wilkins said when he competed, he heard fans used to buy tickets a year in advance for a chance to see the dunkers. And he believes that level of excitement can return.

"Go back to the old format, get all the top guys to get involved in it, and you'd have that same pandemonium, trust me," he said.

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AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney and AP Sports Writer Chris Duncan contributed to this report.

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