Ten All-Star Games to remember
NBA All-Star Games are remembered for moments more than the final score
Who could forget Magic Johnson's 1992 performance months after retiring?
The players scored a victory over the owners at the 1964 All-Star Game
Quick, what is the NBA All-Star record for most points scored in a single game? Who holds the individual mark, one game? Anyone have a clue what the series record is, East vs. West, or what the widest margin of victory was, or who made more trips to the foul line than any player in his trips to the All-Star Game?
See, the games aren't remembered that way. The competition is barely that, with a scoreboard used mostly out of habit. The old East-West rivalry thing, in a league in which players change teams and teams even change alignment, largely is irrelevant. Defense gets a wink and a smirk, so offensive stats get skewed as surely as they get divvied up by rosters crammed with superstars. (For the record, a total of 303 points were scored in the 1987 overtime game in Seattle. Wilt Chamberlain holds the individual record with 42 points in 1962. The East has won 35 times, the West 22, and the West's 153-113 blowout in 1992 was the widest margin. King of the All-Star foul shooters: Elgin Baylor and Oscar Robertson share the crown with 98, though Baylor had 78 makes to the Big O's 70.)
This isn't to say that most NBA fans don't have any favorite, even indelible memories of the annual extravaganza. So many of them pertain to moments, though, or personalities or some greater context provided away from the court. For some folks, nothing stands out quite like the minutes immediately before 1983 game when Marvin Gaye crooned that soulful version of the national anthem at the Great Western Forum in Los Angeles. It was so cool, it rendered the 25 points and MVP trophy won by equally cool Julius Erving that day as something of an afterthought.
And that's fine, because All-Star Games shouldn't pack any pressure. You get to remember what you want, without any worry that you'll be tested on it later. So what follows are my top 10 All-Star highlights, many through experience, a few through research. You're free to have your own:
10. 2006: DEE-troit BAS-ketball!
The winning point total in the East's 122-120 victory in Houston was the second-lowest of the past 16 showcases, and the West stars were held to just 50 points after halftime, a veritable lockdown by All-Star standards. It happened largely because the Pistons placed four men on the East squad, and their coach, Flip Saunders, substituted them en masse. It helped, too, that the West missed 22 of its 26 three-point attempts (Kobe Bryant and Ray Allen were a combined 0-of-12). The East trailed 74-53 in the third quarter before its Motown-fueled comeback. Ben Wallace blocked consecutive shots by Pau Gasol, Richard Hamilton's bucket broke a 94-94 tie near the end of the third period, and the Pistons' reps scored the first 11 points of the fourth for their side. LeBron James (MVP with 29 points) and Houston's own Tracy McGrady (36, with a miss contested by James at the end) were the individual stars, but it was Detroit's foursome that defined the day.
9. 1958: The star of stars
These days, we debate whether the best players from teams with losing records deserve spots on All-Star rosters. Fifty-one years ago, in just the eighth NBA All-Star exhibition ever, the question was whether someone from the losing team could be that day's MVP. But there was no denying St. Louis forward Bob Pettit's claim after he scored 28 points with 26 rebounds -- with a cast on his left wrist, against Boston's legendary defensive force Bill Russell -- in a 130-118 losing effort. No one on either side had a performance to challenge the Hawks' star -- Philadelphia's Paul Arizin scored 24 off the East bench and Celtics guard Bob Cousy had 20 with 10 assists. In 11 appearances, Pettit won a record four All-Star MVPs (including 1956, 1962 and a co-honor with Elgin Baylor in 1959) and was his team's leader in points, rebounds or assists 12 times. Magic Johnson is second with nine.
8. 2001: Big comeback in little packages
Shaquille O'Neal wasn't healthy, so the West started three of the all-time great power forwards (Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Chris Webber) across its front line and had Rasheed Wallace, David Robinson, Antonio McDyess, Vlade Divac and Karl Malone coming off the bench. So what happens? Allen Iverson and Stephon Marbury went small-ball on them, personally triggering a thrilling 111-110 comeback victory. The East trailed 90-71 in what seemed like a yawner -- until Iverson scored 15 of his 25 points in the final nine minutes and Marbury drained two three-pointers in the final moments. This was the future, or so it seemed, two combo guards drafted together in 1996 and playing out of the Atlantic Division. Iverson won the first of his two MVPs.
7. 1984: Big comeback in late package
Speaking of small ball, we would be remiss to overlook the silver anniversary of Isiah Thomas' performance at McNichols Sports Arena in Denver. Actually, his first half was easy to forget: zero points and a 76-62 hole for his East team. In the second half and overtime of what became a 154-145 victory, Thomas scored 21 points, added to his team-high 15 assists and snagged the MVP award. He beat out stiff competition, too, given Magic's record 22 assists for the West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's 25 points and Julius Erving's 34 points.
6. 1962: No one loves Goliath
The NBA was bigger, bolder and basically "more'' in 1961-62. Scoring soared -- teams averaged 118.8 points. Wilt Chamberlain hung those astounding 100 points on the Knicks in a game played in Hershey, Pa. Oscar Robertson averaged a triple-double. So it was appropriate that Chamberlain would set the high mark for All-Star scoring, getting 42 for the losers in the West's 150-130 victory. The Dipper hit 17 of his 23 shots but just eight of 16 free throws, and grabbed 24 rebounds. But he lost the MVP to Pettit, who had 25 points and 27 rebounds for the West while playing before his St. Louis fans. Maybe it was more than home cooking that cost Wilt; he had an "off'' night, considering his season averages of 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds. Note: Despite those numbers -- Chamberlain's record 50.4 points is a 36 percent premium on the next best man's average (Michael Jordan, 37.1 in 1986-87) -- he also missed out on the season MVP to Russell's 22.4 points, 26.4 rebounds and 11 more victories.