1950s

1951 -- First-ever All-Star Game, Boston

 ed macauley wins mvp
NBA Photos
Ed MaCauley (right) won the first ever NBA All-Star MVP.

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They were dark days for basketball in the winter of 1951. The college game’s point-shaving scandal brought the public’s view of the game to an all-time low. Basketball needed a boost and the first-ever NBA All-Star game provided it.

Boston Celtics owner Walter Brown thought an historic game was just the ticket. Most everybody else in the league disagreed, fearing a box office flop and public humiliation. Even NBA Commissioner Maurice Podoloff asked Brown to call it off. Brown remained adamant. He promised to cover the costs and any losses.

Over 10,000 fans showed up to watch the East trounce the West, 111-94. Not a sell-out, but certainly respectable, considering that average attendance that season was around 3,500. And the Boston fans got their money’s worth.

“Easy” Ed Macauley, the Celtics’ center, was the key. He led all scorers with 20. More importantly, though, he shut down George Mikan, the league’s superstar. Mikan managed only three points in the first quarter and finished the game shooting 4-for-17 from the field. Macauley held the league’s leading scorer to 12 points, well under his 28.4 point average that season.

The game was a big hit with the fans and it focused a bright ray of sunshine on the league, and the game, at just the right time.

- - Andrejs Penikis, NBA.com

1954 -- Mikan sends game to OT with two freebies.

 George Mikan
NBA Photos
George Mikan's free-throws sends the '54 game to OT

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Poor Jim Pollard. The Minneapolis Lakers star, with a game-high 23 points, won the vote for the MVP award taken during regulation. But he didn’t take home the trophy.

His West squad had to scramble to stay alive. In fact, they could not have come closer to losing. With no time left on the clock, George Mikan, Pollard’s Laker teammate, sank two free throws – underhanded – to tie the game at 84-all, sending the All-Star Game into overtime for the first time in history. As if the end of regulation was not thrilling enough, the standing room-only crowd at Madison Square Garden was about to be treated to another display of Bob Cousy’s offensive skills.

Cousy, the Celtics’ legendary guard, took over. His set shot to start OT put the East ahead to stay. He also tallied their final eight points on another set shot and six from the charity stripe. In between he barely let the ball out of his control. He scored ten of the East’s 14 points in the extra period and dribbled out the clock to make the final score 98-93.

A second MVP vote was demanded. This time Cousy won and there were no objections.

- - Andrejs Penikis, NBA.com

1957 -- Bill Sharman's 70-foot shot at the end of the first half.

 Bill Sharman hits 70 footer
NBA Photos
Bill Sharman won MVP honors.

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A lethargic East squad fell behind at the beginning and couldn’t get untracked. Late in the first quarter, with the East trailing by four, Bill Sharman attempted a length-of-the-court lead pass to his Boston Celtics teammate, Bob Cousy. The 70-foot throw sailed over Cousy’s head and swished through the net, stunning the sell-out crowd at Boston Garden, which broke into wild applause.

Sharman’s basket, the longest in NBA All-Star Game history, woke up the East players. They reeled off 12 straight points in the second quarter to take a lead. But the West fought back and went into the locker room with a two-point advantage.

The East rallied in the second half to take control. Outscoring the West by ten in the third quarter, they won the game comfortably, but not easily, 109-97.

Cousy scored only ten points on 4-for-14 shooting from the field, but led his team with seven assists. In the critical third quarter Neil Johnston, the Philadelphia Warriors center, scored 15 points; three of his baskets directly resulted from Cousy’s passes.

Cousy controlled the game with his ball-handling dexterity and electrified the crowd with his behind-the-back dribbles. He took home his second All-Star Game MVP trophy.

After the game, Cousy chided Sharman about the long basket. He asked Sharman, "Don’t you ever pass?"

- - Andrejs Penikis, NBA.com

1958 -- Bob Pettit, MVP, 28 points, 26 boards, first MVP from a losing team.

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NBA Photos
Bob Petit's performance wins him the MVP

Details:
Bob Pettit of the St. Louis Hawks put in one of the monster performances of NBA All-Star Game history, in the highest scoring All-Star Game to date. Pettit set records in scoring (28 points) and rebounding (26). It is worth noting that Pettit accomplished all this (1) with a cast on his left wrist and (2) against Bill Russell, of the Boston Celtics, thought by many to be the greatest defensive center the game has ever known. His effort was rewarded with the All-Star Game MVP award – the first time a member of the losing squad was so honored in the eight year history of the game. Pettit’s individual achievements were not enough, though, as his West squad fell, 130-118.

The lead see-sawed back and forth in the first half. Paul Arizin of the Philadelphia Warriors chipped in 15 first half points to keep his squad in the game when no one else seemed to have the spark. He came away with high-scorer honors for the East team with 24.

But the East picked it up in the second half. Boston Celtics star Bob Cousy, playing in his eighth All-Star Game, led the East to victory, as he had in previous All-Star Games. As impressive as his game stats were (20 points, 10 assists, 5 rebounds), his leadership was key. Cousy scored 16 of his points in the second half and ignited a defensive effort that smothered the West’s potent offense.

- - Andrejs Penikis, NBA.com

1959 -- Pettit and Baylor became first players to tie for MVP honors.

 petit-baylor win mvp
NBA Photos
Bob Petit shared his second MVP with Elgin Baylor (pictured)

Details:
Rookie Elgin Baylor (Minneapolis Lakers) and veteran Bob Pettit (St. Louis Hawks) put on quite a show. Baylor finished with 24 points, 11 rebounds and one assist, while Pettit tallied 25 points, 16 rebounds and five assists. For the first time in All-Star Game history two players shared the MVP award, each garnering 25-1/3 votes. The dynamic duo led their West squad to a comfortable 124-108 win.

The West led by nine at the half, but the East did not give up. Four minutes into the fourth quarter the West’s lead had dwindled to five. But when Boston’s Bill Russell came in, Pettit took off. In forty seconds Pettit racked up two three-point plays, giving his squad a lead that the East could not overcome. Paul Arizin (Philadelphia Warriors) led the East in scoring, with 16. Dolph Schayes (Syracuse Nationals) had the only double-double for the East, with 13 points and 13 rebounds.

The victory must have been especially sweet for Ed Macauley, who coached the West to only their third victory in nine games. He won the MVP award in the very first All-Star Game. In 1956 Red Auerbach, coach of the East team (and the Boston Celtics), traded away Macauley, the first Celtic superstar, to get the rights to Bill Russell.

- - Andrejs Penikis, NBA.com

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