Some of the most unforgettable moments in NBA history have taken place during the league’s All-Star celebration. Here are 20 that stand out
1951: Start of Something Big
The inaugural NBA All-Star Game occurred in 1951 at the Boston Garden, where legends such as George Mikan and Bob Cousy were among the 20 players who competed in the Eastern Conference’s 111-94 victory over the Western Conference.
1962: Setting the Bar
The All-Star Game scoring record has stood for more than 50 years—yet another example of Wilt Chamberlain’s dominance. In the 1962 All-Star Game in St. Louis, Chamberlain scored 42 points and added 24 rebounds. The rebounding total was good for second best on this day, though, as Bob Pettit finished with 25 points and an All-Star Game-record 27 rebounds to help the West defeat Chamberlain and the East 150-130.
1972: Drama Major
Living up to his Mr. Clutch nickname, Jerry West of the Los Angeles Lakers sank a last-second, tiebreaking jumper to lift the West past the East 112-110 in his home arena, The Forum in the 1972 All-Star Game.
1977: All Together Now
The 1977 All-Star Game marked the NBA All-Star debut of Julius Erving and other stars of the ABA, which merged with the NBA that season. Erving did not disappoint, earning MVP honors (30 points, 12 rebounds) even though the West edged his East team 125-124 in Milwaukee.
1983: Marvin’s Moment
Marvin Gaye delivered a singular rendition of the national anthem before the 1983 All-Star Game in Inglewood, Calif., a performance that still resonates today.
1984: Make a Weekend of It
NBA All-Star literally reached new heights with the introduction of the Slam Dunk Contest in 1984, won by Larry Nance against a marquee field that included Julius Erving and Dominique Wilkins. The event was an important step in the expansion of NBA All-Star, which would add the Three-Point Contest in 1986 and more skill-based competitions in subsequent years.
1986: Spud Soars
Surprised to even be invited to the 1986 Slam Dunk Contest, 5-7 rookie Spud Webb of the Atlanta Hawks became an instant sensation by upsetting defending champion and teammate Dominique Wilkins to win the title before a captivated crowd in his native Dallas.
1988: As Good as It Gets
Many observers regard the 1988 festivities in Chicago as the greatest All-Star in NBA history. All-Star Saturday set the tone as Michael Jordan outdueled Dominique Wilkins in a classic Slam Dunk Contest, and Larry Bird won the last of his three consecutive Three-Point Contest crowns with a late flurry punctuated by a famous celebratory gesture while his title-winning shot was still in the air. Jordan was back at it on his home floor a day later, finishing with 40 points, eight rebounds, four steals, four blocks and three assists in an MVP performance during the East’s 138-133 win.
1991: Craig Can’t Miss
Craig Hodges’ run of three consecutive victories in the Three-Point Contest was highlighted by a spectacular display of marksmanship in the 1991 event. Hodges opened his semifinal round by making 19 consecutive shots. “I’ve been on great roles before,” Hodges said, “but never when the popcorn was popping and the people were in the stands.”
1992: Pure Magic
Three months after announcing his retirement from the NBA, Magic Johnson took to the court at the 1992 All-Star Game in Orlando. It was like he had never left: Magic dazzled the crowd with 25 points and nine assists to earn MVP honors and lead the West past the East 153-113. Former NBA Commissioner David Stern says presenting Johnson with the MVP trophy that day is his favorite All-Star memory.
1994: Future Is Now
Now a staple on the All-Star schedule, the annual showcase for top young players debuted in 1994, when Chris Webber led one team of rookies against Penny Hardaway and another team of rookies. The Rising Stars Challenge has evolved to feature first- and second-year players and a Team USA vs. Team World format.
1997: Best of the Best
In a normal year, Michael Jordan recording the first triple-double in All-Star Game history and All-Star Game MVP Glen Rice scoring 20 points in a single quarter for the victorious East would be the obvious headliners. But top billing at the 1997 All-Star Game in Cleveland belonged to the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players, as generations of basketball icons were honored at halftime in the culmination of the “NBA at 50” celebration.
2000: VC to Believe
Vince Carter is an eight-time All-Star and one of the top 25 scorers in NBA history. For many fans, though, the first line on his résumé is a jaw-dropping performance at the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest in Oakland, Calif. From executing a reverse spin 360 to dunking his forearm through the rim, Carter was so remarkable that he completely overshadowed exceptional displays by Steve Francis and Tracy McGrady.
2001: The East’s Answer
After the NBA’s past All-Star Game MVPs were honored at halftime of the 2001 All-Star Game, Allen Iverson joined the club by spearheading the East’s incredible comeback. Iverson scored 15 of his 25 points in the final nine minutes as the East rallied from a 21-point deficit to stun the West 111-110 in Washington, D.C.
2003: Farewell, MJ
Michael Jordan’s final All-Star Game, in 2003, nearly ended in storybook fashion, when he nailed a trademark fadeaway jumper to put the East ahead with 4.8 seconds left in overtime. But Kobe Bryant hit two free throws to force a second OT and the West prevailed 155-145 in Atlanta. Still, the occasion belonged to Jordan, who said during a halftime tribute in his honor, “I leave the game in good hands.”
2008: Props to Superman
How creative was the 2008 Slam Dunk Contest? So much so that defending champion Gerald Green was upstaged despite throwing down a two-handed slam while blowing out the candle on a cupcake that was perched on the back of the rim. Green had to settle for second place behind Dwight Howard, whose signature moment came when he donned a Superman cape and hurled the ball through the basket. Howard became the first center to win the contest.
2010: Texas-Sized Record
The NBA brought All-Star to a football stadium in 2010 and fans responded by packing Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. A basketball-record crowd of 108,713 watched the East slip past the West 141-139 behind MVP Dwyane Wade.
2011: In the Driver’s Seat
The LA Clippers’ Blake Griffin drove home his status as one of the NBA’s bright young stars with his performance at the 2011 Slam Dunk Contest in Los Angeles, claiming the title in front of his home fans after leaping over a car on his final attempt.
2015 and 2016: Russ Rules
With electrifying performances in the West’s victories in 2015 and 2016, Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder became the first player in All-Star Game history to win outright back-to-back MVP awards. Westbrook scored 41 points in 2015 at New York and registered 31 points, eight rebounds, five assists and five steals in 2016 at Toronto, the first All-Star Game held outside the United States.
2016: Superstar Send-Off
One of the highlights of Kobe Bryant’s farewell season took place during the 2016 All-Star Game at Air Canada Centre. Bryant relished his 18th and final All-Star appearance, which included a pregame tribute from Magic Johnson, multiple standing ovations and fun one-on-one moments between Kobe and some of his longtime rivals.
Photos Sports Illustrated, Pinterest, Lake Show Life, Smitty’s Sports Machine