The 10 greatest moments in NBA All-Star Game history

Michael Jordan takes part in the NBA All-Star Slam Dunk contest in Seattle in 1987. (Kirthmon Dozier/AP)

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No offence to the other leagues (OK, maybe a little offence), but there ain’t no all-star game like the NBA All-Star Game.

By its very nature, basketball lends itself better to an all-star game format. Whereas in hockey and football when guys are goofing around it looks just that, goofy, and in baseball where “just having a good time” doesn’t have an obvious difference to “playing seriously,” basketball can still thrive in a laid-back atmosphere because the sport is already a highlight factory.

Thus, there’s always something really special about the NBA All-Star Game. To celebrate this, here are what I consider to be the 10 greatest moments in the history of the big Sunday showcase, put into chronological order with just one moment for player for both argument and variety’s sake.

A tradition is born – 1951
In 1951, the fledgling NBA’s fifth season in existence the first NBA All-Star Game was played with the East defeating the West 111-94. Without this first little exhibition in the old Boston Garden none of the glitz and glamour that’s now associated with all-star weekend would ever have existed.

Mr. Clutch lives up to his name – 1972
Jerry West was named the 1972 all-star game MVP for his stellar 13-point, six-rebound, six-steal performance, and what became an iconic game-winning shot for the West at the top of the key. 1972 was a special year for West. His Los Angeles Lakers won a then-record 69 games that including a still-existing record 33-game win streak and, most importantly, that one and only NBA title that continually eluded West for the majority of his career.

Best rendition of the Star Spangled Banner ever – 1983
Many will say the best performance of the Star Spangled Banner at a sporting event was Whitney Houston’s at Super Bowl XXV. A strong argument to be made there for sure, but what Gaye did at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game was unprecedented. He re-arranged the anthem and pretty much with only a synthesizer playing a beat in the background he just let his own smooth voice take it from there.

“Confidence baby, confidence!” – 1987
Believe it or not, but once upon a time the all-star game was actually a competitive affair and dudes really did care about winning. For proof of this look no further than the 1987 game when, with no time left on the clock, Dallas Mavericks all-star Rolando Blackman gets fouled and drills two free throws to send the game to overtime. The West would end up winning 154-149, but the real highlight was Blackman yelling, “Confidence baby, confidence” at the ball as he saw his second free throw go down.

The Magic moment – 1992
I know this list isn’t being ranked, but this is, unequivocally the greatest moment in the history of the NBA All-Star Game, and perhaps every all-star game across all sports. For those that don’t know the background behind this here’s a quick rundown: In late 1991 Magic Johnson very suddenly announced his retirement because he had contracted HIV. Flash-forward three months later and he’s starting in the 1992 all-star game because of the fan’s vote and put in a performance of a lifetime that includes probably the most iconic shot in all-star history and a well-deserved MVP award. At the time HIV and AIDS education wasn’t really all there so there were many who thought Johnson was on the verge of death because he contracted the virus. His heroics helped change that conversation forever.

Shaq destroys the Admiral – 1996
There have been plenty of dunks done in the all-star game, but none as vicious as this one.

The 50 greatest players ceremony – 1997
The 1996-97 season was the NBA’s 50th and to mark this occasion the NBA brought out to court the 50 greatest players in the history of the game as part of the 1997 all-star festivities. This list has obviously changed now, but it’s still an undeniably cool moment to look back on.

Iverson and Marbury bring the East back – 2001
Allen Iverson led the East on an epic fourth-quarter comeback, aided by some huge threes from Stephon Marbury to stun the West 111-110. Iverson won all-star MVP and also ended up winning league MVP that year as well.

The T-Mac special – 2002
He did this twice over his all-star career, but the first one is still the sweetest. This clip of Tracy McGrady nonchalantly lobbing it off the backboard and slamming it home in traffic will never get old.

MJ’s final fadeaway – 2003
Michael Jordan definitely had more glamourous moments in all-star history (1988 comes to mind), but this final hurrah is more significant because it was his swan song. Unlike Kobe Bryant who got voted in for his final all-star appearance this weekend, Jordan in 2003 was selected as an all-star reserve, but was graciously given the starting spot by Vince Carter. At halftime Jordan was visibly seen with tears in his eyes (no, not the crying Jordan meme) as he said his farewells, and in overtime of the game his Airness gave us all one final look at that patented fadeaway. Beautiful.

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