There was little chance of anyone else taking my favorite NBA All-Star moment. I'll admit I have many, having been a fan before I started attending All-Star games for my job. Michael Jordan's game-tying shot in 2003 is exceptionally memorable. But one memory sticks out more than any other:
Seattle, Wash., 1987.
The West beats the East 154-149 in overtime in the highest scoring All-Star Game ever. Tom Chambers wins MVP with 34 points in a spot-start. But that's not the whole story. The line of the night belonged to Rolando Blackman: 29 points, 11-13 from the free throw line, one loud yell.
And it was two of those free throws and most important, the impending reaction, that make my favorite NBA All-Star moment.
There are two ways for a moment to become great. You see it happen live before your very eyes and it just wows you. Or, you see it constantly again and again, picking up something you missed. In this case its the latter. The moment has become great to me through multiple viewings on tape. In the days before NBA TV and Tivo, VHS was our basketball library.
Here's what happened: With the West down by two in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter, Rolando Blackman drove the baseline to try and tie the game. Four East defenders converged on him and knocked him to the ground as he went up for the shot. Time runs out. Whistle blows. Blackman gets two shots. With the fourth quarter over, the free-throw lane is clear. It's just Rolando and the basket (and 34,000 fans).
Isiah Thomas tries to distract Blackman, but Magic Johnson doesn't let him near him. Blackman's concentration is unbroken. A career 84 percent free throw shooter, there was good chance he was going to knock them down. Blackman's first shot rattles around the rim and in. The second now, is to tie the game. Money. But the TV replays made it great. Focused on Rolando's face, you see him scream at the basket after making the final shot.
For years, my friends and I would replay the scene, trying to determine exactly what was said as those free throws swished through the net. (Similar to how no one is sure what Karl Malone whispers to himself on the free throw line.) Over and over we'd play it. After much research, I had determined that he was saying "In your face, baby, in your face!" directly to the East team.
Turns out, that wasn't it.
Blackman himself cleared up the mystery
"I was just trying to concentrate on what I had to do," Blackman said. "On the tape you can see me yelling, 'Confidence, baby. Confidence!', because I knew that second free throw was good."
I cannot count how many times I recreated the scene on my own driveway or playground court. Hitting the pressure shots and screaming, out loud, to everyone, and no one in particular.
Watch it. Then watch it again. I know you'll enjoy it.