Passing the torch
McGrady's slam, MJ's miss highlight All-Star GamePosted: Sunday February 10, 2002 10:16 PM
Updated: Sunday February 10, 2002 11:12 PM
By Marty Burns, CNNSI.com
PHILADELPHIA -- Call it a passing of the torch, NBA style.
If Sunday's NBA All-Star Game is remembered for anything other than Philly's rude treatment of native son Kobe Bryant, it will be for Tracy McGrady's amazing dunk and Michael Jordan's amazing miss.
"One of the most spectacular plays I've ever seen," Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki said of McGrady's off-the-backboard catch-and-slam in traffic, an eye-popping display certain to go down as one of the greatest dunks in All-Star history.
"I laugh at myself," Jordan said about his botched attempt of a breakaway dunk in the first quarter, an error that also stunned the crowd but in a slightly different way.
Even Jordan, who remains one of the game's best players, admitted Sunday's display was an indicator that the air show now belongs to young fliers like McGrady.
Based on T-Mac's aerial masterpiece, it's in good hands.
Gliding downcourt on a fast break in the second quarter, McGrady suddenly decided to engage Western stars Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash in a friendly game of international cat-and-mouse. First he blew past Nash, who waved feebly as he sped past.
Then, with Nowitzki looming, McGrady casually lobbed the ball off the glass with his left hand, leaped into the air and hammered it home to set the First Union Center crowd of 19,581 into a frenzy.
"There was only one guy back there, I think it was Dirk, and he bit on the lob," said McGrady, adding that he had successfully executed the dunk several times in high school and in a preseason game against the Celtics a year ago.
"I guess he thought I was throwing it to one of my teammates, and I just threw it down."
Seated at his locker after the game, a smiling Nash said he tried to stop the play but made the fateful mistake of also trying to cover Ray Allen, streaking on the wing. Next thing he knew, he said, McGrady was soaring through the air and into the highlight reels.
"It takes a lot of creativity to do something like that," Nash said. "That's the kind of player he is. I think he knew he could do it, and he just saw the opening."
Jordan, too, saw an opening on his dunk attempt. Unfortunately for him, he started thinking so much about what he was going to do with the ball that he forget to put in the cylinder. The ball hit the side of the rim and careened into the crowd behind the Eastern Conference bench.
"As you get older, you just don't have the same type of confidence," said Jordan, who turns 39 in exactly one week. "You've got to go through a checklist. I went through the checklist and by the time I was ready to dunk the ball, I wasn't there."
Fortunately for All-Star fans, McGrady was more than able to pick up the