There is one weekend in the year when the basketball world comes together, celebrates their best players, most spectacular dunkers and most accurate shooters and sets their eyes on one single game. The NBA All-Star Game.
For this game people forget allegiance to their home team, they stop booing players from their division rivals and simply enjoy the atmosphere and excitement of watching the 24 best players of the world go head-to-head in an epic bballer showdown.
When the 65th edition of the All-Star Game tips off in Toronto on Sunday, it will not only be the first time that the game is held outside the United States, it will also be the last time you will see Kobe Bryant wear the prestigious “West” jersey. You will see Russell Westbrook passing the ball to Steph Curry for a three and Chris Paul setting up Anthony Davis for an alley-oop. Bitter rivals in the fight for this year’s NBA championship will get along just fine and set aside their competitive nature. At least until the 4th quarter begins…
Rules & Regulations
Which brings us to the very special set of rules & regulations (both official and unspoken) which surround the NBA All-Star Game. Here is everything you need to know:
- The game is traditionally held on the second or third Sunday in February.
- The best 12 players from the Eastern Conference play against their 12 counterparts from the Western Conference.
- Starters are selected by a global fan ballot, while the reservers are chosen by a vote among the head coaches from each conference.
- Coaches are not allowed to vote for their own players.
- By use of aforementioned “fan ballot” the selection of starters is more of a popularity contest than anything else. People will vote for the players they like best, not necessarily those who play best, which may lead to controversial selections like Kobe Bryant this year or Yao Ming (every year).
- If a selected player is injured and cannot participate, the NBA commissioner selects a replacement.
- The head coach of the team with the best record in each conference is chosen to lead each squad, but is not allowed to do it two years in a row. This is commonly known as the “Riley Rule”, which was created after Lakers head coach Pat Riley earned the right to coach the Western Conference eight times in nine seasons between 1982 and 1990. (Yeah, the Lakers ruled). The coach of the team with the next best record serves instead.
- The MVP award is usually given to the best player of the winning team.
- Don’t expect a “normal” basketball game. Until the fourth quarter players often do not even appear as if they are trying to win the game. The spectacular play is most definitely attempted more often than the smart one. You will see a lot of dunks and alley oops, also a LOT of turnovers. Keep in mind these players usually never play together.
- Playing hard defense is frowned upon. Never has a player fouled out or been ejected during an All-Star Game. Although it would have been hilarious seeing a guy like Ron Artest flagrant fouling people to prevent dunks or layups. I’m willing to bet this year there will be no defense played either. So get ready for a lot of running up and down the court with little to no halfcourt set-plays.
Still the All-Star Game is a LOT of fun and full of stuff you will almost certainly not see during a normal regular season game, when the stakes of winning or losing are high. At the ASG winning doesn’t mean much and losing means even less, so players tend to try out stuff they wouldn’t usually try. Here are some of the best moments in All-Star Game History:
By the way, Baseball came up with the perfect way to make the All-Star Game more competitive. The winning side has homecourt advantage in the NBA Finals. Bammm! Would love to see that implemented in the NBA, but that’s a story for a whole ‘nother blog post.
In the meantime let’s rewind and go back in time to see how the idea of an All-Star Game came about…
Origin & early years
After a nasty point-shaving scandal that rocked college basketball in 1950, basketball and particularly the young National Basketball Association needed to regain public attention. Publicity director Haskell Cohen suggested to have an exhibition game featuring the league’s best players, similar to the Major League’s All-Star Game in baseball, which had already been held with great success since 1933. Although many people were pessimistic about the idea of basically copying the event the NBA gave it a try in 1951. The Boston Garden hosted the game while then Celtics owner Walter A. Brown agreed to cover all the expenses and losses should there be any.
To everyone’s surprise the very first NBA All-Star Game became a huge success, drawing an attendance of more than 10.000 which was much higher than the season’s average of 3.500. Starting from 1951 the league decided to have an All-Star Game every year.
Here are highlights from the 1962 All-Star Game with Bill Russell & Wilt Chamberlain both playing for the Eastern Conference which is about as unfair a lineup as it can get! By the way, this was obviously long before the three-point shot found its way into the league (1979), so you can see there is not a lot of spacing and it looks chaotic with most of the players gravitating towards the middle of the floor. On the other hand why would people even try to shoot a low percentage shot from outside when its awarded just the same as a layup? Can’t blame them, really.
All-Star Games in the 80s
With the emergence of spectacular superstar players like Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins the NBA became considerably more entertaining and fast paced in the 1980s. More and more action took place above the rim, with high flying players increasingly appearing on highlight reels as well as All-Star Game voting ballots.
At the center of attention stood the rivalry that ruled the whole league during that decade and made the NBA what it is today. Magic Johnson versus Larry Bird. As a result at least one of these two reached the NBA Finals every year during the 80s, with the Lakers taking home five championships to the Celtics three. But the All-Star Game was quite a different story. Teamed up with Isiah Thomas, Kevin McHale, Dominique Wilkins, Dr. J and Moses Malone, Bird would lead the East to win 7 out of 10 games in the 80s.
The 80s All-Star Games in pictures:
All-Star Games in the 90s
After both Bird and Magic retired in the early 90s, Michael Jordan took over as the leading man in the league, winning 6 championships in two threepeats along the way. Together with fellow Dream Teamers Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen & Patrick Ewing, Jordan continued the East’s success in the All-Star Game, winning 6 of 9 games (ASG99 was canceled due to lockout).
In the late 90s power players such as Shaquille O’Neal, Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning joined the Eastern Conference thus further cementing the East’s dominance.
Thanks to the overwhelming popularity of the ’92 Olympic Dream Team, basketball and especially the NBA became a global phenomenon in the 90s. All of a sudden games were broadcast all over the world giving special games like the NBA Finals and the NBA All Star Game a much much bigger platform. What started out as a publicity stunt had grown into a must-see event and the NBA marketed it perfectly.
The 90s All-Star Games in pictures:
The 1998 All-Star Game
In 1997 someone in the upper NBA hierarchy came up with the bright idea to have every player wear their normal team jersey in the All-Star Game. The result was… colorful. That’s about the most positive word I can come up with. 5 years later they realized they made a mistake and went back to traditional East/West jerseys, thank God.
But the (colorful) 1998 All-Star Game in Madison Square Garden would go down in history for positive reasons nevertheless. Kobe Bryant, just 19 years of age playing in his first of what would become 20 All-Star Games put on quite a show. This was the basketball Mekka of the world and the talented yet unproven teenager put his basketball repertoire on full display in a duel with no other than Michael Jordan.
Player Intros, National Anthems & Half Time
There is considerable more fanfare to player introductions before the game, including lighting effects & pyrotechnics that rival any Michael Bay movie or players being introduced DURING live musical performances you would expect at the Grammys, not at a basketball game. While the best players already get star treatment from their respective teams during home games at the All-Star Game the whole thing gets multiplied times ten and takes a lot more time than regular season player intros. If you are planning to watch an NBA All-Star Game from start to finish, clear your schedule for no less than 4 hours. I’m not even kidding.
NBA All-Star Game 2014 player intros feat. Pharrell & Snoop:
Just like the player intros the national anthem performances are also put on steroids, with billboard chart topping artists being invited to sing “Oh Canada” and the “Star Spangled Banner” respectively. But there is one memorable performance that people still talk about this day: The very special, groundbreaking 1983 stripped-down rendition of no other than the king of soul: Marvin Gaye.
If you are lucky (and not living in Germany, where all good music seems to be restricted by the fabulous people of “GEMA”) you can watch that version on Youtube. If it has been taken down, you can still watch this awesome tribute by Marvin’s daughter Nona from the 2004 All-Star Game. Several passages of the ’83 original are being edited into her song, so you at least you know what I am talking about:
Halftime intermission is also longer than for a typical NBA game due to musical performances by popular artists. Think Super Bowl halftime show’s little brother in terms of size and relevance. Nevertheless recent guests have included superstars such as Justin Bieber, Michael Jackson, Snoop Dogg, Ariana Grande, Elton John, Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, OutKast, Alicia Keys, Shakira, John Legend, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Kendrick Lamar, and Christina Aguilera. None of which performances are particularly memorable with the sole exception of Mariah Carey’s 2003 halftime tribute to Michael Jordan.
Now don’t get me wrong, I understand the decision to use the Wizards jersey instead of the Bulls Jersey, because Jordan was still playing at the time and it would probably be disrespectful to the Wizards organization if Carey wore the iconic (retired) Bulls uniform. But seriously, putting any woman in a dress that has big numbers on it is a bad look. Singing “Hero” is also a bit too much. Still people talk about this performance to this day, so I guess it did the job.
– Orlando Arena, February 9th, 1992
There have been many unforgettable moments in All-Star Game History, but the one event that stands out from all the others was the 1992 All-Star Game in Orlando. Already retired from the game of basketball due to the contraction of HIV, fans nevertheless voted Magic Johnson in as a starter for the Western Conference. After an unexpected, stellar performance Johnson received the MVP award, winning memorable one-on-one showdowns with Isiah Thomas and Michael Jordan in the final minutes. He sank a fall away three pointer over the outstretched arms of Thomas to close the game. The final 14½ seconds that remained on the clock were not played when players from both teams ran onto the court to embrace a triumphant Johnson.
To this day the 1992 All-Star Game is widely regarded as probably the best All-Star Game of all time. Not only because of the “Magic Johnson factor” but also because both sides featured numerous members of the historical 1992 Olympic “Dream Team”.
Dream Team Members playing in the 1992 All-Star Game: Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Scottie Pippen, Magic Johnson, Clyde Drexler, Chris Mullin, Karl Malone, David Robinson & John Stockton.
Also playing: Dominique Wilkins, Isiah Thomas, Dennis Rodman, Tim Hardaway, Hakeem Olajuwon & James Worthy.
In any case you have to watch this video to understand what the fuzz is all about:
Best pics from the legendary 1992 All-Star Game:
All Time NBA All-Star Game Results
East leads 37:27
|Year||Winner||Score||Host City||Most Valuable Player|
|1951||EAST||East 111, West 94||Boston, MA||Ed Macauley, Boston Celtics|
|1952||EAST||East 108, West 91||Boston, MA||Paul Arizin, Philadelphia Warriors|
|1953||WEST||West 79, East 75||Fort Wayne, IN||George Mikan, Minneapolis Lakers|
|1954||EAST||East 98, West 93 (OT)||New York, NY||Bob Cousy, Boston Celtics|
|1955||EAST||East 100, West 91||New York, NY||Bill Sharman, Boston Celtics|
|1956||WEST||West 108, East 94||Rochester, NY||Bob Pettit, St. Louis Hawks|
|1957||EAST||East 109, West 97||Boston, MA||Bob Cousy, Boston Celtics|
|1958||EAST||East 130, West 118||St. Louis, MO||Bob Pettit, St. Louis Hawks|
|1959||WEST||West 124, East 108||Detroit, MI||Elgin Baylor, Minneapolis Lakers & Bob Pettit, St. Louis Hawks|
|1960||EAST||East 125, West 115||Philadelphia, PA||Wilt Chamberlain, Philadelphia Warriors|
|1961||WEST||West 153, East 131||Syracuse, NY||Oscar Robertson, Cincinnati Royals|
|1962||WEST||West 150, East 130||St. Louis, MO||Bob Pettit, St. Louis Hawks|
|1963||EAST||East 115, West 108||Los Angeles, CA||Bill Russell, Boston Celtics|
|1964||EAST||East 111, West 107||Boston, MA||Oscar Robertson, Cincinnati Royals|
|1965||EAST||East 124, West 123||St. Louis, MO||Jerry Lucas, Cincinnati Royals|
|1966||EAST||East 137, West 94||Cincinnati, OH||Adrian Smith, Cincinnati Royals|
|1967||WEST||West 135, East 120||Daly City, CA||Rick Barry, San Franciso Warriors|
|1968||EAST||East 144, West 124||New York, NY||Hal Greer, Philadelphia 76ers|
|1969||EAST||East 123, West 112||Baltimore, MD||Oscar Robertson, Cincinnati Royals|
|1970||EAST||East 142, West 135||Philadelphia, PA||Willis Reed, New York Knicks|
|1971||WEST||West 108, East 107||San Diego, CA||Lenny Wilkens, Seattle SuperSonics|
|1972||WEST||West 112, East 110||Los Angeles, CA||Jerry West, Los Angeles Lakers|
|1973||EAST||East 104, West 84||Chicago, IL||Dave Cowens, Boston Celtics|
|1974||WEST||West 134, East 123||Seattle, WA||Bob Lanier, Detroit Pistons|
|1975||EAST||East 108, West 102||Phoenix, AZ||Walt Frazier, New York Knicks|
|1976||EAST||East 123, West 109||Philadelphia, PA||Dave Bing, Washington Bullets|
|1977||WEST||West 125, East 124||Milwaukee, WI||Julius Erving, Phialdelphia 76ers|
|1978||EAST||East 133, West 125||Atlanta, GA||Randy Smith, Buffalo Braves|
|1979||WEST||West 134, East 129||Detroit, MI||David Thompson, Denver Nuggets|
|1980||EAST||East 144, West 136 (OT)||Landover, MD||George Gervin, San Antonio Spurs|
|1981||EAST||East 123, West 120||Richfield, OH||Nate Archibald, Boston Celtics|
|1982||EAST||East 120, West 118||East Rutherford, NJ||Larry Bird, Boston Celtics|
|1983||EAST||East 132, West 123||Los Angeles, CA||Julius Erving, Philadelphia 76ers|
|1984||EAST||East 154, West 145 (OT)||Denver, CO||Isiah Thomas, Detroit Pistons|
|1985||WEST||West 140, East 129||Indianapolis, IN||Ralph Sampson, Houston Rockets|
|1986||EAST||East 139, West 132||Dallas, TX||Isiah Thomas, Detroit Pistons|
|1987||WEST||West 154, East 149 (OT)||Seattle, WA||Tom Chambers, Seattle SuperSonics|
|1988||EAST||East 138, West 133||Chicago, IL||Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls|
|1989||WEST||West 143, East 134||Houston, TX||Karl Malone, Utah Jazz|
|1990||EAST||East 130, West 113||Miami, FL||Magic Johnson, Los Angeles Lakers|
|1991||EAST||East 116, West 114||Charlotte, NC||Charles Barkley, Philadelphia 76ers|
|1992||WEST||West 153, East 113||Orlando, FL||Magic Johnson, Los Angeles Lakers|
|1993||WEST||West 135, East 132||Salt lake City, UT||Karl Malone, Utah Jazz & John Stockton, Utah Jazz|
|1994||EAST||East 127, West 118||Minnesapolis, MN||Scottie Pippen, Chicago Bulls|
|1995||WEST||West 139, East 112||Phoenix, Az||Mitch Richmond, Sacramento Kings|
|1996||EAST||East 129, West 118||San Antonio, TX||Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls|
|1997||EAST||East 132, West 120||Cleveland, OH||Glen Rice, Charlotte Hornets|
|1998||EAST||East 135, West 114||New York, NY||Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls|
|2000||WEST||West 137, East 126||Oakland, CA||Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs & Shaquille O'Neal, Los Angeles Lakers|
|2001||EAST||East 111, West 110||Washington, DC||Allen Iverson, Philadelphia 76ers|
|2002||WEST||West 135, East 120||Philadelphia, PA||Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers|
|2003||WEST||West 155, East 145 (2OT)||Atlanta, GA||Kevin Garnett, Minnesota Timberwolves|
|2004||WEST||West 136, East 132||Los Angeles, CA||Shaquille O'Neal, Los Angeles Lakers|
|2005||EAST||East 125, West 115||Denver, CO||Allen Iverson, Philadelphia 76ers|
|2006||EAST||East 122, West 120||Houston, TX||LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers|
|2007||WEST||West 153, East 132||Las Vegas, NV||Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers|
|2008||EAST||East 134, West 128||New Orleans, LA||LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers|
|2009||WEST||West 146, East 119||Phoenix, AZ||Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers & Shaquille O'Neal, Phoenix Suns|
|2010||EAST||East 141, West 139||Arlington, TX||Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat|
|2011||WEST||West 148, East 143||Los Angeles, CA||Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers|
|2012||WEST||West 152, East 149||Orlando, FL||Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder|
|2013||WEST||West 143, East 138||Houston, TX||Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers|
|2014||EAST||East 163, West 155||New Orleans, LA||Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers|
|2015||WEST||West 163, East 158||New York, NY||Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder|
|2016||Toronto, ON, Canada|
All Time NBA All-Star Game Records
– 4x Kobe Bryant
– 4x Bob Pettit
Most points (game)
– 42, Wilt Chamberlain (1962)
Most points (half)
– 27, Russell Westbrook (2015)
Most points (quarter)
– 20, Glen Rice (1997)
Most rebounds (game)
– 27, Bob Pettit (1962)
Most rebounds (half)
– 16, Bob Pettit (1962)
– 16, Wilt Chamberlain (1960)
Most rebounds (quarter)
– 10, Bob Pettit (1962)
Most assists (game)
– 22, Magic Johnson (1984)
Most assists (half)
– 13, Magic Johnson (1984)
Most assists (quarter)
– 9, John Stockton (1989)
Most 3-pointers made (game)
– 8, Carmelo Anthony (2014)
Most steals (game)
– 8, Rick Barry (1975)
Most blocks (game)
– 6, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1980)
– Michael Jordan – 14 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists in 26 minutes (1997)
– LeBron James – 29 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists in 32 minutes (2011)
– Dwyane Wade – 24 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists in 33 minutes (2012)