The NBA will play its 65th All-Star Game on Sunday in Toronto. That’s a lot of great moments and memories to boil down into one top 10 list.
Some might say it simply can’t be done. We say, eh, might as well try. Sure, maybe you can accuse us of Kobe-overload, but this is his last rodeo, so no harm in reminiscing. With all due respect to Isiah Thomas’ 1986 performance, here we go:
10. LeBron passes, while Kobe passes judgment (2012):
What didn’t happen in this game? Dwyane Wade recorded 24 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for the East, while Kevin Durant finished with 36 points. But the moment in this one came on the East’s final possession trailing 151-149. LeBron, who was having a great game with 36 points, seven assists and six rebounds, had the ball with 16 seconds to go and guarded by Kobe, who was primed for a one-on-one battle. Only LeBron passed to Deron Williams, who missed a 3-pointer. Carmelo Anthony swatted the rebound back out top. Williams snagged it and swung it over to LeBron. Kobe was again poised to go one-on-one, but with five seconds to go, LeBron, no stranger to criticism for passing on crunch-time shots, inexplicably slung a pass into the lane that didn’t come near an East teammate and was picked off. Kobe couldn’t believe it and let LeBron know it, shaking his head in one of the great ‘Huh?’ moments of all-time.
9. Wilt’s 42 still stands tallest (1962):
Wilt Chamberlain holds the All-Star Game record for most points in a game with 42 points in the 1962 edition. He also pulled down 24 rebounds. His scoring record has come close to being matched a few times. Michael Jordan went for 40 in 1998 and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook scored 41 just last year. At some point, this 54-year-old record is going to fall. Check out this amazing footage from the ’62 All-Star Game that also includes highlights of another pretty good big man back in the day, Bill Russell.
8. Kobe and Mike mic’d up (2003):
One of the greatest moments in All-Star Game history has nothing to do with a super slam or a behind-the-back pass or any jaw-dropping move for that matter. This on-court exchange between Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan captured during the 2003 game is priceless, and such a rare eavesdropping opportunity that we had to make it a must-have on our all-time list. The two legends went head-to-head throughout Jordan’s farewell game. Neither was spectacular, but it certainly was a spectacle.
7. Iverson goes crazy (2001):
In one of the great All-Star Game comebacks ever, Iverson scored 15 of his 25 points in the final nine minutes to a lead a rally from 21 points down to give the East a 111-110 victory. Iverson won the MVP in the same year he practically singlehandedly took the 76ers to the NBA Finals. That season, Iverson averaged 31.1 points and 42.0 minutes.
6. Vince steps aside for MJ’s final farewell (2003):
At age 39 and a member of the Washington Wizards, Michael Jordan made one last All-Star Game appearance. Vince Carter gave up his starting spot so MJ could have his name announced one last time (Jordan finished third in fan voting among guards behind Tracy McGrady and Allen Iverson. Carter was the top vote-getter among forwards). Then Jordan went out firing away, putting up 27 shots. He made nine baskets and finished with 20 points in 36 minutes, which rather remarkably were basically his season averages in his final year — 20.0 points and a whopping 37 minutes a game. He played in all 82 games.
5. Reunited: Kobe and Shaq (2009):
We’ll never know how many titles Kobe and Shaquille O’Neal could have won together. But we do know how many All-Star MVP trophies they shared: One. It happened in the 2009 game when the two superstars who parted five years earlier were reunited on the Western Conference All-Star team. O’Neal was a few years removed from winning a fourth title with Dywane Wade and the Miami Heat, and was now onto a short stint with the Phoenix Suns. Bryant had endured some tough times since the ’04 breakup, but would be back on top of the league at the end of the ’09 season with the first of back-to-back titles while paired with Pau Gasol. Kobe finished with 27 points, four assists, four rebounds and four steals, and Shaq had 17 points on 8-of-9 shooting in the West’s 146-119 blowout. It was pretty cool to see Kobe and Shaq smiling and lifting that MVP trophy together.
4. The Dr. is still in the house (1984):
Julius Erving was in the latter stages of his Hall of Fame career, but he was still making house calls in the 1984 All-Star Game. This overtime classic saw Dr. J pour in an All-Star Game career-high 35 points, plus eight rebounds and five assists. He made more than a few signature moves in this one and even made up a few such as the mid-air windmill floater in overtime (cue 2:05, but be sure to watch the whole thing). Amazing.
3. Jordan vs. Kid Kobe:
The 1998 All-Star Game featured a 19-year-old hot shot named Kobe Bryant and the five-time champion Michael Jordan, who would soon become a six-time champ. This one quickly became a classic as the two shooting guards went after each other. Give Kobe credit for wanting to take the torch from the all-time great and Jordan credit for wanting to pass it onto the youngster who in many ways reminded us of Michael. Jordan still showed the kid a thing or two, finishing with 23 points, eight assists and six rebounds. Kobe had 18 points and six assists.
Fresh off his slam dunk title in a duel with Dominique Wilkins, Michael Jordan moved on to the main event at old Chicago Stadium, and he brought the house down. He finished with 40 points, two shy of Wilt Chamberlain’s all-time All-Star Game scoring record, plus eight assists and four steals and four blocks — who says they never play defense in All-Star Games? The East pulled out the 138-133 victory and Jordan took home the MVP trophy, solidifying him as the most electric player in the NBA, even if he was still a few years away from beginning his title runs.
1. Magic’s magical return (1992):
Twenty-six years later, this Magic moment will still bring a tear to your eye — even Celtics fans. The 1992 All-Star Game in Orlando, the return of Magic Johnson to the basketball court for the first time since his stunning announcement that he was retiring because of having contracted HIV, was one of the rare moments that transcends sports and teaches us all about love and joy and living life to the fullest of our capabilities. Magic put on a show almost beyond comprehension, a clinic of no-look passes, behind-the-back passes, a fast-breaking tapestry of basketball played at its most artistic level. Nearing the end of the game, East All-Stars started going at Magic one-on-one, including Isiah Thomas and then Michael Jordan. And then Magic hit that 3-pointer, hopping on one foot, his right arm held high in anticipation of the shot dropping and then when it did, the fist pump that will live on forever. Magic finished the day with 25 points, nine assists, five rebounds, the MVP trophy and a standing ovation for the ages in the West’s 153-113 blowout victory.