View Full Version : An All-Star Game for the ages

02-12-2003, 12:09 PM
It was one of the greatest All-Star games in sports, and a night that celebrated one of its finest almost got the storybook ending it desired.

Basketball fans have seen it over and over again. Seconds ticking down, game on the line in overtime, and Michael Jordan with the ball.


“I thought old #23 had slipped into the building,” said Kevin Garnett.

There were celebrations, hugs, and congratulations to the man for whom the night was unofficially, but unmistakably, dedicated to.

“It was like it was scripted,” said West coach Rick Adelman.

Only one problem, the game wasn’t over yet.

With three seconds left, the West inbounded to Kobe Bryant, who seemed to have trouble with the ball before hoisting a desperation shot while falling back into his bench.

The shot missed so now that Jordan-wins-the-game party can begin, right?

Uh, no.

Ted Bernhardt blew his whistle, indicating that East forward Jermaine O’Neal had actually fouled Kobe on the play, resulting in an opportunity for the West to win the game with three free throws.

But Kobe missed one of the three, and the game went into a second overtime, and this time, the West would get out early and win the game, 155-145.

Afterwards, all anyone could talk about was whether or not the foul (or non-foul) should have been called.

“It was a terrible, terrible call,” claimed Jermaine. “You can’t call a foul after what Michael did. It was a Michael Jordan moment, and then you call a foul on a fadeaway into his own bench, his own players.”

Jermaine stated that Kobe told him he wasn’t fouled. “The first thing Kobe said was I can’t believe they called that.”

Kobe’s teammates, Tim Duncan and MVP Kevin Garnett, disagreed.

“I thought there was contact,” voiced Duncan.

“I thought Jermaine drove Kobe out of bounds,” agreed Garnett.

Foul or not, it certainly killed the mood of the crowd and the East, who watched passively as the West took advantage of new life, running away with the second overtime.

“The foul killed the mood and we were emotionally drained in that second overtime. It was anti-climactic,” said Jermaine.

It could have been over at the end of regulation, but Jordan missed a shot that would have won at that time. Then, when the situation presented itself again in overtime, East coach Isiah Thomas went right back to him.

“The end of the game, we definitely wanted to put the ball in his hands,” said Thomas. “If you give that guy two chances, he’s going to make one of them, and he delivered. It was a great shot, a great moment, and the fans went crazy. It was nice, very nice.”

The game was dotted with tributes to many NBA legends, but the lion’s share of the recognition went to Jordan, who seems to really be done with playing basketball after this season.

“I can go home now and feel at peace with the game of basketball,” Jordan said in a halftime address.

The first tribute to Jordan came as the lineups were being announced for the game, and it was announced that Vince Carter had given up his starting spot for Jordan, a fellow North Carolina Tarheel.

“The team made the decision. They wanted to honor him,” said Thomas. “They wanted to be respectful to the history of the game. Since Vince is a Carolina guy, as is Michael, it was his spot that Michael took. It was very big on Vince to do it, but every guy wanted to give up the spot. In fact, none of the guys would have taken the floor had Michael refused to go in there.”

True enough, even after the announcement, Jordan did not want to take the floor.

“I don’t think he wanted it,” said Jermaine. “But at the same time, none of us were going out there. He just looked at all of us and we weren’t moving. Finally, he smiled and I think he realized we really, really wanted to do this for him.”

Jordan may have been shaken by the insistence of his teammates, as he began the game missing his first seven shots.

Jordan needed only 10 points to tie Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the all time All-Star scoring title, but for a while it looked as if Jordan would have to shoot 50 times to get there.

Jordan did bounce back from his early poor shooting, and got the record late in the second half.

Meanwhile, Garnett was showed no signs of a slump all night for the West, shooting an incredible 17-24 from the field to grab the All-Star MVP honors with his 37 points, the most since you-know-who scored 40 in 1988. (It was Jordan.)

“The second OT was the height of competitiveness. I knew that it was either going to be me or Timmy (Duncan) with the mismatch. I had Vince Carter on me, so I said let’s take advantage of it.”