Here we go people, the NBA All-Star Weekend is upon us once again. This All-Star Game could be a sign of things to come in the league. The post-Jordan era is truly behind us and we are on the precipice of another Golden Age.
This year’s NBA has it all, dramatic rivalries, bona-fide superstars, dominant veteran teams and hungry young talent. The league is so stacked that Dwyane Wade hardly gets mentioned in the “best player” debate. I credit David Stern for scheduling MSG appearances for Kobe and LeBron leading into the weekend, congratulations on another shrewd move sir. Regardless of who played the better game, both players showed us that there is true greatness in the NBA.
As fans we are all looking forward to seeing more memorable performances in Phoenix this weekend. For now you can relive some memories with my top 10 All-Star Moments.
10. 2002 NBA All-Star Game – Tracy McGrady to Tracy McGrady
We’ve all seen off the backboard dunks. We’ve even seen another one from Tracy’s family. Remember Vince in the 2005 All-Star game? What we don’t see too often is a player lobbing the ball up from the left side and crossing over to the right before grabbing the ball off the backboard and flushing it down. Check out the replay on YouTube. For added amusement there’s a shot of Peja with a hilarious “I wish I could do that” face.
9. 1972 NBA All-Star Game – That’s Mr. Clutch, thank you very much
This game was played before my time but you’ve got to appreciate Jerry West hitting a game winner in front of the hometown L.A. fans with no time on the clock! That’s why he’s the logo.
8. 2001 NBA All-Star Game – When the East is in the house
All-Star festivities usually aren’t about team efforts, but 2001 was a different year. Western Conference dominance has reached ridiculous proportions. There were really only three bad teams in the West (Warriors, Grizzlies and of course, the Clippers).
The All-Star game started off as another reminder of the West’s superiority but after falling to a 20-point deficit early in the fourth quarter, the East team fought back with a vengeance. Led by game MVP Allen Iverson, they furiously battled the bigger West team and to a 111-110 victory and restored a sense of pride in all NBA cities east of the Mississippi.
7. 1993 NBA All-Star Game – The Odd Couple
Everybody likes a good buddy story. Thelma and Louise, Crockett and Tubbs, Cheech and Chong; whatever. When it comes to basketball, there might not be a more iconic team-up than Stockton and Malone. That’s why fans loved watching the legendary duo take over the overtime period and overcome 30 points from Michael Jordan. They never won the big trophy but it was good to watch Karl and John hoist some hardware together.
6. 1986 NBA Three Point Shootout – Larry Legend
These days, swagger is a word usually associated with rappers and street corners. In 1986 it would’ve been a good word to describe a certain ballplayer from French Lick, Indiana. Already the winner of the first two contests, Larry Bird showed up for the ’86 showdown with serious swagger. Always a trash talker, Bird walked into the locker room, eyed the other contestants and asked them who’s coming in second. You know what happened after that.
5. 1988 NBA Slam Dunk Contest – The Human Highlight v. His Airness
THE seminal dunk contest. The final round pitted ’Nique’s power against Jordan’s acrobatics. Jordan won with the infamous free throw dunk but in my humble opinion, ’Nique got robbed. Forty-five points for that thunderous two-handed windmill? Seriously?
4. 1991 NBA Three Point Shootout – XIX
Before ’91 Larry Bird held the record for consecutive shots in the shootout with eleven. Craig Hodges hit nineteen. That’s nineteen consecutive triples under pressure. Think about that.
3. 1986 NBA Slam Dunk Contest – Hot Potato
Spud Webb won the ’86 dunk contest. Beat Dominique, his teammate, in the final round with a perfect 150 point score. He’s 5’7”. That would be the same height as Halle Berry.
2. 2008 NBA Slam Dunk Contest – Superman
Many will criticize me for ranking Dwight Howard’s performance above the classic ‘Nique/Jordan/Webb contests of the ‘80s. Let ‘em. Howard’s performance deserves greater recognition because he reenergized the dunk contest during a period of waning interest in the event.
Howard’s Superman cape added a unique flair to an already impressive display of size and speed. Hey, I like Harold Miner and Brent Barry as much as the next guy, but there’s nothing like watching a superstar take the stage.
1. 1992 NBA All-Star Game – Magic
This is the only All-Star moment big enough to transcend the sport itself. The game happened in the midst of AIDS hysteria. At the time, most of us thought AIDS only affected homosexuals and drug addicts. Magic put the world on notice in November of 2001 when he abruptly retired after contracting the HIV virus.
Showing the sort of tolerance and social consciousness that sports brings out in people, the fans still voted Magic to start in the All-Star game and he agreed to return for the game. Some players voiced concerns of possible infection, but Johnson took the floor and lit up the East team on his way to a second NBA All-Star MVP award.
His dominant performance helped spread AIDS awareness and alleviate the stigma of the disease. Truly one of the great moments in NBA and sports history.