A “moment” could mean anything, but for the NBA All-Star Game we’re keeping them within the realm of the actual game. Sure, there are a few that took place outside the end lines, but they fall within the context of the game itself, so no Saturday night contests allowed — even if they weren’t yet on Saturday night. There’s still a lot of history surrounding the NBA’s annual midway point, so hopefully some of our choices fall in line with your fondest memories of the NBA All-Star Game.
10. The 1964 All-Star Game boycott threat that changed everything
This should show you this list isn’t in any order of importance. If it were, this moment would be much higher up, and might even be No. 1. The 1964 NBA All-Star Game was the first one to be televised live, which meant there was only so much broadcast time on the Tuesday night in January when the game took place. Except the game almost didn’t take place at all.
The players huddled before the game and said they would refuse to play the game, despite the fact the fringe professional league would get a big boost with the ABC audience. Still, the owners had more to lose and after huddling with NBA commissioner J. Walter Kennedy, they eventually capitulated, agreeing to give the NBPA a seat at the bargaining table to improve working conditions, implement a pension plan and review a host of other maladies the players had been griping about for year.
The game itself was nothing special, except for the fact the players only had a few minutes to warm up after barricading themselves in the locker room until the last moment. By sticking together even as the various owners threatened to release them, the players in the 1964 All-Star game took the first big step towards the modern game, and player’s union, we know today.
9. Wilt Chamberlain scores NBA-record 42 points in the 1962 All-Star Game, but the Eastern Conference still loses and he is NOT named MVP
Chamberlain’s 42 points are still an All-Star record, and he grabbed 24 rebounds for good measure. But the Bayou Bomber Bob Petit of the then St. Louis Hawks was named All-Star Game MVP after scoring 25 points and grabbing an NBA-record 27 rebounds.
The biggest reason Chamberlain missed out on the award — aside from Petit’s dominance on the glass — was the Western Conference won easily, 150-130. It calls to mind all the scoring titles Chamberlain won, but the scant — at least in proportion to his individual exploits — number of titles he won (just two) in his Hall-of-Fame career.
8. Allen Iverson leads huge fourth-quarter comeback on his way to MVP in 2001
At one point in the fourth quarter the Eastern Conference trailed the West by 21 points during the 2001 game. But Allen Iverson, who was playing for his own coach, Larry Brown, at the MCI Center in Washington DC wasn’t going to leave without a win. In a performance reminiscent of the 6—0 (and we’ve stood next to him before, he’s probably closer to 5-11 or 5-10) dynamo’s run through the Eastern Conference playoffs later that year.
Similar to the regular season where Iverson was named the 2001 MVP, his 15 points over the final nine minutes of the game led the East to an unbelievable 111-110 win. The Answer was the MVP in what is still one of the most competitive performances we’ve ever seen in what amounts to an aimless game, but Iverson — like all the greats — wasn’t going down without a fight.
7. Michael Jordan frozen out of 1985 All-Star Game
It’s become a part of the MJ mythos. The time in 1985 when Isiah Thomas convinced other All-Stars (remember, Zeke won the MVP the year prior) to freeze out Jordan during the contest. MJ was the brash young rookie with the lucrative Nike deal and a ton of offensive freedom for a woebegone Bulls squad. It wasn’t a hard sell for a lot of them.
Jordan finished the contest shooting just 2-of-9 in 22 minutes, so it’s not like he never touched the ball, and Thomas again flourished at the point, scoring a team-high 22 points to go with five dimes.
But His Airness had his revenge against Chicago’s former favorite later that season. MJ dropped 49 when he next matched up against Thomas and the Pistons and as the Eastern Conference calcified around the budding rivalry between the two player’s teams, it stood as a watershed in MJ’s famous memory.
Later, MJ would issue an ultimatum to the Olympic committee saying he wouldn’t join the 1992 “Dream Team” if Zeke was given an invite. While the freeze out probably didn’t play as big a role in the rumored demand as Thomas’ decision to leave Game 4 of the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals without shaking hands, it certainly stands as the beginning of their fractious relationship. For MJ, getting ignored that weekend probably worked later as the motivating factor he needed to become a better player, and not just a singular force. For primarily that reason, it had to make our list.
6. Michael Jordan vs. Kobe Bryant in the 1998 All-Star Game
Kobe was in just his second season and first All-Star game; he was still coming off the bench for the Lakers (he would start only one game for them that season). Jordan was in his last year with the Bulls, playing his twelfth All-Star game, but first in quite some time without Scottie Pippen (he was injured to start the year and didn’t get the Kevin Durant benefit of the doubt), or Phil Jackson — Larry Bird coached since the Pacers, who had the top record in the East.
It wasn’t a duel, so much as an announcement by Kobe that was someone to keep an eye on, a possible superstar who had no qualms going at his idol. Sure, MJ won the MVP award after scoring a game-high 23 points in a 135-114 Eastern Conference rout.
But Kobe led the West in scoring, causing more than a few of our friends to grumble that the youngster hadn’t yet earned the right to take 16 shots, the most on the team. But he made seven of them on his way to a team-high 18 points. To give you an idea of how long ago this was, the West player who took the second most shots was Nick Van Exel (5-of-14), Kobe’s teammate at the time (Shaq went 5-of-10).
The two would battle two more times in the All-Star game, but this was the only time Bean got a chance to compete aginst Jordan when he was still winning championships, and the Bulls star certainly showed him what a champion looks like even in his final Bulls season.