Posted Feb 12 2010 10:08AM
From its very inception in 1951, the NBA All-Star Game has often been notable for the hometown heroes who have outshined the rest.
The brainstorm of NBA publicist Haskell Cohen came to fruition when Celtics owner Walter Brown put up all the money to hold the game at Boston Garden and, despite dire predictions, it was a rousing success, drawing a crowd of 10,094. The Celtics' own "Easy Ed" Macauley scored 20 points and held Minneapolis Lakers star George Mikan to just four to lead the East to a 111-94 win. He was not named MVP until two years later, when the league instituted an All-Star MVP award at the 1953 game. In 1956, the Celtics traded Macauley to St. Louis for the rights to draft Bill Russell.
The most memorable play of the East's 109-97 win occurred just before halftime when Boston's Bill Sharman tried to throw a long pass to Celtics' teammate Bob Cousy. The pass never found Cousy, but went into the hoop for a 70-foot basket. But at the end of the day, it was ball-handling wizard Cousy -- 10 points, seven assists, five rebounds -- who was named MVP.
It was the first of five consecutive seasons that St. Louis Hawks teammates Bob Pettit and Cliff Hagen were members of the West All-Star team. Hagen sat out with an injury, but Pettit poured in 28 points and pulled down 26 rebounds to win MVP before the home crowd. Pettit and Hagen went on to beat the Celtics in the Finals to win the only championship in franchise history.
There was no stopping native Philadelphian and Philadelphia Warriors star Wilt Chamberlain before the supportive crowd of 10,421 at Convention Hall. Chamberlain piled up 23 points and 25 rebounds and won the only All-Star MVP trophy of his Hall of Fame career in a 125-115 win by the East.
On a day when Wilt Chamberlain finished with 42 points, Elgin Baylor 32 and Oscar Robertson with 26 points, 13 assists and seven rebounds -- the hometown site at St. Louis' Kiel Auditorium tipped the MVP voting once more in favor of Bob Pettit, who finished with 25 points and 27 rebounds. It was the last of Pettit's record four All-Star MVP awards.
The MVP Award in the 16th All-Star Game went to Cincinnati Royals guard Adrian Smith, the least heralded of the 20 players. A late addition to the East team at the Cincinnati Gardens, the 6-foot-2 guard Smith scored 24 points in just 26 minutes to spark the 137-94 triumph over the West.
Of the 10 members of the East team that year, Wilt Chamberlain, Hal Greer, John Havlicek, Jerry Lucas, Willis Reed, Oscar Robertson and Bill Russell would all become Hall of Famers. But the West responded with a scrappy combination of Nate Thurmond in the middle and a cocky second-year pro named Rick Barry. Thurmond held his own against the East giants and Barry finished with 38 points to lead the stunning 135-120 upset win by the West at the Cow Palace. "It was about as much fun as I ever had in one basketball game," Barry said.
Mr. Clutch didn't save his biggest efforts only for the drama of the playoffs. The Lakers' Jerry West shot 6-for-9 from the field at the Forum, finished with a team-high 13 points and hit the game-winning bucket as the horn sounded to give the West a 112-110 win and earn himself the MVP trophy.
It was the tail end of the tail end of the great L.A.-Boston rivalry of the 1980s with three Lakers (Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy) and three Celtics (Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish) squaring off again for the East and West. It was also Dr. J's final All-Star appearance. But in the end it was Tom Chambers, a last-minute sub for the injured Ralph Sampson, who shined in front of the home crowd of 34,275 at the Kingdome with 34 points in a 154-149 overtime win by the West.
In a game played at creaky old Chicago Stadium, Michael Jordan was destined to be the star. It was his coming-out party with 40 points (second-highest total in All-Star history). He shot 17-for-23 from the field and scored 16 points in the last six minutes to nail down the 138-133 win by the East and wrap up the first of his three All-Star MVP awards. Up to this day, Jordan was already a star, but his Bulls were 1-10 in playoff games. This game was the beginning of a legend. He also won the slam dunk contest by beating Dominique Wilkins.
They had always been inseparable in the Utah Jazz lineup, different sides of the same coin. So it was only fitting that the first NBA All-Star Game held in the state of Utah saw Karl Malone and John Stockton become the first co-winners of the MVP award. It was just like any other home game at the Delta Center as Stockton ran the show with nine points and dealt 15 assists, most of them to Malone, who finished with 28 points in a 135-132 overtime win. Michael Jordan led all scorers with 30 points.
There was a stunning fourth-quarter comeback led by Allen Iverson and a thrilling final-minute shootout between Stephon Marbury and Kobe Bryant and a postgame celebration worthy of June. Yes, it was quite an All-Star Game. Iverson and his Eastern Conference teammates transformed what looked like a blowout loss into an improbable 111-110 victory in a performance fitting of the 50th anniversary of the game. Born a short distance away in Hampton, Va., having played his college ball locally at Georgetown University, it was a homecoming for Iverson, who scored 15 of his 25 points in the final nine minutes to earn MVP honors. He was later named MVP for the 2001 season and led his Philadelphia 76ers to the NBA Finals.
The Philadelphia crowd booed Kobe Bryant almost every time he picked up the ball, but he had the last laugh as he led the West All-Stars to a 135-120 butt-kicking over the East in Philadelphia. Kobe was born and raised in Philadelphia, but basketball fans from the city didn't care. They remember Kobe as the guy who helped the Lakers blow by their Sixers in the 2001 NBA Finals. Bryant won the MVP trophy with his 31-point, five-rebound, five-assist game that was also made memorable by Tracy McGrady's self-pass-off-the-backboard dunk.
Having already led the Lakers to three consecutive NBA championships, L.A .was already the kingdom of Shaquille O'Neal and the Staples Center was his throne room as he ruled over all of the NBA royalty. Shaq was the unstoppable point-a-minute man with 24 points in 24 minutes on 11-for-17 shooting, 11 rebounds and two blocked shots in leading the West to a 136-132 win to put a hammerlock on his second All-Star MVP trophy, first as a solo act. The first time he shared the award with San Antonio's Tim Duncan (2000).
It was just like old times as Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant teamed up to share the MVP trophy for leading the West to an easy 146-119 win in the 58th NBA All-Star Game. Kobe led all scorers with 27 points, but Shaq was the local favorite in his temporary home in the desert. The Big Cactus was 8-for-9 for 17 points and grabbed five rebounds. It was the third time each for Shaq and Kobe to claim MVP honors, tying Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan on the all-time list and trailing only Bob Pettit (4).
Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here.
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