A Split Decision
Shaq is miffed by MVP voting
A long shot finally hits it big
Knicks make a pitch for Garden party in 1998
What's wrong with this scenario?
Magic center Shaquille O'Neal, returning to the city in which he played high school basketball, helps thwart a West rally with nine points in the fourth quarter of the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday in San Antonio. With 40.6 seconds left, he punctuates his performance with a vicious dunk over Spurs favorite son David Robinson. O'Neal finishes the game, a 129-118 East victory, with 25 points and 10 rebounds. Michael Jordan, who sat out the final quarter, meets Shaq at midcourt to congratulate him on his impending MVP award. A minute later Jordan accepts the MVP trophy.
Fans boo. O'Neal glares into the distance. Jordan announces in his speech that Shaq deserved the award. "We were all shocked," says Scottie Pippen, Jordan's Chicago teammate. "I think all the players felt, like the fans, that Shaq had an MVP-type performance."
O'Neal, it appears, was a victim of poor timing. The seven media members who voted on the MVP were required to turn in their ballots with about three minutes to play. Jordan edged O'Neal 4-3 based on a decisive third quarter in which he scored 10 of his 20 points, enabling the East to extend a three-point halftime lead to a 102-80 advantage. In a tight game Michael had been Michael.
That was of little solace to Shaq, who in one breath asked for the names of the media who voted and in the next feigned indifference to the process. "These are the trials and tribulations that happen to all great players," he said. "I'll get [the MVP] one day. I'll get a bunch of things one day."
No. 1 with a Bullet
When Bullets guard Tim Legler grabbed a basketball off the rack to take his first shot in the All-Star Shootout last Saturday, he wasn't thinking about the Nuggets or the Mavericks or the Warriors or the Jazz or the Timberwolves or the "five or so" other NBA teams that gave up on him without ever giving him what he considers a fair shot. "What I was thinking," Legler says, "was I better not squeeze the ball too hard, or it would pop." Legler didn't pop any basketballs, but he did blow away the eight-man field in the three-point competition.
How much did this event—and its $20,000 first prize—mean to him? When Tim and his wife, Jennifer, realized that the due date of their first child and the All-Star weekend would coincide, they decided to induce labor early. Thus, while Legler was shooting his way into the NBA spotlight, nine-day-old Lauren was snoozing in her bassinet in Crofton, Md. "This is sweet because a lot of the people watching in the stands had given up on me," says Legler, who was referring to the NBA general managers, coaches and scouts who were on hand for the festivities. Indeed, after coming out of LaSalle undrafted in 1988, Legler had spent the better part of six seasons playing in the CBA and the USBL before signing a two-year, $500,000 contract with the Bullets in September.