This appears in the Monday, February 17, 2014 edition of the Business Mirror.
My fave NBA All-Star Games
by rick olivares
By the time you’re reading this, the 63rd NBA All-Star Game is being played at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana that is the home of the New Orleans Pelicans.
I’d like to reflect on three of my most memorable All-Star Games.
1991 NBA All-Star Game
Charlotte, North Carolina
This was a poignant All-Star Game because it coincided with the first Gulf War where tensions where really high. There was even speculation that the San Antonio Spurs’ David Robinson would be called into military service.
North Carolina is home to Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune that was sending many Americans soldiers to the gulf.
The stirring rendition of ‘Star Spangled Banner’ by Bruce Hornsby and Branford Marsalis left many in the audience and on television in tears. It was so powerful that it was eventually recorded and used in Ken Burns’ magnificent ‘Baseball’ documentary.
That weekend in itself saw Boston Celtics’ rookie Dee Brown defeat the touted Shawn Kemp of the Seattle Supersonics in the dunk contest.
Bernard King came back from what was thought to be a career ending knee injury to become an All-Star for the Washington Bullets. The ovation he received gave me goose bumps. It was King’s fourth and last All-Star appearance but he did deserve it.
The game was billed as Michael Jordan’s homecoming but Charles Barkley stole MVP honors.
It was also supposed to be the last time that the Celtics’ Big Three of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish were selected to play together in an All-Star Game. Bird didn’t play due to an injury and was replaced by the Philadelphia 76ers’ Hersey Hawkins.
At that point in the NBA season, the Celtics had the best record in the East and that gave their first year head coach (and former player) Chris Ford the opportunity to man the sidelines of the Eastern Conference squad. It was to be his one and only chance to coach in the mid-season classic.
The East won 116-114 when the West’s Kevin Johnson’s three-point basket at the buzzer was disallowed when basket interference was called on teammate Karl Malone.
1992 NBA All-Star Game
This game is mostly remembered for the comeback of Magic Johnson in spite of not having played the entire season after retiring due to the HIV virus.
It was such an emotional game considering the little information that was known about HIV and AIDS. Johnson’s performance was inspirational and he put on quite a show in the last four minutes. With the score, 135-106 and the West clearly in the driver’s seat, Magic hit back-to-back triples to start off the run. He found Chris Mullin for a three to make it 146-111. Magic then found Dan Majerle on a backdoor cut with a bullet pass inside the lane for a reverse lay-up (148-113).
Thomas then went one-on-one with Magic but airballed a shot.
Michael Jordan then went one-on-one with Johnson, left him behind but missed a pull-up jumper.
Then it was Magic’s turn. Jordan first denied Magic the ball however it was eventually worked to him by Clyde Drexler. With Thomas guarding him, he took a step back three that was all net with 14.5 seconds to go.
Those final seconds were not played any more as the players all mobbed Johnson. The West won 153-113.
2003 NBA All-Star Game
This was Michael Jordan’s last ever All-Star appearance and it was the first to be transmitted via cable television.
There were calls for Vince Carter to give up his slot to Jordan and he initially declined. Allen Iverson and Tracy McGrady offered to give up their starter’s slot but Jordan declined. “I was going to forget my jersey in the locker room,” said McGrady. “That way he (Jordan) would go out there and start.” A last minute offer by Carter to give up the slot to Jordan was eventually accepted.
It was Jordan love fest as pop star Mariah Carey serenaded the GOAT with her smash hit, “Hero” while wearing a Bulls and Wizards #23.
“I thank you for your support,” said a touched Jordan. “I leave the game in good hands.”
Thought Houston Rockets guard Steve Francis, a first-time All-Star, "The halftime ceremony was something I'll remember for a long time. I felt like he was talking to me when he said the NBA was going to be in good hands."
Jordan appeared to have made the game winning fade along the baseline over the Phoenix Suns’ Shawn Marion to give the East a 148-146 lead in the first overtime with 4.8 seconds left as the huge roar went up in the Philips Arena.
But Jermaine O’Neal fouled Kobe Bryant’s three-point attempt in the final seconds. Bryant made only two of three free throws to send the match into a second overtime.
But in that second extension, Kevin Garnett took over as the West won 155-145. Da Kid was named All-Star Game MVP.
Those are my three favorite NBA All-Star Games. Now let’s see if the 2014 edition will rank right up there.