The NBA All-Star game is one of sports best (if not THE best) exhibitions of the leagues top athletes. Throughout the years, the game has produced countless memorable moments and highlights. Here are the 10 best:
Magic Johnson’s 1992 comeback game and MVP award
On November 7th, 1991, Magic Johnson held a press conference to announce that he had contracted the HIV virus and as a result would retire from the Los Angeles Lakers and the NBA, effective immediately. The announcement took the NBA and the world by surprise. Rumors started to fly, saying that Magic didn’t have much time left and that we would eventually lose him to the virus. He decided to come out of retirement to play one last All Star game for the people who supported him the most throughout his career—the fans—and he didn’t disappoint. Once the game started, Magic was back to his old ways: no look passes, good-natured trash talk and his world famous smile. Towards the end of the game, he sealed the West’s victory by hitting a crucial three pointer over his best friend Isaiah Thomas. For his efforts, Magic was named 1992 NBA All Star Game MVP. For one last night in the NBA, it was “Showtime” again.
Michael Jordan’s last All-Star game
In his last season in the NBA, Michael Jordan wasn’t selected by the fans (!) as a starter for the Eastern Conference All Stars. Vince Carter (and fellow UNC alum) graciously offered to let Jordan start in his place. The game was a very competitive one— Jordan hit what looked to be one of his signature game winning shots to put the East up 2 with 4 seconds left. However, Kobe Bryant was fouled at the three point line at the other end for the West. Bryant would hit two out of three free throws to send the game into overtime with the West eventually winning in an exciting double overtime finish.
Tracy McGrady’s off the glass dunk
When Tracy McGrady was in his prime, it could have been argued that he was the best player in the NBA. He had unlimited range, could pass the ball well and played every position on the floor (except center) for the Orlando Magic. Another huge McGrady staple was his athleticism. He would have highlight reel dunks nightly on SportsCenter. In the 2002 All-Star game, McGrady unleashed a dunk never seen on the NBA level to that point, an off-the-glass alley oop….to himself! The play first looked to be an ordinary rebound/push-the-ball-up-the-floor routine play seen thousands of time at an NBA game, but McGrady threw the ball off the glass around the three point line with his left hand and caught the ball with his right hand and finished in traffic!
Jordan/Wilkins ’88 (All-Star game and dunk competition)
The 1988 All-Star weekend was being held in MJ’s house, Chicago. The NBA saw that Jordan was on the rise to becoming its signature player and decided to give MJ the spotlight. The first showdown of the weekend for Dominique and MJ was the now legendary 1988 Slam Dunk competition. Depending on who you ask, ‘Nique was robbed while MJ benefited from some home cooking (though Jordan pulled off the now iconic free throw line dunk to seal the win). Since Dominique and Jordan both made the Eastern Conference All-Star team, they would “compete” once again, this time for the All Star-Game MVP trophy. While Dominique put up a good showing with 29 points (mostly jaw-dropping windmill dunks), MJ would eventually score 40 and nab the game’s MVP award.
Shaq’s being introduced in the All-Star while dancing with the Jabbawockeez
Most of the NBA’s superstars act like they are too cool for any situation, and All-Star game introductions are no exception. You are lucky to get a smile, wave or some type of personality when the lineups are announced. This is not the case for one Shaquille O’Neal. Shaq has been one of the most flamboyant, fun-loving superstars the NBA has ever seen. Standing at 7’1″ and weighing over 300 pounds, Shaq moves very well for a big man. He usually used this speed advantage to post monstrous numbers in the NBA year in and year out. But during the 2009 All Star introductions, he surprised the audience by coming out with the street dance crew, the Jabbawockeez, wearing one of their signature face masks. The biggest surprise was that Shaq actually knew the routine and he more than held his own.
Glen Rice heating up and scoring the All-Star game record for points in a quarter
Sharpshooter Glen Rice was honored to be selected in his second All-Star appearance while playing for the Charlotte Hornets. He was known around the league as one of the game’s pure shooters who wasn’t afraid to pull the trigger. Jordan joked with Rice before the game saying, “I bet you will shoot the game’s first air ball!” Rice only had 2 points at half time but came out in the third quarter on fire, scoring a NBA All-Star record of 20 points in the quarter which included 4-5 three-point shooting and 8-11 total from the field on his way to the 1997 All-Star MVP award.
Four Detroit Pistons on the floor at the same time with Paul Pierce… later with LeBron James
All-Star games usually feature the best individual players from select teams around the league. But in 2006, the Pistons starting four (sans Tayshaun Prince) all made the Eastern Conference All Stars. Since their coach at the time, Flip Saunders, was also coaching the East, he decided to put them all in at the same time along with Paul Pierce playing the Tayshaun Prince role. They were mainly known as a serious, hard-nosed team that prided itself on defense. However, once PF Rasheed Wallace got the ball, he put up a left hand three point shot…..but he’s right-handed. Late in the fourth quarter though, the four Pistons, along with LeBron James, helped close the door on the West and clinched the victory by playing their signature lock down defense.
Shaq dunking over David Robinson
Rumor has it that back when Shaq was in high school in San Antonio, Texas, he went up to David Robinson (aka “The Admiral”) to ask for an autograph and was blown off. It’s safe to say that Shaq never forgot that encounter. During the 1996 All-Star game, Grant Hill moved the ball up the floor with only Robinson between him and the rim. Hill then saw a trailing Shaq and dropped a bounce pass off to Shaq, who just DESTROYED David Robinson. Afterwards, Shaq—a member of Omega Psi Phi, along with Jordan— threw up the Que Dawg hooks in celebration.
Rookie/Sophomore Game – Jason Williams’ elbow pass Ok, so this didn’t technically happen in the main All-Star game, but it made a lasting impression nonetheless. Jason “White Chocolate” Williams displayed his off the charts ball handling and court vision for the Sacramento Kings the whole season. Once the rosters where announced for the free-flowing Rookie/Sophomore game and Williams was included, we knew we were going to get a highlight-filled game. Williams proved us correct. Getting out on a fast break with Dirk Nowitzki on his right and Raef LaFrentz on his left, he looked at Dirk but picked up the ball and passed to a trailing LaFrentz off his elbow! The defender, James Posey, had no choice but to foul LaFrentz to avoid further embarrassment. Lamar Odom’s face after Williams made the pass tells the whole story.
Mariah Carey sings a special tribute to Michael Jordan
Mariah Carey‘s special tribute to Michael Jordan in his last appearance (the 2003 All-Star game) is hard to forget. Mimi came out wearing the now iconic custom-made dress, fashioned after Jordan’s Washington Wizards jersey. The inspiration was straightforward and Mariah had never looked better. Carey sang three songs and ended the performance with her hit “Hero.”