As LeBron James, Kevin Durant, James Harden and the rest of the Association's superstars prepare for their annual late-winter break, we're taking a look back at the greatest All-Star Weekend in NBA history.
After poring through highlights of All-Star Games, dunk contests and 3-point shootouts, one weekend clearly stood above the rest: Feb. 6 and 7, 1988, in Chicago.
What made the festivities in '88 so special? We're glad you asked.
Larry Bird backs up the greatest trash talk
"Who's finishing second?"
Bird's question to the rest of the field in the 1988 3-Point Contest will go down as some of the most legendary gamesmanship in sports history. The Celtics legend was seeking a third consecutive 3-point shooting title, but he almost came up short. Only a late burst on the final two racks gave Bird the win over Seattle's Dale Ellis.
On the final shot, Bird knew it was over. He held a single finger in the air before the ball dropped through the net — setting the stage for what would be an epic weekend.
'Nique and MJ go toe-to-toe for dunking glory
Whether you believe it's the greatest display of high-flying slams in history or merely the most competitive, there's no questioning the show Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins put on in the 1988 Slam Dunk Contest.
There were others in the field, of course, but they were mere afterthoughts.
Jordan breaks out an iconic dunk (in the second round)
After a solid first round, Jordan kicked off the semifinals with one of his most famous moments. His Airness used a full-court runway to take off from juuuust inside the free-throw line, double-clutching his right arm and kicking his legs for the length of the 15 feet between the charity stripe and the rim.
The judges rewarded him with a 50 — the first but far from the last on the night.
Vince Carter's inspiration?
In that second round, Jordan even threw down the "Proto-Elbow Dunk" more than a decade before Vince Carter blew our minds in 2000. Although MJ didn't quite get his whole forearm inside the rim, he knew he had to come strong as Dominique Wilkins continued his ferocious assault on the rim.
Greatest. Finals. Ever.
The finals were a foregone conclusion: 'Nique vs. Jordan. Of their six successful dunks, the two superstars pulled off four 50s. Only a controversial 45 on another ridiculously powerful (and creative) dunk from Wilkins separated the two.
The last chance belonged to Jordan, who needed a 48 to tie and force sudden death.
Another free-throw line dunk
Once again, Jordan took flight down the court, planted slightly farther inside the free-throw line, and soared through the air, putting an extra bit of oomph on his final free-throw line dunk.
There was still an All-Star Game to be played, after all — and it too belonged to Jordan. He poured in 40 points, earning MVP honors.
One can argue the 1987 All-Star Weekend, which featured perhaps the greatest All-Star Game ever, was almost as good as 1988's affair. But stealing the show at All-Star Weekend in his adopted hometown launched MJ on his rise to G.O.A.T. status, which puts the '88 event over the top.
He wasn't quite a champion yet; in fact, at that moment, Jordan was still just 1-10 all-time in the postseason. If you're looking for the beginning of the legend of His Airness, though, look no further than a February weekend 29 years ago.