Ranking the 10 Most Memorable NBA All-Star Weekend Moments Since 2000
Between high-flying dunks, the best players in the league and a relaxed environment, NBA All-Star Weekend always has the potential for iconic moments.
Both in the Slam Dunk Contest and the All-Star Game, players break out things they wouldn't normally. Although the All-Star Game is mostly treated as a defense-free exhibition—for good reason—the showcase can bring together former teammates, give a deserved career send-off or more.
And most recently, it provided a tribute for a legend.
The last two decades of All-Star Weekend have provided a huge number of memorable scenes. While our ranking is subjective, many of the most iconic performances are featured.
Apologies in advance, though; Fergie didn't make the cut.
10. Jason Richardson Goes Off the Heezy
There's disrespectful. And then there's this.
During the 2003 Rising Stars Challenge—otherwise known as the rookie/sophomore game—Jason Richardson brought a little streetball to All-Star Weekend. He bounced the ball off the head of Carlos Boozer, who very much did not appreciate it.
"He was just trying to get the crowd riled up, but he has no class," Boozer said. "You don't do that."
Well, Richardson did that. And we love him for it.
9. Jason Williams' Elbow Pass
During the 2000 Rising Stars Challenge, Jason Williams broke out one of the most creative passes in NBA history.
White Chocolate feigned a traditional behind-the-back pass, instead redirecting the ball with his elbow.
Given the camera angle, the pass initially seemed to defy physics. The only thing that could've made it better would've been Raef LaFrentz powering through the contact for an and-1. Still, the pass froze Lamar Odom and landed perfectly in LaFrentz's path.
Williams brought back the elbow pass in the 2017 Celebrity Game.
8. Kobe Wins MVP in Unfriendly Homecoming
The City of Brotherly Love ran out of that in 2002.
Born and partly raised in Philadelphia, Kobe Bryant had a chance to play in front of a hometown crowd at the All-Star Game. However, his Los Angeles Lakers had just defeated the Philadelphia 76ers in the previous NBA Finals—and the Philly fans let him hear it.
"I was pretty upset, pretty upset. Pretty hurt," Bryant said. "I just wanted to go out there and just play, just play hard."
While the jeers directed at Kobe are not a pleasant memory, his performance silenced the merit of those detractors. Bryant propelled the West to a 135-120 victory, putting up 31 points and five assists to win the first of four career All-Star Game MVPs.
7. Hardaway, Waiters Duel in Rising Stars Game
Hot streaks can energize a silent crowd in a hurry. And when opposing players are on fire, the environment can become chaotic.
Good chaos! But chaos, nonetheless.
Tim Hardaway Jr. and Dion Waiters put together an incredible show at the 2014 Rising Stars Challenge. For a 90-second stretch, they matched each other shot-for-shot, launching some ridiculously deep threes and turning the game into a one-on-one duel.
"We were just trying to do a great job of just getting the fans involved," Hardaway said of the duel. "It was kind of dead in there, and we just wanted to just start something, a little one-on-one battle here and there, and it was great."
6. Iverson Leads, Marbury Caps All-Star Comeback
One year before Philadelphia booed Kobe, 76ers star Allen Iverson led a huge comeback in the All-Star Game.
Early in the fourth quarter, the West enjoyed a 95-74 advantage. The Answer scored 15 of his 25 team-best points down the stretch, helping the East set up a dramatic finish.
And then, Stephon Marbury sealed the deal.
Marbury connected on a game-tying triple and followed Kobe's go-ahead jumper with another three-pointer. The latter shot handed the East a 111-110 edge, which held up as Vince Carter disrupted Tim Duncan's buzzer-beating attempt.
5. Shaq, Kobe Share MVP Honors
Despite their immensely successful run as Lakers teammates, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal had a falling-out. That led to O'Neal's departure, and the feud lingered for years.
But the 2009 All-Star Game helped repair their relationship.
Kobe and Shaq reunited on the court—fittingly, with Phil Jackson as the coach—while leading the West to a 146-119 victory. Kobe racked up 27 points, four assists and four steals, while Shaq collected 17 points, five rebounds and three assists in what would be his final All-Star appearance.
"It was fun," Bryant said. "Phil diagrammed a couple of plays for us to play a two-man game together again."
They shared MVP honors and left a much-desired sign the feud would not continue any longer.
4. MJ's Last All-Star Game
After six championships and two retirements, Michael Jordan officially reached the end of his career in 2003. His Airness nearly had a perfect ending to his All-Star story too.
During the first overtime, MJ buried a trademark fadeaway to give the East a 138-136 advantage.
Unfortunately, though, it didn't stand as the winner. Jermaine O'Neal fouled Kobe on the other end of the court, and Bryant hit a couple of free throws to force a second overtime period. Led by game MVP Kevin Garnett, the West won 155-145.
Jordan wrapped up the contest with 20 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.
3. Tribute for Kobe, Elam Ending in 2020
Three weeks after the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash, the NBA put together a tribute for him at the 2020 All-Star Game.
LeBron James' team all wore No. 2 on their jerseys in honor of Gianna, and Giannis Antetokounmpo's side donned Kobe's No. 24. The NBA also instituted the Elam Ending, a format that predetermines the winning score. After the third quarter, the NBA added 24 points to the winning team's score to determine the stopping point.
Team LeBron won 157-155, and the Elam Ending provided a much-needed jolt to the competitiveness of the exhibition.
More importantly, though, the All-Star Game offered a first true chance for the basketball world to grieve while celebrating Bryant's impact on the game.
2. LaVine, Gordon and Their Dunk Show
Did you know Andre Drummond and Will Barton participated in the 2016 Slam Dunk Contest? That's a solid trivia question to remember because Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon owned this year.
LaVine earned his second straight Dunk Contest title, leaning heavily on dunks from an unprecedented distance. He leaped from the free-throw line to finish an alley-oop from teammate Andre Miller and a windmill and between-the-legs slam. Never before had someone done the latter two from the free-throw line.
LaVine put up five perfect 50s and a 49 to hold off Gordon, who twice jumped over the Orlando Magic mascot. On those attempts, he threw down between-the-legs and under-the-legs dunks.
Individually, both LaVine and Gordon had famous nights. Together, they shaped one of the best Dunk Contest battles ever.
1. Vince Carter's Legendary Dunk Contest
LaVine and Gordon have a strong argument for best contest overall, but no individual has ever bested Vince Carter in 2000.
If you're the most casual of casual basketball fans, you've still probably watched this iconic performance. He opened with a couple of 360 windmill slams and then progressed to a between-the-legs dunk—after which Carter gestured that "it's over."
And, my friends, he was not kidding.
Vinsanity broke out a honey dip, sticking his right arm through the rim up to his elbow. Carter finished with a two-handed slam from around the free-throw line, posting a 50-48 in the final round to beat Tracy McGrady and Steve Francis.
Not only did Carter win the title, but he also reinvigorated a struggling event and became one of the legends in Dunk Contest history.