Ranking the Best NBA All-Star Game Performances Ever

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistFebruary 12, 2013

Ranking the Best NBA All-Star Game Performances Ever

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    The collective eyes of the basketball world will be glued to Houston's Toyota Center on Sunday, Feb. 17 for the 62nd NBA All-Star Game.

    More than simply an exhibition between the biggest names in the sport, the 2013 All-Star Game offers 17 former All-Stars and seven first-timers the chance to improve their historical standing with a transcendent performance.

    Through the collection of talent of All-Stars past and present, there has been a bevy of unforgettable moments over the game's history. But which of those players have used this global platform to shine brighter than the rest?

    Here are 10 unforgettable performances from the history of the All-Star Game.

10. Oscar Robertson, 1961: Cincinnati Royals

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    The 1961 All-Star Game's 284 combined points shattered the previous record of 248 points scored during the 1958 event.

    Amid the flurry of scoring, though, there was a rookie who led all contributors.

    Oscar Robertson's 23 points (on 62-percent field-goal shooting) were the third-most in the game (behind Bill Russell's 24 and Bob Pettit's 29).

    But the 6'5" do-it-all guard stuffed the stat sheet en route to his first of three All-Star MVP awards.

    His 14 assists broke Bob Cousy's record for the most ever in an All-Star Game, a mark that stood until Magic Johnson dished out 16 in 1983. He also added nine rebounds to help the West route the East, 153-131.

9. Tom Chambers, 1987: Seattle SuperSonics

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    Buoyed by the arrival of rookie point guard Nate McMillan, Tom Chambers impressed enough with his statistics to earn the All-Star roster spot vacated by the injured Ralph Sampson.

    Playing in front of his home crowd in Seattle, he erupted for a game-high 34 points and finished as the most unexpected winner of the All-Star MVP award in the event's history.

    Powered by Chambers, Rolando Blackman (29 points) and James Worthy (22), the West edged the East, 154-149, in overtime. Chambers connected on 13 of his 25 field-goal attempts (52 percent) and padded his stat line with four rebounds and two assists in 29 minutes.

8. LeBron James, 2011: Miami Heat

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    During his first tour of duty as NBA villain, James did everything to will his Eastern Conference mates to a victory inside Staples Center.

    Although his efforts failed to garner a win for the East (148-143), he put forth a performance for the ages. Behind James' brilliance, the East nearly erased a 17-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter.

    He and teammate Amar'e Stoudemire led the East with 29 points each. LeBron also finished with 12 rebounds and 10 assists in just over 32 minutes, becoming just the second player to record a triple-double in the game's history. He connected on 55.6 percent of his field goals (10-of-18) and nine of his 10 free-throw attempts.

7. George Gervin, 1980: San Antonio Spurs

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    Back when the San Antonio Spurs played in the Eastern Conference, George "The Iceman" Gervin helped lead his team to a 144-136 win in just the second overtime game in the event's 30-year history.

    He torched the West's defenders with 34 points, 11 more than any other player tallied in the game. He took a game-high 26 shots, but converted 14 of them (54 percent).

    With 10 rebounds and three assists, the 6'7" Gervin secured the only All-Star MVP award of his Hall of Fame career.

    His performance helped offset a 17-point, 16-rebound effort from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

6. Kobe Bryant, 2011: L.A. Lakers

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    Maybe it was the support of his Staples Center fans, or perhaps the very real threat to his throne from LeBron James, but something special kicked in during Kobe Bryant's 12th career All-Star appearance. (He opted to not participate in 2010 to rest an injured ankle.)

    His performance on Feb. 20, 2011 was impressive, even by his own lofty standards. His 37 points were a career-high for the event, coming on an efficient 14-of-26 (54 percent) shooting display.

    What made the game so incredible, though, were his 10 offensive rebounds (the most ever recorded by an All-Star participant). He finished the night with 14 total rebounds, three assists and three steals while playing fewer than 30 minutes.

    Bryant moved into a tie with Bob Pettit (and clear of Michael Jordan) for the most All-Star MVP awards in NBA history with four.

5. Isiah Thomas, 1986: Detroit Pistons

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    Squaring off with three key members of the Los Angeles Lakers' vaunted Showtime attack (Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), Isiah Thomas single-handedly willed the East back from a 128-121 deficit with 3:50 left in regulation and led it to a 139-132 win.

    Worthy and Abdul-Jabbar combined for 41 points and Johnson dished out 15 assists, but Thomas was the star of the night.

    He scored 30 points on 11-of-19 shooting from the field and added 10 assists. While Johnson finished with more dimes, Thomas held him to just six points (1-of-3 from the field) and forced him into nine turnovers.

    Thomas' 10 assists were the fifth-most ever by an All-Star MVP, and his 30 points were the 10th-most for an award winner. He also became the only player in All-Star history with at least 30 points and 10 assists.

4. Allen Iverson, 2001: Philadelphia 76ers

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    While Isiah Thomas' late-game charge may have been improbable, Allen Iverson's was next to impossible.

    The East carried a 19-point deficit into the game's final period, and it faced a massive disadvantage in the paint. The West frontcourt boasted names like Tim Duncan, Chris Webber, Kevin Garnett, David Robinson and Rasheed Wallace. The East answered with a starting frontcourt of Antonio Davis and Anthony Mason, with a declining Dikembe Mutombo and Glenn Robinson off the bench.

    With nine minutes left and the West's lead up to 21 points, Iverson ignited the comeback. He scored 15 of his 25 points in the game's final nine minutes and, along with some timely shooting from Stephon Marbury, led the East to a thrilling 111-110 win.

    Iverson added five assists, four steals and two rebounds to cement his MVP legacy.

3. Wilt Chamberlain, 1962: Philadelphia Warriors

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    Wilt Chamberlain was never averse to mind-blowing statistics, and his numbers aren't always easy to translate across different eras.

    Still, it's hard to overstate his performance in the 1962 All-Star Game.

    Although his East team fell, 150-130, none of the fault could be attributed to the big man. Chamberlain's 42 points set the bar for all All-Star scorers. His 73.9 field-goal percentage suggests he didn't leave any points on the floor, but he only hit 8-of-16 at the free-throw line.

    But he did more than score. He corralled 24 rebounds, tied for fourth-most in All-Star history. Amazingly, he was not the game's leader in rebounding, as the West's Bob Pettit (who was named the game's MVP) set a still-standing record with 27.

2. Magic Johnson, 1992: L.A. Lakers

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    In terms of the moment, there has never been one more impactful than Magic Johnson's performance in the 1992 All-Star Game. He was just months removed from announcing his retirement prior to the 1991-92 season after contracting HIV.

    Despite protests from some of the game's participants, Johnson suited up for the event and dazzled the Orlando fans. He finished the game with 25 points, nine assists and five rebounds en route to his second (and final) All-Star MVP award as the West routed the East, 153-113.

    He emerged on the better end of late-game showdowns with Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas, and Johnson's three-pointer with 14.5 seconds left ended the night as players from both teams came out to embrace him.

    Johnson said later (via NBA.com), "It was the first game ever called on account of hugs."

1. Michael Jordan, 1988: Chicago Bulls

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    Michael Jordan owned All-Star Weekend in 1988, besting Dominique Wilkins in what's widely regarded as the greatest Slam Dunk Contest in league history, then snatching the All-Star Game MVP award in front of his Chicago fans.

    Jordan scored 16 of his game-high 40 points in the final 5:51 of regulation to ensure the East a 138-133 win. The East had only three other scorers reach double figures (Dominique Wilkins with 29, Brad Daugherty and Danny Ainge with 12 each).

    The West, meanwhile, had eight players post double digits, led by Karl Malone's 22 points and Hakeem Olajuwon's 21.

    But the West had no answers for Jordan. He decimated its defense with a super-efficient 17-of-23 shooting display from the field. He finished second on the East (trailing Moses Malone) with eight rebounds while adding four steals, four blocks and three assists.