Posted: Wednesday February 16, 2005 2:06PM; Updated: Wednesday February 16, 2005 3:08PM
Because of his popularity, Jordan believed his teammates froze him out in Indianapolis in 1985, his first All-Star Game.
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images
Looking for great moments in the NBA All-Star Game is a little like looking for great moments at the Academy Awards. Who cares who picks up the little statue or wins the game? What matters is the surrounding detail, the environment, the peripheral dramas.
In advance of Sunday's All-Star Game in Denver, this week's five-pack will look at my top All-Star moments. They just don't have much to do with the game itself.
No. 1: Boston, 1964
I wasn't there. I was a high-school freshman, a dedicated NBA fan wedded to the Philadelphia 76ers. Unbeknownst to me and almost everyone else, this was the All-Star Game that almost wasn't played. Led by several of the NBA's best players -- Bob Pettit, Oscar Robertson, Tommy Heinsohn and Lenny Wilkens among them -- the All-Stars threatened to stay in the locker room. They were looking to embarrass the league in one of the first televised All-Star games if the owners did not recognize the National Basketball Players Association as an official negotiating body.
The owners eventually caved, granting the players an $8 per diem (Do you believe that was a concession?) and setting up a pension plan.
There is no way the owners would've listened had the game's biggest stars not been the ones to push for player benefits. Way back in 1954, Bob Cousy had begun organizing the players at a time when the average salary was only $8,000 a year and most of the players had to take second jobs in the offseason. With Cousy at the end of his career, Robertson took the reins as union president in '65 and stayed for nine years, setting the NBPA on course.
The game? The East beat the West 111-107. And the Big O, hardly distracted by his role in the labor war, was named MVP.
No. 2: Indianapolis, 1985
Was Michael Jordan frozen out? Did the Beatles really fake McCartney's death just for the hell of it? Who knows?
In my opinion, there was a freeze-out. Maybe not for the entire game but for major parts of it.
Jordan, flush with rookie success, Nike endorsements and unprecedented crossover appeal, came to his first All-Star Game ready to shine. He wore Swoosh paraphernalia, ignoring an unwritten rule that you wore All-Star stuff to the All-Star Game. Some of the All-Stars, particularly Eastern teammate Isiah Thomas and Western foe Magic Johnson, supposedly took umbrage at this. Or maybe they were just sick of Jordan's popularity. Or maybe they didn't care one way or the other, which is their story.
At any rate, Jordan got only nine shots and seven points and, after the game, a source close to Thomas and Johnson whispered that the two superstars, bosom buds at the time, had conspired to keep the ball from the tongue-wagging Bulls star. When confronted, they denied it. But Jordan always believed it. Thus began a bitter rivalry between the two players, one that Jordan didn't get the best of until his Bulls swept Thomas' Pistons in the 1991 Eastern finals and later, when he spoke out against including Thomas on the first Dream Team at the '92 Olympics.
The West, by the way, won the game 140-129, with Houston's Ralph Sampson winning MVP.