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!
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 132
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 magnitude 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.