Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! This is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to basketball video games, the real NBA or another area of interest to our community, either as a list of five items or in the form of a Top 5 countdown.
I was originally going to post my predictions for the 2015 All-Star Weekend in this week’s Friday Five, but Arcane and I ended up discussing our picks in Episode #109 of the NLSC Podcast. So, rather than repeat myself in written form, I’ll simply invite you to go back and listen to the show if you’re interested in my predictions, and talk about something else related to All-Star Weekend.
I’ve instead decided to list five memorable moments from All-Star Weekends gone by. It’s not a Top 5 countdown of the greatest or most well-known moments, nor a list of my absolute favourite moments, as those would probably all be Michael Jordan related. MJ does feature a couple of times in this list – you knew he would – but I’m also picking a couple of other moments that stand out in my memory, and not all of them are highlight plays. Without any further ado, here are five memorable All-Star Weekend moments, that you may or may not recall.
1. Isiah Thomas’ lob off the backboard to Michael Jordan
As I said, if I were compiling a list of my favourite All-Star Weekend moments, Michael Jordan would account for most of them, and I’d have a really tough time narrowing it down to just five. I did want to include at least one highlight from His Airness in my list though: a dunk he threw down from an alley-oop off the glass from Isiah Thomas in the 1989 All-Star Game. You can catch it around the 4:50 mark of the video above, just in case it doesn’t start at the right spot.
This is an MJ highlight that I don’t see mentioned or replayed all that often. It’s understandable, as Jordan’s list of memorable moments (in the All-Star Game or otherwise) is pretty long, so there are dunks and nifty moves that fly under the radar when highlight reels are being compiled. I do love this one though; the combination of power and finesse, the half-windmill action, the fact that it came off the lob and seemed like it was a last second decision to do something extra fancy…exquisite. Again, there are a lot of memorable All-Star Weekend moments featuring Michael Jordan that I could choose from, but this is one I believe deserves more attention.
2. Tracy McGrady’s self alley-oop off the glass
Although he did have a fine career and is probably bound for the Hall of Fame some day, Tracy McGrady does have an element of “What If?” about him. Injuries cut his prime a bit shorter than it likely would have been, and the stigma of all those first round exits is a blot on his NBA resume. Still, for a few years there, he was one of the best players in the league, as well as one of the most exciting. When recalling some of T-Mac’s most memorable highlights, the alley-oop to himself off the backboard in the 2002 All-Star Game is one of the first that comes to mind.
Since we’re a site dedicated to basketball video games, it’s probably worth mentioning that it had an effect on them, too. When EA Sports added the All-Star Weekend in NBA Live 2005, the mode brought the ability to throw a lob to yourself with the right analog stick button. One of JaoSming’s first patches was a modification that allowed users to take any NBA team into All-Star Weekend mode, just so they could make use of the lob off the board. As for the real Tracy McGrady, it ended up becoming something of a trend for him. His cousin, Vince Carter, would also break it out on occasion.
3. Dominique Wilkins misses a windmill dunk
Here’s a moment that’s memorable for a very different reason. Dominique Wilkins is still one of the greatest, most entertaining dunkers that we’ve ever seen in the NBA, and you don’t think of him missing a lot of his slams. You certainly don’t expect him to miss a windmill – one of his signature dunks – and to do so off the front of the rim. The wind-up was Classic ‘Nique, but that rim stuff definitely wasn’t Human Highlight Film material.
Now, Wilkins had won the Slam Dunk Contest the year prior, and was still in his prime at the age of 31, but age was probably catching up to him a little bit. If nothing else, it’s just one of those things that happens; unfortunately for ‘Nique, it happened during the NBA’s premiere exhibition game. Still, he was able to laugh about it afterwards, and even though the All-Star Weekend is about the best of the best putting on a show, the bloopers and funny moments are still entertaining. Michael Jordan would also get in on the act during his first year with the Washington Wizards, blowing a much easier dunk…though he did at least get over the front of the rim.
4. Shaquille O’Neal puts David Robinson on a poster
Now, I don’t think that Michael Jordan was completely unworthy of winning the All-Star MVP award in 1996. He had a good game, he was instrumental in the East taking control of the contest, and given his return to form following his comeback the previous year, it made sense as a “sentimental choice”. Also, if we’re talking about missing out on hardware, there were certainly a few more MVP awards that MJ should’ve won. However, Shaquille O’Neal played more minutes in that All-Star Game, put up some great numbers of his own, and definitely had a case for MVP.
Maybe Shaq had a premonition that the vote would go against him. Maybe he wanted to put on a show in San Antonio, where he went to high school and won a state championship in his senior year. Maybe he wanted to embarrass David Robinson in his home arena, or at least make a statement in a match-up against a fellow star centre. Whatever the case, he went right at The Admiral, and threw down a vicious one handed dunk for the and-one. Words do not do any justice to just how nasty that dunk was; just watch the video, watch it again, and then watch it a few more times after that for good measure.
5. The presentation of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players
When the NBA revealed their 50 Greatest Players list as part of their 50th Anniversary celebrations during the 1996/1997 season, it wasn’t without controversy. There were some noteworthy snubs, and a couple of honourees who were definitely stars in their own right, but arguably shouldn’t have been included ahead of some of the players who missed the cut. Additionally, it’s a list that we’d need to heavily revise today given some of the great players who have established themselves in the years that have followed, though it was admittedly intended to stand as a list of the 50 greatest players from the first 50 years of the NBA.
Nevertheless, the ceremony during halftime of the 1997 All-Star Game was quite memorable. I got goose bumps watching it back then, and I still get them if I watch the clip on YouTube today. I love the tradition and the prestige of the occasion, the triumphant music that played as the players were being announced. I loved that they announced Michael Jordan first, implying his rank as number one in the top fifty, and George Mikan last, celebrating him as the league’s first superstar. All in all, the presentation was a very special All-Star Weekend moment.
The NBA All-Star Weekend has produced so many memorable moments throughout the years, all of which are worth watching again and again, but those are the five that I decided to spotlight today. What are some of the most memorable All-Star moments – be they spectacular, humorous, or sentimental – that come to your mind? Let me know in the comments below, and as always, feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum! Thanks for checking in this week, enjoy the 2015 All-Star Weekend, and please join me again next Friday for another Five.