The 10 Greatest NBA All Star Game Performances Ever

[Updated: 2/26/12] 

The updated Webster dictionary definition for the phrase “clown show” has a picture of the 2012 NBA Dunk competition next to it. In one of the worst efforts in modern NBA televised history, this year’s dunk competition was a series of disjointed, uninspiring dunks, led by host Kenny Smith who performed more like a prop plane than a jet (mostly in an attempt to bring back P-diddy from the pile of overproduced, recycled music track heap he has disappeared into). The kicker was a historically embarrassing performance by Derrick Williams of the Minnesota Timberwolves, who may go down as the 1st player in history to have a dunk competition short circuit a promising career.

All that being said, I’ve always found NBA All-Star weekend (also known to most basketball addicts as having to go 5 days without seeing your team play), to be the most watchable (or least unwatchable) of the major sports (note to NFL:  can we just kill the Pro Bowl already?). So with that in mind, we looked back through the catalog at the last 60 years of NBA All-Star games, and came out with what we believe to be the 10 best performances ever. Enjoy!

Honorable Mention:  George Gervin – 1980 (34/10/6), Kobe Bryant – 2007 (31/6/6), LeBron James – 2011 (29/12/10), Wilt Chamberlain – 1960 (23/25)

10. Tom Chambers – 1987 All-star game: West 154, East 149

Stat line: 34 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists

I can see your reaction now: Tom Chambers? Over other great performance by Kobe, MJ, Magic, et al.? Let me explain. Chambers’ performance was one of the feel good performances in NBA All-star history. He only made the team as a last minute addition due to a Ralph Sampson injury (hard to believe, right?), and then proceeded to light up the home Seattle Supersonic’s crowd with an All-star performance of his lifetime. He is the example that all replacement players (hello, Kevin Love), aspire to today. That, and we figured we needed at least one white basketball player post-1970 on this list.

9. Dwayne Wade – 2010 All-star game: East 141, West 139

Stat line: 28 points 11 assists 6 rebounds

Before the largest crowd to ever watch an NBA game (108,000 in the new Cowboys Stadium), D-Wade put on a spectacular performance. Wade shot 75% from the field to lead the East and even had a moment during halftime to plot his revision of NBA history with fellow NBA Scheme-teamers LeBron James and Chris Bosh…….. allegedly.

8. Bob Cousy – 1954 All-star game: East 98, West 93

Stat line: 20 point, 11 rebounds, 4 assists

This was an amazing game because Cousy actually lost the MVP in regulation, and then won it back with the greatest overtime performance in All-star history. Cousy scored 10 points in the extra period to pull out the victory and demonstrate why he was perhaps the greatest playmaker of his era. Also keep in mind the game’s final score was about 60% of the point total that is typical of today’s All-star games, making Cousy’s final stat line all the more impressive.

7. Kobe Bryant – 2002 All-star game: West 135, East 120

Stat line: 31 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds

Though most people vividly remember Kobe’s mano y mano duel with Jordan in the 1998 when they think of his NBA All-star history, he really left his stamp (and won the first of 3 MVP awards), four years later in 2002. Playing in front of a hostile Philadelphia crowd (the Lakers had beat Iverson’s Sixers the year before), Kobe silenced them with a performance that Don Nelson later said made him look like he was a “step ahead of the best of the league”.

6. LeBron James – 2006 All-star game: East 122, West 120

Stat line: 29 points, 6 rebounds

While there were many Lebron All-star games that were statistically better than this one (including 2011), this game makes the list because of the sheer force that Lebron stormed the league with at 21 years of age. James would be the youngest player ever to win MVP at an All-star game while helping the East rally back from a 21-point 3rd quarter deficit.

5. Kobe Bryant – 2011 All-star Game: West 148, East 143

Stat line: 37 points, 14 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals

In front of his home crowd, Kobe demonstrated why he has a flair for the dramatic, tying Bob Pettit for the all-time NBA record with his 4th All-star MVP (and perhaps more importantly to Kobe, passing Jordan’s total of 3). Kobe got a late run for his money from Kevin Durant, who finished with 34 points that helped stave off a late run by the East.

4. Isiah Thomas – 1986 All-star Game: East 139, West 132Isiah Thomas All Star Game 1986

Stat line: 30 points, 10 assists

Before he became WGMOAT (Worst GM of All-Time), Isiah Thomas provided some of the most entertaining moments in All-star game history for me growing up. His classic duels with Magic Johnson capture the true spirit of the NBA All-star game that we really have never seen since. In 1986, Thomas dominated the ball ,and the game in the 4th quarter, bringing the East back from behind and also becoming the only NBA player to log 30+ points and10+ assists in an All-star game.

3. Wilt Chamberlain – 1962 All star game: West 150, East 130

Stat line: 42 points, 24 rebounds

Throwing it back old school, Wilt put up a stat line in the 1962 All-star game like no one else can. He is the only player on this list who was not an All-star MVP as well. In what would become a recurring theme throughout Wilt’s career, his great individual prowess did not always seem to translate into team success. Still, just for sheer statistical dominance and for our admiration of his 2.2 average of daily sexual partners over a 25 year period, we allow “The Stilt” to make this list at #3.

2.       Michael Jordan – 1988 All-star game: East 138, West 133

Stat line: 40 points, 8 rebounds, 4 steals, 4 blocks

The greatest statistical all-star game by anyone not named Wilt, MJ announced his arrival as the greatest player in the game by overshadowing other top 10 all-time greats such as Magic, Bird, Kareem, and Hakeem Olajuwon. Playing before a friendly Chicago crowd, Jordan scored 16 points in the last 6 minutes of the game, capping a weekend he dominated, and also winning a classic Slam Dunk contest vs. Dominique Wilkins (or did he?)

1.       Magic Johnson – 1992 All-star game: West 153, East 113

Stat line:25 points, 9 assists, 5 rebounds

I was originally going to put Jordan at #1, and then I watched the video of the final minutes of this game again. Definitively the most memorable All-star performance in history. Who can forget the drama involved in Magic’s return to the court in his first game back after announcing his retirement the previously year? In an unbelievable finish, Magic hit three 3-pointers in the final minutes of the game. Even the refs, acknowledging the Magic Johnson All Star 1992magnitude of the moment, ended the game prematurely as Magic hit his last 3-pointer with 15 seconds left. To this day, it remains not just one of the greatest finishes in All-star game history, but a classic NBA moment.


22 Responses to “The 10 Greatest NBA All Star Game Performances Ever”

  1. Not even gonna lie, Monte Ellis and Kevin love should be in the All star game this year…two of the most underrated player in the nba

    Posted by Cheapest Laptop Batteries | February 19, 2011, 2:29 pm
  2. good research Mamba. I actually think your underrating Chambers performance. I remember that being one of the biggest come from nowhere performance ever…..

    Posted by drinkinghaterade | February 19, 2011, 10:35 pm
  3. MJ should be number 1. MJ at 6 foot 6 dominated centers like Kareem, Hakeem, power forwards like Karl Malone, and the best point guard ever in Magic. 40 points? are you kidding me? On top of that he dominated defensively with 4 steals and 4 blocks and then 8 rebounds. What about Lebron’s triple double in 2011? The only other player to do that was Jordan.

    Posted by ALL TIME GREATS | February 20, 2011, 11:09 pm
    • I agree All Time Greats and was originally going to put MJ at #1. To be honest though, when I went back and watched the film, that not only did Magic have a great All-star game, he had THE singular defining moment in All-star history (his 3 straight 3’s). These 2 things put together are what earned him the #1 spot (remember, greatness is not just about stats, it’s about the moment as well)

      Posted by Brown Mamba | February 21, 2011, 7:41 am
  4. Come on now! How do you not rank MJ in the top 3 with his 1st triple double in A.L. History! That’s a defining moment in NBA history. To be #1 to set a record like that has to be top 3!!! Ya, you can score but just like tonight. Calculate LBJ’s states. How many points was he responsible for! Gotta move up MJ’s and LBJ’s T.B. on this list brotha!

    Posted by AQ | February 21, 2011, 1:02 am
    • AQ, thanks for the comment — the reason MJ’s triple double didn’t make the list is because he lost (and actually didn’t win MVP that year). Wilt was the only one who made it here, and that’s because he so completely dominated his All-star game and put up numbers that have not been touched since (42 points, 24 rebounds). From a purely statistical standpoint, Lebron’s triple double was more impressive than MJ’s (and I do give him an honorable mention shout)

      Posted by Brown Mamba | February 21, 2011, 7:34 am
  5. Sorry, meant A.S. as in All Star.

    Posted by AQ | February 21, 2011, 1:03 am
  6. Durant was real MValuableP, cause Kobe did nothing in 4th. To rank him 5th here is ridiculous. Just marketing hype of current players

    Posted by john | February 21, 2011, 3:55 am
    • Thanks John — Durant no doubt had a very good game. But from my standpoint, Kobe did almost all his damage in the first 3 quarters (34 points) to put the West up 17, and then put it in cruise control. He was also the facilitator on a couple of those Durant buckets (including the big 3-pointer). Finally — you also have to take into consideration that Kobe played a MUCH more complete game than Durant, gathering 14 rebounds (vs. Durant’s), while shooting a better FG%, and collecting more assists and steals.

      Posted by Brown Mamba | February 21, 2011, 7:38 am
      • Kobe said it himself he had nothing left in the tank in the fourth. home court star had to get MVP.

        surely it was between LeBron and Durant for A.S.G. MVP

        Honorable Mention to Lebron is just rude, he got the East playing hard and lead them while Kobe just shot the ball.

        Jordan @ number one for sure over three three pointers.

        Posted by MBB | February 21, 2011, 4:14 pm
        • MBB — thanks for the comment. Close only counts in horseshoes. The NBA is a winner’s league, no one remembers the losers. Maybe next time, Lebron should think twice before passing up a wide open 3, in order to get a power forward a shot under more duress. That being said, Lebron had a phenomenal game, which is why he even slipped into Honorable Mention to begin with (and joining Wilt as the only two non-MVPs on this list). Regarding Durant, he just didn’t have nearly the all-around game that Kobe did. Remember, if it wasn’t for Kobe in the 1st 3 quarters, the West would never have had a lead to protect.

          Sorry — can’t personally go with Jordan at #1, but I understand why people would.

          Posted by Brown Mamba | February 21, 2011, 5:10 pm
  7. this is the best blog ever..
    I’m a Kobe Fan 100%..
    those ranks are just were it should and must be, almost but good job.

    1992 All-Star Game mAssacre was just the best ever..

    I really hate when Magic was diagnosed with HIV.. its like my whole world crumbled in front of my own face/eyes. LAKERSFAN 4ever!!


    I do think Kobe 2002 All-Star Game should be #6 and Lebron’s #7..

    he just killed AI that time (in Philly).. ouch and that is generally Kobe’s Home..Kobe grew up in Philly, right? yeah, I know :)

    Posted by LakerFanatic | February 22, 2011, 9:53 am
    • LakerFanatic — thanks for the kind words. Yes, the 1992 game wasn’t the most competitive, and Magic’s statistics certainly weren’t the best ever, but if you take into account the moment and the context in All-star history, I think the choice ultimately was a no-brainer.

      Regarding Kobe and Lebron #6 and #7, it was close, and depending on your perspective, this one could go either way.

      Posted by Brown Mamba | April 8, 2011, 9:49 am
  8. Have to agree with the #1 selection. Magic’s performance in the ’92 all-star game was a truly transcendental moment in basketball. By far, the single greatest performance in NBA All-Star Game hisotyr, and indeed, in the NBA in general. Follow the link to watch the last 4 minutes of the game when Magic buries three straight 3-pointers. Simply “Magical.”

    Posted by Jason Spencer | December 3, 2011, 3:32 pm
  9. Great list, Brown Mamba. The All-Star Game is generally meaningless, except when someone gets hurt. Because of that, it takes a truly exceptional performance for it to resonate, and your top two performances fit the bill. Jordan’s ’88 performance was the centerpiece of a season in which he staked his claim to being the best player in the game (MVP, Defensive Player of the Year and slam-dunk champ as well). As for Magic in ’92, when you factor in the societal impact of his playing in the first place, not to mention his actual performance, I think it’s a no-brainer to put him at #1.

    Posted by E-Dog | February 27, 2012, 5:41 am
  10. No a.i. Honorable mention? I can’t recall the year (2001?) But that was one of the best 4ths I’ve seen since the one this year. And even though he passed at the end instead of shooting, that stretch by lebron was one of the most blistering I have ever seen. You could have had 4 mvps this year (kd, james, mamba, wade)

    Posted by freddie food | March 1, 2012, 8:02 am
  11. Right off the bat, saying the NBA All-Star weekend is the “least unwatchable”–wrong. The baseball All Star game is competitive, with teams of the best players generally playing their best. Watch the NBA All-Star game to see Shaq step out of the way and laugh as an opposing player drives to the basket, and see the final score be the highest of any game in that particular year. It is entirely unwatchable, but I will agree it is still better than the NFL Pro Bowl.

    Posted by George Scott | January 10, 2014, 3:43 am
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  1. […] Never before in the history of the NBA have both a Scheme Teamer and a MILF teamed to earn Executive of the Year honors, but their feats did not go unnoticed by this writer. I could care less that neither Wade nor Lebron’s Mom are technically eligible for the award – extraordinary accomplishments merit unconventional responses and as such, I vote that the NBA allow for an exception similar to 1992 when they allowed a retired Magic Johnson to participate in the 1992 NBA All-Star game. […]

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