Leaving a mark
Jordan surpasses Kareem in final All-Star appearancePosted: Monday February 10, 2003 12:34 AM
Updated: Monday February 10, 2003 3:40 AM
ATLANTA (Reuters) -- Michael Jordan brought the curtain down on his All-Star career with a record-breaking performance on Sunday collecting 20 points to become the NBA All-Star Game's all-time leading scorer.
While Jordan's Eastern Conference team lost a 155-145 double-overtime thriller to the West, the result mattered little when the spotlight fell on one man.
Playing in his 13th All-Star contest, Jordan missed his first seven shots, but eventually His Airness conjured up some of his old magic, holding the crowd spellbound as he surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's record of 251 points and setting a new benchmark of 262.
Within seconds of his appearance on the court, it was evident that Jordan, needing just 10 points, was not going to leave Atlanta without adding another line to his resume.
A buzz swept through Philips Arena the moment he stood from his chair and began to strip off his warmups and continued as his teammates searched out the Washington Wizards swingman and repeatedly fed him the ball.
The record came not in a trademark jump shot or gravity-defying dunk but from the foul line with 2 minutes left in the third quarter with Jordan calmly sinking both his shots.
A reserve for the first time in 14 All-Star selections (he missed the 1986 game due to injury), the evening began with Jordan accepting an unexpected offer from the Toronto Raptors' Vince Carter to take his place in East's starting lineup.
Jordan had rejected similar gestures from the Philadelphia 76ers Allen Iverson and Orlando Magic's Tracy McGrady to give up their spots, saying he didn't believe it was right to start ahead of those voted in by the fans.
Carter, once considered Jordan's heir apparent, was the one player who had continually refused to consider giving up his spot and was criticized by his fellow players, coaches and fans for what was viewed as a lack of respect for Jordan.
During the pregame introductions, Carter was the only player to be booed, as the crowd was unaware he had stepped aside.
Jordan was introduced to a thundering standing ovation, and it was apparent the game, televised live to 212 countries in 41 languages and reaching a potential global audience of 3.1 billion people, would be the beginning of his farewell tour.
The league paid tribute to the man rated by many as the best to ever play the game with a lavish halftime show that included Mariah Carey dedicating her hit "Hero" to Jordan while performing in a No. 23 Bulls jersey he made famous leading Chicago to six NBA titles.
As Carey called Jordan onto the stage, the crowd again rose to its feet and for nearly two minutes refused to let him speak.
When he finally could, Jordan said he was at peace with his decision to retire.
"I want to thank my family for sticking with me for so many years as I chased my dreams of playing basketball," said Jordan above the applause. "I leave the game in good hands.
"So many great stars still in the game, so many great stars rising and playing the game.
"I have passed on the things that Dr J. and some of the great players -- Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, passed on to me ... I pass on to these All-Stars here.
"I thank you for your support and now I can go home and feel at peace with the game of basketball."
Jordan has turned his back on the NBA twice before only to make comebacks, but this time, worn down by knee injuries and his 40th birthday looming later this month, he has said there would be no more encores and he left the court with the sellout crowd chanting his name.
One of the world's best-known athletes, Jordan has collected just about every honor the sport has to offer, including five league MVP and six playoff MVP awards, three All-Star MVP awards and two Olympic gold medals.
Almost overlooked in the Jordan-mania sweeping through the arena was 7-foot-5 center Yao Ming of China, who was making his All-Star debut, and Minnesota Timberwolves Kevin Garnett, the game's MVP with a 37-point performance.
The first rookie selected to start an NBA All-Star Game since Grant Hill in 1995, Yao had just two points for the West.
With the United States on a heightened security alert, the contest was played under extremely tight security.
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