1998 Eastern Conference All-Star Team
Larry Bird and his Pacers staff coached the 1998 Eastern Conference All-Star team, which included Pacers stars Reggie Miller and Rik Smits as well as Michael Jordan, playing in his final All-Star game as a member of the Chicago Bulls.
NBAE/Getty Images

Last All-Star Game in Big Apple Had Pacers Flavor

By Eddie White | Pacers.com

All the eyes of the basketball world will be on Madison Square Garden this weekend as the NBA brings its All-Star Game and all the activities involved to the Big Apple!

The last time the NBA held its annual gathering of superstars in the New York metropolitan area, it was 1998. The extravaganza had more than a few story lines and one had a Hoosier flavor.

The coach of the East team was none other than Larry Bird, representing the Pacers, and two of his players were his own Indiana stars, Reggie Miller and Rik Smits.

PHOTO GALLERY: 1998 All-Star Weekend »

The game also featured a “passing of the torch” story line as the East squad included Michael Jordan, playing in his LAST All-Star game as a Chicago Bull vs. a brash, 19-year-old phenom from the Lakers named Kobe Bryant, playing in his FIRST All-Star game as the league’s youngest All-Star ever!

Of note, Bryant’s teammate on George Karl’s West team was some guy also playing in his FIRST All-Star game, named Tim Duncan. Duncan, of course, was in Bankers Life Fieldhouse this past Tuesday playing for San Antonio!

Media had proclaimed Bryant as “the new Jordan”. So, on Broadway, in the famous Garden, you had a Show of Shows -- the REAL Michael Jordan in swan-song form vs. the new upstart.

Jordan had the flu but Bird, who admires grit, hard work and determination more than anyone, wanted MJ to go out in style. He wanted his team to make sure MJ went out the right way.

And, boy did that East squad listen to Larry Legend. The East whacked the West 135-114, and guess who was the MVP? No. 23. Michael Jordan. Jordan DOES NOT get that MVP if not for Larry Bird.

Bird knows it. MJ knows it.

Bird wanted one of the game’s greats to shine. Let the new kid earn it down the road, for this was MJ’s night on Broadway. Jordan led all scorers in the game with, believe it or not, 23 points. He added six rebounds, eight assists and three steals. Reggie Miller contributed 14 points and Smits added 10 points and seven rebounds in the winning cause. Bryant, who faced as much individual defensive pressure on every possession as any player in All-Star history, finished with 18.

It is quite awesome when the greats of the game love the game so much and respect the game so much that you get special moments like that evening in New York City!!!

I would love to tell you I saw ALL four quarters of action that night. But I’d be lying. I saw most of the game. You see, at the time, I was VP of Team Properties for official NBA on-court supplier, Reebok, and I attended the game with my boss, Tom Shine, and the great Hall of Fame broadcaster Lesley Visser. Midway through the third quarter Visser gets a call from the late legendary coach, Rick Majerus. Rick was at his favorite Italian restaurant in Little Italy and he does NOT want to eat alone. He will, of course, but he does not want to.

Beginning of the fourth quarter, we head out. We end up trading NBA All-Star hoops madness and the not-so “passing of the torch” for some Ravioli, Linguini and Mostaccioli. The game we left had had an Indiana flavor and I would love to tell you our wine was from the Heartland. But not this night — it was vintage Chianti from Italy. It was a classic.

Vintage. Classic. Sort of the like that No. 23 back at the Garden!


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