1980 -- Larry Bird and Magic Johnson make debuts
When NBA greats Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were both named to All-Star starting lineups their rookie season, many personalities around the league grunted in disapproval. While their talent was obvious, many believed the rooks had yet to prove themselves worthy of the recognition.
As a testament to their preeminent ability, when game time came around, they quickly quieted the critics. With the West fighting back from a 17-point deficit, Phoenix's Paul Westphal nailed a jumper to extend the game. It was none other than one of the rookies in question, Magic Johnson, who fed Westphal the ball.
Meanwhile, Magic's adversary Larry Bird also made history by securing the win with the first ever three-pointer in an All-Star game. In the second All-Star game to ever go into OT, the East won 144-136 and George Gervin received the MVP award. However the real story was the play of the two rookies that were supposedly overrated and undeserving. With Bird logging seven points and seven dimes and Magic tallying 12 points and four dishes, the matchup made it evident that these two former college rivals were on the verge of NBA greatness.
- - Lauren Brill, NBA.com
1982 -- Bird goes off for 12 points in the last six minutes
Throughout his career, Larry Bird carved out a legacy of performing at the top of his game during the biggest of moments, a trait Celtics coach Bill Fitch knew better than most having witnessed Larry Legend’s virtuoso performances up close and personal as the Celtics head coach. With that in mind and victory hanging in the balance, Fitch turned to his Celtics playbook and leaned on his star. Fittingly, Bird rose to the occasion once again, pouring in 12 of his team’s last 15 points during the game’s final 6 ½ minutes to lead the East to a 120-118 win and capture the MVP. Adding to the Celtic flavor of the evening, Boston center Robert Parish chipped in 21 points while Celtics guard Nate Archibald, the previous year’s All-Star Game MVP, led the team with seven assists. With his performance, Bird’s laundry list of career accomplishments was only beginning.
- - John Hareas, NBA.com
1983 -- Marvin Gaye's National Anthem
Was it spiritual? Was it patriotic? That’s up to interpretation.
However, you can not deny that is was soulful or memorable. Marvin Gaye at the 1983 All-Star game in the Forum in Los Angeles accompanied by a drum machine offered a revolutionary rendition of the national anthem. The audience was initially stunned by the mood and stood in bemusement. Then after a few boos, the fans began participating with the rhythmic clapping of hands. Gaye re-transformed an old British drinking tune into a churchified hymn.
Perhaps Gaye was inspired by the nontraditional version Jose Feliciano performed at the 1968 World Series, where he coincidentally performed the anthem during that same series in the more traditional manner. Maybe he was just in a soulful mood as a little more than a week after the game; the Motown legend would be picking up two Grammy Awards for what would be his last classic, "Sexual Healing."
Either way, he moved the crowd and the players as they swayed to the beat. Julius Erving, who was a big Gaye fan, loved the performance and went on to win the MVP.
- -Martin Sumners, NBA.com
1983 -- Magic dishes 16 assists, then record
All-Star games are the perfect opportunity for players to bring out all of their normally-reserved-for-practice ball-handling tricks. Lakers’ guard Magic Johnson was always the exception to the rule.
Throwing perfectly executed lobs, threading the needle with pinpoint accuracy and hitting the open man with no-look passes that were either caught or bounced off the recipient’s face were a way of life for Johnson. He didn’t need a special occasion to show basketball fans why when it came to running the fastbreak, nobody did it better.
At the 1983 NBA All-Star Game, Johnson was in his usual giving mood. Relying on his unmatched court vision, he found every cutter and rewarded the Western Conference players who chose to run the floor with him with easy scoring opportunities.
The result? He set a then-All-Star-record by handing out 16 assists. He also scored 17 points and grabbed five rebounds.
Despite Johnson’s remarkable performance, the Eastern Conference still came away with a 132-123 win.
- - Maurice Brooks, NBA.com
1984 -- Debut of All-Star Saturday
In his 13 seasons in the NBA, Larry Nance scored over 15,000 points, grabbed over 7,000 rebounds and was chosen as an All-Star three times.
While those are all noteworthy accomplishments, Nance is best known for winning the inaugural NBA Slam Dunk Contest in 1984.
The nine-man field was stacked with players who brought more impressive dunking resumes into the competition than Nance.
Darrell “Dr. Dunkenstein” Griffith was there. So were Clyde “The Glide” Drexler, Dominique “Human Highlight Film” Wilkins and Julius “Dr. J” Erving.
Drexler didn’t make it out of the first round.
Nance and Erving eliminated Wilkins and Griffith in the semifinals.
That left Nance to battle one of the game’s all-time high-flyers in Erving.
Despite the fact that Erving registered a perfect dunk (50) on one of his three attempts, Nance was rewarded for his consistency, defeating Dr. J, 134-122.
- - Maurice Brooks, NBA.com
1984 -- Isiah’s MVP performance – all 21 pts in 2nd half
Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had outstanding games, but Isiah Thomas outshone them all to lead the East to their fifth straight All-Star Game victory over the West by a score of 154-145 in overtime. Thomas, scoreless in the first half, exploded after intermission and finished with 21 points, 15 assists and the game’s MVP award. Isiah’s late heroics overshadowed standout performances by other legends of the game. Magic broke his own All-Star game assist record with 22 and Abdul-Jabbar finished with 25 points. For the East, Julius Erving dropped in 34 and Parish snagged 15 rebounds.
The entire 1983-84 season was a coming out party for Zeke, with the All-Star Game finally showcasing his talents to the NBA and its fans. The Pistons, led by Thomas and his fellow All-Star teammate Bill Laimbeer, enjoyed their first winning season since 1976-77. Despite losing in the first round, Thomas shone with 16 points in the final 93 seconds of Game 5. Between the playoffs and the All-Star game in 1984, Isiah Thomas solidified the reputation as a clutch performer that would distinguish his Hall of Fame career.
- -John Jacobson, NBA.com
1985 -- Terence Stansbury's "Statue of Liberty" Dunk
I am here to celebrate Terence Stansbury's 360 Statue of Liberty in the 1985 Dunk Contest for the brilliant and difficult dunk it was and is.
Stansbury, who played for Indiana and Seattle in his three NBA seasons, may not have made his mark in the league, but he made a name for himself in the three Dunk Contests in which he took part. He finished third in each. (Notice a theme?)
At 6-5 and 170, Stansbury didn't have Dominique Wilkins' power or Michael Jordan's smooth silhouette, but he could spin that skinny frame around like a figure skater. It paid off in his second dunk of his first Dunk Contest. Taking off from just inside the broken circle, the Pacers' Stanbury grabbed the rock in his right hand, held it above his head, did a full revolution and slammed it home in front of the Indiana faithful. The score? A 50, the second in Dunk Contest history and the only perfect score of the first round.
Thanks to the infamous "Wheel of Fortune" gimmick in 2002, the dunk's degree of difficulty was underscored as Steve Francis had to imitate Stansbury's 360. Francis couldn't get a good grip on the rock and couldn't finish the dunk.
Somewhere, Stansbury must have smiled.
- - Rob Peterson, NBA.com
1986 -- Spud Webb wins Dunk Contest
I was 11 in 1986, so at the time, I didn't quite understand the significance of a 5-7 guy participating in the Slam Dunk Contest, but since he was 10 inches shorter than any of the other competitors, Spud Webb was my guy on that night.
Dominique's dunks in that contest were pretty sick and obviously more impressive than Spud's, if you just think about the dunks themselves. The Human Highlight Film could do all of Spud's dunks in his sleep and Spud probably couldn't do any of Dominique's dunks on a nine-foot rim.
But when you saw Spud elevate and saw the distance he put between his feet and the ground, it didn't matter what Dominique was doing. Spud captured our imaginations and made us feel like any of us could beat Dominique Wilkins in a dunk contest. And he was pretty creative despite his limited capabilities, introducing the high toss that so many dunkers have since borrowed.
Spud Webb's performance in the 1986 Dunk Contest is what All-Star Weekend is all about: Marveling at the skills of the best basketball players in the world, wishing we could do it ourselves, and pure entertainment.
- - John Schuhmann, NBA.com
1986 -- Larry Bird wins first Three-Point Shootout
It may come as a surprise to some of the youngsters, but the Three-Point Shootout didn't make its All-Star Weekend debut until 1986, two years after the inaugural All-Star Weekend in 1984. But when the Shootout was ready for its close-up, it had a two-time NBA MVP ready to take part.
As reigning MVP, Boston's Larry Bird had the highest profile, but Milwaukee's Craig Hodges would finish with a better three-point percentage in the 1985-86 season. That, and Seattle's Dale Ellis's short, quick stroke seemed tailor-made for the contest.
Hodges tore the first round to pieces, scoring 25 points out of a possible 30. To this day, Hodges' scintillating performance remains the contest's standard. Bird managed to advance with a 16, but that had him pulling up the rear with Trent Tucker (19) and Ellis (17) ahead of him.
Bird, who never took off his warmup, saved his best for the next two rounds. Larry Legend led all shooters in the semifinals with 18 points, while Hodges and Ellis tied for second with 14. Hodges, however, expended extra energy when he topped Ellis in a shootout.
In the final round, Bird showed why he was such a merciless competitor as he drained a then-record 11 straight shots en route to a total of 22, a final round record which stood 'til 1994. Hodges, gassed from his shootout, finished with 12 points as Bird cruised to the first of his three consecutive Shootout titles.
- - Rob Peterson, NBA.com
1987 -- Rolando Blackman's free throws send game into OT
If you glance through the history books, you will see that the MVP of the 37th NBA All-Star Game was Western Conference forward Tom Chambers.
Yes, Chambers, who was an injury replacement for Ralph Sampson, led all scorers with 34 points. Yes, the game was played in Seattle and Chambers normally suited up with Sonics across his chest.
Still, a strong case could be made that Rolando Blackman deserved the honor. With the East leading by two, Blackman drew a foul with no time left in regulation. Blackman, who fired in 29 points, stepped to the line with the free-throw lane clear.
Want to talk about pressure? Miss one and your team loses. Make two and your team lives to play another period.
With 34,275 fans screaming their lungs out inside the Kingdome, Blackman toed the line and calmly drained both freebies. He punctuated the moment by letting out an “I-knew-I-could-do-it” scream.The West ended up notching a 154-149 victory in the highest combined scoring All-Star game of all time. And while Chambers did more than his part, Blackman deserves credit too for putting his team in position for the win.
- - Maurice Brooks, NBA.com
1987 -- Tom Chambers' MVP performance
It is a good thing that the 1987 NBA All-Star Game was held in Seattle. If not, the Sonics’ Tom Chambers probably wouldn’t have had the chance to shine.
A week before the showcase, Houston big man Ralph Sampson was forced to withdraw from the game because of a knee injury.
Commissioner David Stern opted to take a player from the hometown team as a replacement. Paging Mr. Chambers.
The 6-foot-10 forward rewarded Stern’s selection by erupting for a game-high 34 points, including four in overtime, as the West outran the East, 154-149 in the highest scoring All-Star Game ever.
A closer look at the box score shows that in 29 minutes, Chambers went 13-for-25 from the field, 6-for-9 from the free-throw line, pulled down four rebounds and gave out two assists.
Sounds like a Most Valuable Player-type performance, right? It was.
- - Maurice Brooks, NBA.com
1988 -- THE CLASS OF '88
Three unforgettable moments -- Bird's Three-Point win, the epic Dunk duel between Dominique Wilkins and Michael Jordan, and Jordan's MVP performance in the All-Star Game -- made 1988 All-Star Weekend the greatest ever.
For a moment, it looked as if Dominique Wilkins would become the first man to win a second NBA Slam Dunk contest. It was the final round of the 1988 Contest in Chicago's venerable Chicago Stadium and he had just thrown down his two-handed windmill, a move he used to win the contest three years earlier. Taking off from both feet, swinging the ball around like construction worker wielding a sledgehammer, Wilkins attacked the rim as if it owed him money. The ball thundered through the rim, bounced off his leg and into the middle of the court like a child runs to his room after being spanked, 'Nique hung on to the rim for an extra second for emphasis and then, contrary to the violence he had just unleashed, he landed softly on the floor......read more
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