NBA All-Star Weekend has a rich history and a plethora of unforgettable NBA All-Star moments, from the memorable dunk contests featuring Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, Spud Webb and Dr. J, to name a few, to the three-point competition in which Larry Bird called game before the game even started.
Since All-Star Weekend history is usually reserved for the older crowd, we here at The Sports Fan Journal decided to cater toward our millennial audience by reliving our favorite NBA All-Star moments from the modern era. Take a look.
Since entering the league out of Lower Marion High School in suburban Philadelphia, Kobe Bryant has had an awkward relationship with his hometown. The City of Brotherly Love showered him with anything but love, raining boos down every time he’s set foot into the Wells Fargo Center. Some say the hate started during the 2001 NBA Finals when Bryant, whose Lakers were up 3-1 in series going into the decisive Game 5 on the road against the Sixers, was quoted as saying he “wanted to rip the fans' hearts out” prior to game time. Scorned Sixers fans booed Bryant every time he touched the ball that night and continued as the Lakers (and Bryant) won the second of their three straight titles in the early 2000s.
Coincidentally, the All-Star game was in Philadelphia the following year, giving Sixers fans another opportunity to jeer the newly crowned black sheep of the city. The hometown fans took advantage of the opportunity, again booing Bryant, even as he poured in 31 points, dished out five assists and pulled down five rebounds, securing the games MVP honors. The fans saved their best (or worst if you asked Kobe), nearly drowning out commentator Ahmad Rashad with boos as he introduced Bryant. As you can see in the clip above, Bryant took it on the chin, barely, giving us one of the most indelible NBA All-Star moments of the past 16 years.
Unfortunately for some of us young-ins, we weren’t able to see the true All-Star greatness of Michael Jordan firsthand. Instead, we were subjected to missed dunks, young dudes tossing his shot out of bounds and bad knees during his two-year tenure in our nation’s capitol. He did, however, give the people one last glimpse into the past, draining a fade-away two in the closing seconds of the first overtime to give the East squad a two-point lead with three seconds to go in the 2003 contest.
In tribute to the '03 All-Star Game being MJ’s last, the league did it big, outfitting both teams in throwback All-Star apparel and a half-decent Mariah Carey performance pregame. Though the West ultimately won, MJ’s shot goes down as the most memorable NBA All-Star moment from that season.
Before Tracy McGrady moonlighted as a minor league baseball player, the man was a hell of a player on the hardwood. With athleticism that allowed him to jump out of the gym paired with a touch to shoot that rock from 30 feet out, the man had it all.
That athleticism showed through in the 2002 All-Star Game when midway through the first quarter, he did the unthinkable. After getting a pass from fellow All-Star Jermaine O’Neal, McGrady drove the length of the floor, threw the ball off the backboard and then slammed it for two. Watching the game on the floor at my mom’s house, my jaw dropped in disbelief as McGrady ran back down the floor.
That dunk, just like his game, was a transcendent work of art that will forever remain among the most remarkable NBA All-Star moments ever.
During the early 2000s, the Warriors were a talented group of losers. Even with the likes of All-Star-caliber players Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Larry Hughes, the team still couldn’t manage to get one headline. That was until Jason Richardson hijacked the 2002 Slam Dunk Contest in exhilarating fashion.
He started off the night with a powerful 360 windmill, followed by a conventional windmill (an ode to Dominique Wilkins), but he saved the best for last. On his final attempt, Richardson calmly walked to the left wing, threw a lob to himself and finished on the opposite side of the rim with a reverse slam, scoring a 50 and winning the competition.
Luckily for the NBA, Richardson was just getting started. By the time the 2003 contest rolled around, the league was buzzing about a Richardson repeat. He didn’t disappoint, treating the crowed to a flurry of windmills and 360 dunks. With the crowd at his fingertips, Richardson threw a lob to himself from the right baseline, palmed the lob with his right hand, transfered the ball between his legs and dunk edon the other side with his off hand, sending the Atlanta crowd into a frenzy and thus winning the competition.
Though Richardson lost out on a bid to three-peat in Los Angeles the following year, his dunking run was one of very few high points for the Warriors organization, which was in the midst of an eight-year playoff drought. Richardson’s back-to-back dunk championships not only put him in a rarified elite class of dunkers, but it also made him a Bay Area legend and gave us one of the most exhilarating NBA All-Star moments in the past decade and a half.
The buzz started in Oakland when Carter told Kenny Smith that he was going to treat the crowd to something it's never seen before. Carter, who had been known for his superior athleticism since he was a high schooler in Daytona Beach, Florida, knew a thing or two about shutting a gym down with a highlight-reel dunk.
His first dunk was a sensational 360 windmill that quickly got everyone’s attention, including the ever-emotional Kenny Smith, but that was just the beginning. Carter followed that up with a windmill from behind the backboard, which garnered a score of 49 because of Smith giving a very salty individual score of 9. Carter left no doubt on his next attempt, taking a bounce lob from his cousin Tracy McGrady between his legs and dunking it, then pointing to the sky and proceeding to tell us, “It’s over.”
Fortunately for the viewing audience that night, it wasn’t over, as Carter saved his best for last, literally putting his arm in the rim, which put the entire arena in a stunned silence. Carter received a 50, ultimately winning the competition in a landslide.
What makes Carter’s performance so special was that it kick-started the basketball movement in Canada, beginning a basketball revolution that birthed players like Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Tristan Thompson, to name a few. The impact from that night in Oakland has come full circle, as Toronto plays host to the 2016 All-Star festivities for the first time. And while Vince is now in his twilight and no longer the All-Star force he once was, no one will ever dispute it was perhaps the most memorable of all the unforgettable NBA All-Star moments ever.
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