NBA All-Star Weekend
By Jon Carlos Rodriguez
For one weekend every year, the NBA’s greatest talents take a break from being the awesome physical specimens that they are to show fans that they are also entertaining physical specimens. They assemble their craziest dunks, wettest jumpers, fanciest passes, and most obscene crossovers in one nicely wrapped gift that is the All-Star Weekend. Here are some of its greatest moments.
THE 1988 DUNKOFF
There were no cars, no costumes, no mascots on hoverboards. In 1988, the Slam Dunk Contest only had air. The man who had a trademark on exactly that, Michael Jordan, bested Dominique Wilkins in what would become the greatest dunkoff of all time. Wilkins threw one emphatic slam after another, but it was Jordan’s graceful artistry that won the judges over. For his finale, Jordan taxied from the opposite end of the floor, took off from (just inside) the free throw line, and posed in midair before throwing down a perfect dunk that can only be described as Jordanesque.
THE ELBOW PASS
The All-Star Weekend is the preferred launch pad of stars for their sick moves, such as Tracy McGrady’s off the backboard dunk and Kyrie Irving’s ankle breakers. But the sickest of the moves still belongs to Jason Williams. At the 2000 Rising Stars Challenge, Williams, then on his second year with the Sacramento Kings, ran a four-on-two fastbreak with Raef Lafrentz, Dirk Nowitzki, and Paul Pierce. With the ball on his left hand, he looked to his right and motioned to pass behind his back, only to hit the ball with his right elbow to pass left to Lafrentz. If that sounded crazy, that’s because it was. The elbow pass became so legendary that it’s still being talked about–and demonstrated by the White Chocolate himself–17 years later on Inside the NBA.
‘WHERE’S MY COACH?’
Basketball is great not only because of the highlights, but also because of storylines. In 2001, the story was about the surging Philadelphia 76ers, or more accurately, the love-hate relationship between the team’s brash superstar Allen Iverson and his veteran coach Larry Brown. Iverson was the rebellious son; Brown was the strict dad. The 2001 All-Star Game set the stage perfectly for the two to make magic, as Iverson and his coach mounted a monumental comeback to give the East a victory. As Iverson received his MVP trophy, he looked for his coach in a heartwarming tribute–signaling they’ve finally learned to harmoniously co-exist. It was only fitting that Iverson was also named season MVP that year as he led the Sixers to the NBA Finals.
If Brown and Iverson had the father-and-son narrative, Jordan and Kobe Bryant had a teacher-and-student one. The 1998 All-Star Weekend was held in New York and featured peak Jordan versus 19-year-old Kobe playing in his first All-Star Game. Young Kobe brought his arsenal of 360 dunks, but the real highlight of the game was his chess match with the older and wiser Jordan, who came away with the MVP award.