10. “Easy” Ed Macauley, The First All-Star Game MVP
Macauley: 20 points and 6 rebounds
1951: East 111, West 94
Each All-Star participant received a $25 U.S. Savings Bond and round trip train fare to Boston. While the enticements may have been modest, especially by today’s standards, the significance of the game certainly wasn’t. The first ever NBA All-Star Game took place at Boston Garden and shockingly, much to the dismay of the league office.
"A few days before the game, Maurice Podoloff, the commissioner called me on the phone and asked me to call it off," said Celtics’ owner Walter Brown who was responsible for spearheading the inaugural event. "He said that everybody he had talked to said it would be a flop, and the league would look bad."
Thankfully Brown forged ahead and any doubts of the game’s success were immediately erased as 10,094 fans showed up and watched “Easy” Ed Macauley, the 6-8, 190-pound forward-center of the hometown Celtics make seven of 12 shots from the field and six of seven from the free throw line for a total of 20 points. Perhaps more impressive was his defensive efforts on the 6-11, 245-pound George Mikan of the Minneapolis Lakers, who was held to 12 points, missing 13 of 17 shots, all of which were rushed.
While Macauley earned MVP honors, he didn’t know it. Actually, the first two All-Star Games were devoid of any such individual recognition. It wasn’t until the third annual game in which the MVP was officially awarded.
"They picked an MVP in the third game [Mikan, on Jan. 13, 1953, at Fort Wayne, Ind.] and then decided they had better go back and pick one for the first two," said Macauley.
Walter Brown should have also been given a piece of the MVP hardware for his inspired efforts.
9. Randy Smith, The Unlikely MVP
Smith: 27 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists
1978: East 133, West 125
He played in the shadows of Bob McAdoo and Ernie DiGregario in Buffalo so why should his second All-Star appearance be any different, especially among the likes of Havlicek, Gervin, Collins and Cunningham? On February 8, 1978 in Atlanta, Randy Smith, the unheralded seventh-round draft choice out of Buffalo State selected the All-Star Game to serve as his coming out party. No one shined brighter than Smith who accumulated totals of 27 points on 11 for 14 shooting, seven rebounds and six assists in an exciting come from behind 133-125 victory over the West at the Omni. Smith snatched the honors away from backcourtmate Doug Collins who starred in the first half.
"I had the keys to that new car they used to give to the MVP when the first half ended," said Collins who ended up with 14 points and 8 assists. "But Randy took them right out of my hands in the second half. And he made two incredible shots in that game on the way to those 27 points."
The two shots Collins is referencing – a 30-footer to end the first quarter and a 40-foot prayer over Bill Walton that snuck in before the buzzer.
Smith surged to 23 second half points despite playing with five fouls. While Jack Ramsay, Smith’s former coach in Buffalo now calling the shots for the West, unsuccessfully tried to have his players foul him out, Smith’s speed proved too elusive.
"I felt that I was going to have an extremely good game,” said Smith. This was a chance to prove I was a part of the best players in the NBA. There was no greater feeling."
Yes, the man who played 12 solid years in the NBA for four teams (Braves, Clippers, Cavaliers and Knicks) and at one time held the NBA’s iron man streak of 906 consecutive games played before A.C. Green surpassed him will forever be part of All-Star history along the likes of Pettit, Chamberlain, Robertson, Magic, Jordan and the other All-Star Game MVPs.
8. Adrian Smith, Adrian Who? Adrian MVP
Smith: 24 points in 26 minutes
1966: East 137, West 97
This All-Star MVP performance was no fluke, although a quick scan of the 1966 boxscore with the likes of Robertson, West, Chamberlain, Havlicek, Lucas and Barry might lead you to believe otherwise. Adrian Smith of the Cincinnati Royals averaged 18 points per game in his first four-plus NBA seasons and made the most of his lone All-Star appearance, firing at every opportunity in front of the hometown Cincinnati fans.
Smith took more field goal attempts –18 -- than his more celebrated Royal teammates Oscar Robertson and Jerry Lucas. Heck, Smith shot more than any of the 23 other NBA All-Stars. Smith scored 25 points on 9 of 18 shooting in the East’s 137-97 victory in which he received a new Ford Galaxie 500 convertible.
Although his name belongs next to Adrian Smith and Randy Smith as the unlikeliest MVPs in All-Star history, his performance certainly ranks among the greatest.|
Ironically, it was a performance that never would have happened had Ralph Sampson not pulled out of the game a week prior with a knee injury. A last minute replacement, Chambers dazzled the 34,275 hometown fans at Seattle’s Kingdome who watched their favorite Sonic and first-time All-Star light up the East for 34 points, including 18 in the fourth quarter to lead the West to a 154-149 come from behind victory.
Not to be overlooked was Chambers’ teammate Rolando Blackman of the Dallas Mavericks who nailed two clutch free throws with no time remaining on the clock to force overtime. Blackman was equally deserving of MVP honors after finishing with 29 points but it was Chambers who hoisted the MVP trophy in front of the Sonics fans. How special was Chambers performance? So special that you forget for a second that it also was Julius Erving’s last All-Star Game appearance. But make no mistake, the afternoon belonged to Chambers.
"I never, ever thought this would happen," said Chambers. "This is something dreams are made of. I can't believe it happened to me.'"
The game appeared over and really should have been over.
Cruising to a 95-74 lead with nine minutes remaining, the only drama left was to determine who among the West All-Stars was going to take home the MVP hardware. After all, the West’s superior size highlighted by Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Chris Webber proved too much for the undersized East team. Yet, basketball isn’t a game of size and strength but speed and quickness and no one personified that more that afternoon than 6-1 guard Allen Iverson.
Playing in the same city where he starred at Georgetown, Iverson took over the final nine-minute stretch, scoring 15 of his 25 points. While Iverson dug the East out its hole, first-time All-Star Stephon Marbury was huge down the stretch, draining a three-pointer with 53 seconds left. When Kobe Bryant responded with a jumper on the next possession, Marbury nailed another three with 28 seconds left to give the East a 111-110 lead. When Bryant passed up the winning shot attempt, he not only shocked the 20,374 in attendance but Tim Duncan who was on the receiving end.
"I was actually expecting him to shoot," said Duncan. "I was wide open, he got me the ball and I should have finished it. It just didn't go down.
This All-Star Game had a championship game feel to it and the underdog had the final say.
"Everybody was saying we couldn’t win because of our size,” said Iverson. “It’s not about size. It’s about the size of your heart.”
5. Bob Pettit, Mr. MVP
Pettit: 28 points, 26 rebounds
1958: East 130, West 118
No one had to question Bob Pettit’s approach when it came to participating in the NBA All-Star Game. His record four MVP awards in 11 appearances bore that out.
"I think a lot of players looked at it as kind of a vacation,” said Pettit. “I went there, I was playing against the best basketball players in the world and I wanted to play well.”
Out of four sterling MVP performances, the most impressive was his second when he scored 28 points and pulled down 26 rebounds. Why does this stand above the others? The West lost, 130-118, marking the first time in eight years of the contest that a player from a losing team won the award. Impressive considering that Paul Arizin scored 24 for the winning East team.
"I took it as a personal challenge," said Pettit. "And when I played as hard as I could play, I was determined that I was going to do well."
4. Smashing Rookie Debuts: Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson
Wilt in 1960: 23 points, 25 rebounds as the East defeated the West, 125-115
The Big O in 1961: 23 points, 14 assists, 9 rebounds as the West defeated the East, 153-131
How can you compare one rookie performance over the other? You can’t. Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson did something no other players have accomplished since, winning MVP honors in each of their respective rookie seasons.
Chamberlain grabbed 25 boards while scoring 23 points at Convention Hall in his hometown of Philadelphia, leading the East to a 125-115 victory. The following year saw Robertson nearly pull off a triple-double in his inaugural All-Star appearance racking up totals of 23 points, 14 assists and 9 rebounds. Perhaps most impressive was Robertson’s work on the defensive boards against Chamberlain and Bill Russell. It’s rare for a rookie to earn an All-Star appearance, even rarer to take home MVP honors.
3. Michael Jordan, Hometown Hero
Jordan: 40 points, 8 rebounds
1988: East 138, West 133
Michael Jordan subdued in All-Star competition? Look at his numbers in his first two showings --7 points in 1985, and 11 points in 1987 (he did not participate in 1986 because of injury) – and it was apparent Jordan was more concerned with fitting in rather than stealing the show.
All of that changed in 1988 when MJ extended the bounds of creativity with an awesome display of athleticism and showmanship, first demonstrated in a memorable dunk contest victory over Dominique Wilkins only to be followed by a mesmerizing All-Star performance the next day. Jordan scored 40 points on an assortment of acrobatic moves and drives to the basket while 16 came in the final 5:51 of regulation. The 40-point performance was two shy of the single All-Star Game record set by Wilt Chamberlain in 1962. Not to be overlooked on Jordan’s stat sheet aside from shooting 17-for-23 from the field and 6-for-6 from the free throw line was the 8 rebounds, 4 steals, 4 blocks and 3 assists.
"The weekend was unbelievable," said Jordan. "Fans went there with an idea of being in an entertaining situation, but not knowing how they were going to be entertained, in what form or fashion, because you had so much creativity that could happen over that weekend. That’s when you felt pride in being a part of it."
Wilt. Russell. Oscar. Greer. Havlicek. Lucas. Reed. All members of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History and also seven of the 10 representatives on the 1967 East All-Stars. The mid-season classic at the Cow Palace in Oakland was supposed to be a mere formality for the East to win its fifth consecutive game. No one on the West was buying it, especially second-year sensation Rick Barry.
“All we heard was how the West team had absolutely no chance to win the All-Star Game let alone even hope to be competitive in it,” said Barry. “Personally, I didn’t want to hear it.”
And Barry did something about it, scoring 38 points while his Warrior teammate center Nate Thurmond gave the West a huge inside presence, scoring 16 points and grabbing 18 rebounds against the imposing front line of Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell as the West silenced the skeptics, winning handedly 135-120. The West not only did the unthinkable in derailing the East juggernaut and compiled a list of records along the way (most field goal attempts in a game, Barry with 27 and minutes in a game Thurmond with 42) but managed to get under Red Auerbach’s skin. The East coach had seen enough, voicing his displeasure to referees Earl Strom and Willie Smith as the East’s deficit reached double digits. Auerbach was ejected, earning the dubious distinction of being the only coach in NBA All-Star history to earn such an honor.
But the heroics that day belonged to the 1966 NBA Rookie of the Year who was making his mark in Oakland in only his second season.
“It was about as much fun as I ever had in one basketball game,” said Barry. “Here I was in my second season in the league on the same court with players who I had idolized as a kid. The atmosphere bordered on surreal for me.”
1. Magical Afternoon: 1992 Magic Johnson
Magic: 25 points, 9 assists
1967: West 153, East 113
The goosebump moments officially began during the introductions and didn’t subside until well after the final buzzer. Reflecting on that game only brings them back. On February 9, 1992, 14,272 fans gave the West’s 13th All-Star – Magic Johnson -- a thunderous ovation. Only three months after his stunning retirement announcement that he had contracted the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Magic Johnson was back where he belonged, on the court, entertaining the only way he could.
Showing no signs of rust from a three-month layoff, Magic guided the West to a 44-31 first quarter lead and eventually a 115-113 victory leading all scorers with 25 points. Yet the final score merely served as a backdrop to pure All-Star theater that unfolded that afternoon, especially in the game’s final moments. Magic may have been the sentimental favorite but that didn’t mean any one on the East was showing any kind of mercy, most notably Isiah Thomas and Michael Jordan. On successive trips down court, Magic was challenged, first by Thomas. The mano a mano confrontation was heightened when Magic motioned his teammates to the opposite end of the court as Thomas did his best Marques Haynes ballhandling exhibition before hoisting a three-pointer that missed badly.
Next up was Jordan who added to the drama scowling at his defender before attempting a pull-up jumper that bounced off the rim.
“If this is going to be it for me, I wanted to get Isiah one more time and I wanted to get Michael one more time,” said Johnson. “The only person missing was Larry [Bird]. But I’ll see him on the blacktop. I’ll see him behind the house. I’ll get him one more time.”
Magic wasn’t finished. In arguably the greatest and emotional finale in All-Star Game history, Johnson punctuated the game brilliantly, nailing a fallaway three-pointer with 14.5 seconds remaining. It was such a perfect and appropriate ending that play stopped after the basket as the players congratulated Magic as the time expired.
“It was the first game ever called on account of hugs,” said Johnson.