Andrew D. Bernstein / NBAE via Getty
Can you believe it? It's been 20 years since the All-Star game was played in Utah. I remember how crazy it all was for me because the Utah Jazz were having a down season, a post- Dream Team hangover most people called it, and for the most part it was the highlight of the season for me. Of course, I wasn't there. I was living in Canada at that point in time and it was really fun to see all of the spectacle around Salt Lake City back then. Yes, it's been 20 years. It doesn't feel like yesterday anymore, but I still vividly remember so much about it.
I remember the three point shoot out and the dunk contest. The Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Mark Price won the shootout with a final score of 18 made threes. The Miami Heat was represented well by Harold Miner's jams -- one of the first guys to implement 180 windmills in the air. More than the 'events', like the fan evens or the pro events I remembered the game.
The Eastern conference was led by guys like Isiah Thomas, Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing and Dominique Wilkins in their prime. And there was a ton of up and coming talent on that team as well, like Scottie Pippen, Larry Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal, Detlef Schremph, Mark Price, and Joe Dumars. Vets Brad Daugherty and Larry Nance rounded out the squad coached by Pat Riley.
The Western conference had John Stockton, Karl Malone, Clyde Drexler, Charles Barkley, and Hakeem Olajuwon in their prime. The up and comers were David Robinson, Sean Elliott, Tim Hardaway, Shawn Kemp, Dan Majerle, and Danny Manning. The last all star was veteran Terry Porter, and the team was coached by Paul Westphal.
This All-Star game involved not only the best players in the NBA that year -- but also a disproportionately high number of the most dominant players the United States ever put out en mass. From these two All-Star teams (The East and the West) we got 8 of the 12 1992 USA Men's Basketball Olympic Team members, and 7 of the 12 1994 USA Men's Basketball World Basketball Championship Team Members. That's 63% of Dream Team I and Dream Team II. All in this one game. (N.B. The Players who were on those two teams who did not play in this All-Star game were Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Chris Mullin, Christian Laettner, Derrick Coleman, Kevin Johnson, Reggie Miller, Alonzo Mourning, and Steve Smith) (N.B. #2: Chris Mullin was selected, but was injured and replaced by Porter - so it would have been an even higher percentage, and 9 of the 12 Dream Teamers alone)
These were the best players, back when A) The NBA was talent rich, and B) it's hard to argue for any snubbing because these guys were so ahead of the guys who did not make it. It's not like a toss up between LaMarcus Aldridge and Al Jefferson here -- where both guys are pretty much the same level in terms of production. This was a team that had David Robinson and Hakeem Olajuwon -- and everyone knew Kevin Duckworth wasn't going to make it.
It's no surprise that this was one of the best All-Star games ever. It was a super close game that that ended up going to overtime -- with the good guys leading the way to a 135-132 victory. This was an All-Star game where both teams started to play for keeps early because it was an All-Star game back during the period of rivalries in the NBA. (Star players didn't join up to be part of the same team, and then invite visiting players over to stay at their house so they can play patty cake and watch Dirty Dancing while giving each other facials.) Guys back then hated each other.
Even players on the same All-Star team hated each other. Malone and Barkley were rivals. Isiah and MJ hated each other. They joined forces to fight the common enemy. Isiah always wanted to go against Stockton. All the west bigs were worried about Shaq. Even the guys on the bench had animosity going -- as Joe Dumars and Terry Porter fought against each other in the NBA Finals a few seasons ago.
The West led by 1 after 1. Then expanded the lead to 5 at halftime. The East came back and it was tied after four. This was back when the players weren't fighting for things like charities for kids. These guys wanted to win because they implicitly were all driven to be winners. The three point victory was a razor thin margin. There have only been 6 OT games in All-Star History. And yes, this was the smallest final margin. It makes sense as these were two even teams with tons of talent at every spot -- and filled with guys in their primes. (It was really a team of the best of the best of the 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, and 1986 draft classes, which is the most talent rich 5 year stretch of basketball drafts ever)
But these are just the memories of a Jazz fan living out of Utah who was happy to see John and Karl lead the team to a victory and share MVP honors. All of you people who were actually THERE 20 years ago must have a ton of great stories, memories, and funny anecdotes to share.
So please do share and tell me what I missed!