There you have it. All-Star Weekend done and dusted for another year. It had its highs. It had its lows. And the less said about the Dunk Contest the better. So here’s what I’ve done. I’m going to give you my All-Time, All-Star 5. Forget about who has played the most games or has the most points. This is coming purely from a “who would I pay my hard earned money to see” perspective. Which players have made me jump from my seat over the years? Who has left me most entertained? Here is where you find out. I’m sure you have your favourites. Let’s see how they line up with mine.
This was a tough one. Judging by the ballot this year center’s don’t exist but we’ve seen some great bigs over the years. All-Star Games are known for their entertaining and highlight driven big men. Shaq. Dwight. Hakeem. But I’m going to come at this from a different angle and be slightly controversial. My pick at the center position is Dikembe Mutombo. Don’t hate me just yet. I have reasons for picking him. Usually watching All-Star Games I’m looking for dunks, alley-oops and ankle-breaking crossovers. Mutombo brought a defensive energy to what is usually a glorified pick up game. Whenever Dikembe goes up for a block you know it’s going to be exciting. He’s either going to get the block or become a poster. Either way the viewer wins. In 2001 I found myself absolutely transfixed by a defensive performance in an All-Star Match-Up. Mutombo was ripping down rebounds like a man possessed. Shot goes up. Dikembe gets the board. Shot goes up. Dikemebe gets the board. It was amazing. I wanted players to miss shots just to give Mount Mutombo a shot at the All-Star rebounding record. Sadly he was five short of the record and registered 22 rebounds for the game along with 3 blocked shots. On the plus side he’s made my All-Star 5.
Some amazing plays. Incredible ‘oops. Kidd to Martin is mint…
Choosing this position was brutal. So much talent. So many highlights. Barkley. Malone. Kemp. Larry Johnson. Bird. Garnett. Griffin. Nique. Duncan. The list is almost endless but I’ve made my decision. KG. Kevin Garnett. Controversial again. Many are more qualified but remember the team is based on entertainment value. When KG was with the Wolves he walked around with a chip on his shoulder. A superstar player on an underperforming team. All-Star break was KG’s time to shine and the Big Ticket always delivered. Intensity. Points. Dunks. Trash talk. His multiple connections with an afroed Kobe Bryant. MVP performances. 15 time NBA All-Star team selection. Check out his highlights below if you don’t believe me.
Another endless list of wicked highlights to choose from and another tough decision to make. Lebron gets it. I’m not the biggest Lebron fan but it’s difficult to discount the array of thunderous dunks he has thrown down during All-Star match ups. His in game dunks rival anything the Dunk Contest has thrown up in the last ten years. What makes Lebron so intriguing is that everybody has an opinion. Nobody can sit on the fence when it comes to James. It’s either all out love or masses of hate. He’s either the greatest in waiting or an overrated, overhyped flopper. Lebron thrives on his haters and always strives to prove them wrong. There is nothing he has not done on the All-Star court. ‘Bron shoots the long ball, dunks in traffic, chases down attackers and always gives the fans a show. He’s willing to put rivalries aside (Joakim Noah) or let them grow (Kobe) depending on what the situation calls for. Even his missed dunks look good (See vid above).
Now this one is a gimme. We all know it’s MJ. There is no doubt about it. He is still somebody who transcends the game of basketball and is the definition of an All-Star. Because it would be so easy to pick MJ, I’m going top pick somebody else. Two shooting guards that were pure entertainment in their prime were Tracy “T-Mac” McGrady and Vince “Air Canada” Carter. There are similarities between their careers. Each played for Toronto. Both look lazy and lethargic on the court at times but always found the energy to put on a show. Both are known for fearsome dunks. Both have been called ball hogs and selfish. But both have made names for themselves during the All-Star Weekend and All-Star games. Vince put on the best Slam Dunk Contest performance of all time. Nothing has come close to it since. T-Mac threw down the best in game dunk the All-Star Game has ever seen when he threw the ball off the backboard to himself, caught it in mid-air and still had time to pump. Vince copied T-Mac a few years later but for pure ingenuity and showmanship McGrady gets my vote.
This comes down to two ballers for me. Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Isiah Thomas. Magic was a point guard in a big man’s body. Thomas was anything but big. Magic took show time to new levels every time he walked on the court. Thomas’ vision on the court is unrivalled to this day. Both could read the game like they had written the book.
When word came out that Magic had contracted HIV it hit the league hard. Because of the contagious nature of HIV, physicality of the game of basketball and the fears of players and fans alike, Magic was forced to retire. Despite his retirement in 1991 fans voted Magic into the 1992 All-Star Game. It was the only game Magic played that season. Johnson dominated. Assists, points, flair and finished as the games MVP. There is one moment from this game that everybody remembers. Magic had the ball. 14 seconds remaining in the 4th. Johnson backs Thomas to the three-point line and hits one of the most magical shots you will ever see. With 14 seconds to go the game stopped. Nobody took another shot. Everybody gave Magic a hug or high five. At that point things became bigger than basketball. Everyone forgot about the ‘announcement’ and showed their respect to a great of the game.
Isiah could beat anyone off the dribble. He could get to the rack and throw up shots from impossible angles and still get them to drop. Thomas made the players around him better. But his passing skills were immaculate. Players wouldn’t be open but Thomas would still find a way to get them the ball. Bounce pass through a defenders legs. Over the top for an alley-oop. A bounce pass from three-quarter court. Thomas did it all.
I can’t split them. I wrote this thing so I make the rules. I’m having two point guards. Feel free to disagree with me and let me know who you would have in certain positions.