The 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend will be held from February 14-16 at the United Center in Chicago. The Celebrity All-Star Game and Rising Stars Game will take place on the 14th, All-Star Saturday (Three-Point Contest and Slam Dunk Contest) is on the 15th, and the All-Star Game itself is set for the 16th.
Here are the 25 most memorable moments from past NBA All-Star weekends:
25. Brent Barry’s 1996 Slam Dunk Win
The main problem with Barry winning the competition was the degree of difficulty of his dunks. On a scale of 1-5, you might rate them a two as they were simplistic in nature that rarely went out of his comfort zone. However, Barry’s winning dunk will be best remembered from this lackluster competition. He streaked the length of the court without dribbling the basketball before jamming it through the rim. Every time I re-watch this slam, I can’t help but think he wore his Los Angeles Clippers warmup jacket all throughout the competition.
By far, Barry is the worst dunker ever to win the Slam Dunk Contest. Enough said.
24. Dr. J’s First All-Star Appearance
Julius Erving’s first appearance at the NBA All-Star Game was one of the most anticipated events following the league’s merger with the ABA. Dr. J spurned the NBA after being selected by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 12th overall pick in the first round of the 1972 NBA Draft.
And in typical fashion, the Good Doctor dominated his contemporaries by scoring 30 points, grabbing 12 rebounds, and energized the crowd with three spectacular jams. Erving’s rousing performance earned him MVP honors in a losing effort as the West defeated the East 125-124. It’s the only time in NBA All-Star Game history that a player on a losing team won the award.
23. Jerry West’s Game-Winning Jumper in 1972 All-Star Game
One theme that is consistent throughout this article is how the NBA’s best players shine brightest when the All-Star Game is played in their home city. In 1972, Los Angeles was the host of the All-Star Game, and the game was a very competitive affair. The teams traded the lead several times down the stretch until Jerry West sent the Forum faithful home happy by hitting a top-of-the-key jumper with one second remaining on the clock. This gave the West a 112-110 win over the East.
22. The 1963 All-Star Game
Let’s go back in the time machine to 1963 as the NBA All-Star Game was being held at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. It would be the first time the league’s two best centers, Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain, would be pitted against one another in the contest. Usually, Russell and Chamberlain were teammates at the All-Star Game, but that all changed after the Philadelphia Warriors moved out west to San Francisco. Also, the game marked Bob Cousy’s final appearance as an All-Star.
21. 2010 All-Star Game at Cowboys Stadium
They say everything in Texas is big, and that held true for the 2010 NBA All-Star Game in Dallas as well. The contest was held inside Cowboys Stadium, and the event hosted the largest (108,713) crowd ever to see a basketball game. The previous attendance record was 78,129 for the Kentucky-Michigan State game at Ford Field in 2003. The largest crowd to ever witness an NBA All-Star Game was 44,735 at the Houston Astrodome in 1989. This was a glorious achievement for the league.
20. Marvin Gaye Singing The National Anthem
The 1983 NBA All-Star Game was held at the Fabulous Forum in Los Angeles, and the best moment of the day came before the opening tip. Legendary singer Marvin Gaye sang the National Anthem prior to the start of the game. His rendition of the song was a bit different but original. The crowd booed at first before giving Gaye a standing ovation for his performance. It’s a moment that will never be duplicated again by another performing artist.
19. The Announcement of The NBA’s Top 50 Players
Full disclosure, I love these types of moments that can only take place at an All-Star Game. It’s great to see the true builders of the NBA get recognized, but attempting to create such a list must be very difficult. I want to hear the stories of the painful omissions and why certain players didn’t make the cut. Sometimes, this is a bigger story than revealing the list itself. In the end, the league wanted to showcase the wealth of talent that has played a role in the sport’s rich history. However, coming to a definitive top 50 list is an impossible task to ask of anyone.
18. First Triple-Double in All-Star Game History
The Gund Arena in Cleveland was the site for the 1997 All-Star Game, and the league unveiled the 50 greatest players to have ever played the sport at halftime. But no player past or present could outshine Michael Jordan on this day. MJ became the first player in NBA history to record a triple-double in the All-Star Game as he scored 14 points, 11 rebounds, and dished out 10 assists in a 132-120 East win.
17. Kobe Bryant Breaks MJ’s Scoring Record and His Nose
In the 2012 NBA All-Star Game in Orlando, the West won a high-scoring affair 152-149 over the East. However, the bigger story was Kobe Bryant breaking Michael Jordan’s career All-Star Game scoring record and his nose in the same contest. The nose injury came first as Bryant was hit across his face on a drive to the basket by Dwyane Wade in the third quarter.
Many thought Kobe’s night was done as he left the floor, but in true Mamba fashion, he returned to the action a few minutes later. In the waning minutes of the final quarter, Bryant broke MJ’s record on a breakaway dunk.
16. AI Was The Answer in East’s Comeback Win
One of the best NBA All-Star moments of the game is when the top players are allowed to play unfiltered. What that means is the All-Star Game is designed to showcase their skills without forcing them to adhere to normal game responsibilities.
In 2001, Allen Iverson had one of those games that will be talked about for years. The East was down by 21 points late in the fourth quarter. Then AI scored 15 of his game-high 25 points in the final nine minutes of the contest for a stunning 111-110 comeback win. Iverson accomplished this feat by weaving through the West backcourt that comprised of Jason Kidd, Kobe Bryant, and Gary Payton. His dominance earned him MVP honors in the contest.
15. Blake Griffin Dunking Over A Car
Yes, the 2011 Slam Dunk Contest had the look of being staged, or at least the outcome was pre-determined. Rising star Blake Griffin won the event, but he had stiff competition from DeMar DeRozan, Serge Ibaka, and JaVale McGee. All looked to be the better dunker than Griffin in the contest.
However, the judges gave Griffin a clear path to the finals by giving him high scores on basic dunks. His road (no pun attended) to a championship began with an air-defying slam from the baseline that saw Griffin nearly hit his head on the backboard during the attempt. And on his final dunk of the night, he motioned for a Kia sun-roof sedan be placed under the basket. Los Angeles Clippers teammate Baron Davis was inside and proceeded to lob Griffin a pass while on his way to the rim via air as he jumped over the car. Game…Set…Match.
14. Kobe and Shaq Reunite at 2009 All-Star Game
We’ve all read the vivid accounts of Hollywood’s messiest breakup in recent times. No, I’m not talking about Brad and Angelina, but Kobe and Shaq. The line of communication between the two was non-existent following Shaquille O’Neal’s trade to the Miami Heat in the summer of 2004. But that changed when the former duo was thrust together in the 2009 All-Star Game. They didn’t seem to miss a beat on the court as Kobe and Shaq led the West to an easy 153-132 victory over the East. Bryant scored 27 points, and O’Neal netted 17 points, and that earned them co-MVP honors for the game. Shaq proclaimed themselves “The Big Legendaries,” and that seemed to end the feud from all sides.
13. MJ vs. Kobe in The 1998 All-Star Game
No, the 1998 All-Star Game wasn’t the first time that Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant faced one another on a basketball court, but it was the first time that all of the sport’s keen eyes were watching them in-person. The matchup almost never came to be as MJ was stricken with a high-grade fever that kept him away from Saturday’s open practice prior to Sunday’s game. However, Jordan was in uniform and ready to perform on game day. Kobe came prepared to take on the legend as executed a perfect 360 dunk in the first half, but after that, it was all MJ. Jordan scored 23 points in a 135-114 win for the East. Easily, their interaction on the court is one of the best NBA All-Star moments in recent times.
12. Dwight Howard Became Superman
At several times during its long history, the NBA Slam Dunk Contest has been on life support. But, then comes one of the league’s superstars to save the day. One of those events took place during the 2008 competition.
Many who were watching the contest thought Gerald Green sealed the win by extinguishing a lit candle on a cupcake during his successful dunk attempt. However, Dwight Howard would change everyone’s perspective with one wardrobe change. In his final dunk attempt, Howard donned a Superman cape and flew from the foul line to snatch victory from defeat with a memorable slam.
11. Spud Webb Winning The 1986 Slam Dunk Contest
In 1986, Spud Webb defeated fellow Atlanta Hawks teammate and prior year champion, Dominique Wilkins, in a very spirited All-Star Weekend Slam Dunk Contest. It felt like a “David vs Goliath” moment as Webb was listed as 5-7 and Wilkins stood 6-8. Webb was from the Dallas area and won the contest in front of family and friends attending at Reunion Arena. Thus, he became the smallest competitor to win the dunking competition and paved the way for 5-9 Nate Robinson to become the league’s first three-time (2006, 09 and 10) dunking champion.
10. Isiah Thomas 1986 All-Star Game
It’s funny how our view changes on a player as the years’ pass. When hearing the name, Isiah Thomas, you immediately think of his failed time running the New York Knicks under James Dolan. But, we’re foolish in forgetting how great a basketball player Thomas was in his heyday. An excellent example of his greatness is Thomas’ performance (30 points, 10 assists and five steals) at the 1986 All-Star Game.
It was a true definition of how the point guard position should be played. Thomas outshined other future Hall-of-Famers (Larry Bird, Moses Malone, Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, and others) on the court that day. Thomas showed why he should be in the conversation as one of the top guards to ever play in the NBA.
9. Tracy McGrady’s Self-Lob Pass Off Glass Dunk
One of the smoothest operators with the basketball was Tracy McGrady, as he seemed a natural choice to lead teammates on a transitional break. McGrady exhibited those same skills on a legendary dunk during the 2002 All-Star Game. Who knew throwing the ball off the backboard to yourself would get so much recognition, but it did for McGrady.
He was running the fastbreak when McGrady saw a clear path to the basket with no defender in sight. He took off from the free-throw line and casually threw the ball off the glass to himself for the dunk. And the rest is history.
From his perspective, McGrady made the same move in high school, preseason games and wanted to debut it on the big stage. The end result was a dunk that became one of the best NBA All-Star moments in history.
8. Michael Jordan’s 1988 All-Star Weekend Dunk Contest Win
The NBA scheduled its 1988 All-Star Weekend to take place at Chicago Stadium, but the event should have been re-named Michael Jordan’s Welcome to NBA Party. MJ’s weekend began with a controversial Slam Dunk Contest win as he outdueled Dominique Wilkins in his own competition, then went out and scored 40 points in an MVP All-Star Game performance. Few if any have ever come close to accomplishing this astonishing feat.
Some who attended the dunking competition still feel Jordan’s victory was tainted as Wilkins received perfect scores on his first two dunks of the final round, only to receive a 45 on his final attempt, a two-handed windmill dunk. This left a small opening for Jordan, which he kicked-in with a thunderous dunk to secure the win in front of a roaring home crowd.
7. Michael Jordan’s 1988 All-Star Weekend 42 Point Game
The All-Star Game was supposed to be a farewell party for Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, who was retiring at the end of the season. Jordan wasn’t in the celebratory mood and this is where the NBA universe saw their first glimpse of MJ’s “take no prisoners” mentality that would dominate the sport in the 90s. Jordan’s effort fell two points shy of tying Wilt Chamberlain’s 42 points high mark in an All-Star Game. After this weekend, everyone knew Jordan was special, but no one knew how great he would become.
6. Kobe’s Fourth and Final All-Star MVP Performance
If we wanted, we could spend hours chronicling all of Kobe Bryant’s All-Star Game accomplishments. But, the 2011 game stands out because it was played at Staples Center, the Los Angeles Lakers unveiled the Jerry West statue outside the building and Bryant won his final All-Star Game MVP award. The home folks came to see a show and Kobe didn’t disappoint as he scored 37 points in a 148-143 victory.
In achieving his fourth All-Star MVP trophy, Kobe tied Bob Petit for that high honor. But more importantly, it showed that stars of this elk used this stage to provide memorable moments for the fans. Kobe thrived to perform under the spotlight each and every time.
5. Vince Carter’s 2000 Slam Dunk Victory
If the Slam Dunk Contest ever needed a boost of adrenaline, then the competition received it from Vince Carter’s entrance into the 2000 event. The dunking contest returned after a two-year respite. The NBA canceled the 1998 competition due to a lack of interest from the players themselves. Then after the 1999 lockout was settled, NBA Commissioner David Stern decided to cancel the All-Star Game for that season.
However, the league decided to bring back one of their signature events for the 2000 season and Carter’s performance brought the fan’s love affair back to the competition once again. You don’t earn a nickname like “Vinsanity” if you cannot finish around the basket. No doubt that Carter has provided some of the most jaw-dropping dunks in his great career.
On this night in 2000, Carter added more to his arsenal. He began the evening with a rim-shaking 360 windmill dunk that brought the crowd out of their seats. The beauty of Carter’s athleticism won a title and confirmed his dominance as the game’s premier dunker.
4. The 1984 Slam Dunk Contest
In 1984, NBA Commissioner David Stern announced the league would add a Slam Dunk Contest to the All-Star Game weekend being held at McNichols Arena that season. Many thought it was fitting location to relaunch the competition as it hosted a slam dunk duel between Julius Erving and David Thompson during the ABA’s final season in 1976.
That event was highlighted by Erving’s amazing dunk from the foul line. In fact, Dr. J was announced as the first entrant in the 1984 contest. However, on the night of the competition, Larry Nance became the unlikely star and winner of the first dunk contest. His winning slam was a reverse dunk that used two basketballs.
3. Jordan’s Farewell to the All-Star Game
The party had to end sometime as Jordan played his last NBA All-Star game in 2003. The league spared no expense in putting on an elaborate halftime show to honor the career of His Airness. Mariah Carey sang two songs in front of a video highlighting Jordan’s greatest moments on the basketball court. When it came time to say a few words, Jordan showed appreciation for his fellow competitors by remarking, “I leave the game in good hands,” after a rousing two-minute standing ovation from the Atlanta crowd.
The game itself doesn’t register much with fans, but it was fitting that MJ hit what appeared to be a game-winning jumper with 4.8 seconds remaining in overtime. But no one told Jermaine O’Neal of the plan as he fouled Kobe Bryant beyond the three-point arc with one second remaining on the clock. Bryant hit two of three free throws that sent “Jordanfest” into a second overtime period. In fact, this was the first game in all-star history to go into double OT. The West gained the momentum needed to win a wild 155-145 affair over the East.
2. Larry Bird Winning The 1986 Three-Point Shooting Contest
It was no surprise that Larry Bird won the inaugural Three-Point Shooting Contest, originally called the Long Distance Shootout. The legend of Bird grew from his alleged trash talk to the other contest entrants as he asked them, “Who is coming in second?” Bird backed up his chatter by making 11 straight three-point shots to win the title over the dangerous long-distance sharpshooter Craig Hodges.
1. Magic Johnson’s Return to the NBA
To put it simply, the 1992 NBA All-Star Game was not the league’s best moment, it was a ground-breaking moment that happens once or twice in a lifetime. First, you have to remember the climate and culture of 1992 as the world thought Johnson was on a death watch from the AIDS Virus. Only three months earlier, Magic shocked the world with his unexpected retirement from the Los Angeles Lakers due to contracting the dreaded disease.
The NBA wanted to use the All-Star Game as a platform to educate the general public on the difference between HIV Positive and AIDS. NBA Commissioner David Stern wanted Magic to become the cause’s spokesperson by playing in the contest. Other All-Stars expressed their concerns about playing along Johnson and possibly spreading the disease. Stern re-assured all that it was safe for him to play in the All-Star Game.
It was fitting that Magic had one of those days inside the home of the Orlando Magic. Johnson was named MVP after scoring 25 points, dishing 9 assists and more importantly, ending the myth of those who were diagnosed HIV Positive.
Did we leave out your favorite NBA All-Star Weekend moments? Leave a comment below…