He’s 40 years old. He’s won six NBA Championships. He’s played in 13 All-Star games prior to last weekend. He’s been retired twice before, and is planning retire for the third (and last) time at the end of the current NBA season. There were starters wanting to give up their spot for him, and starters not wanting to give up their spot for him. One of his fellow participants even talked about crying.
No wonder Michael Jordan was afraid the All-Star game would turn into the MJ show.
Well, it did. The game itself was a double overtime 155-145 win for the West, but it started with Vince Carter stepping aside in a surprise move to let Michael start.
“My decision was to start,” Carter said. “After awhile I sat back and thought about it and said, `Hey, this is his last one, he is the greatest player and I’m going to get this opportunity to come out here and play again.’
“This is a chance for me to tell all my fans thank you very much for voting for me, but he deserves it, he deserves it,” Carter said.
Michael, who had earlier gotten a standing ovation during player introductions, then proceeded to miss his first seven shots. He eventually finished with 20 points on 9-27 shooting, but that was enough to catapult him to the top of the all-time scorers list in All-Star games with 262 total points.
Kevin Garnett won MVP honors for his 37 point, 9 rebound effort in leading the West. Allen Iverson top scored for the East with 35 points.
Earlier, Kobe Bryant tied the game at the end of the first OT period when he made two of three free throws after being fouled by Jermaine O’Neal.
This came after Jordan hit a fallaway jumper that appeared to give the East a 138-136 win over the West and added one more highlight to his legacy.
The second overtime period was then dominated by KG, who scored the West’s first six points to give them a 145-138 lead. Paul Pierce’s dunk cut the East’s deficit to 145-140, but consecutive three-pointers by Steve Francis and Bryant pushed the West out to a 151-140 cushion with 2:44 remaining.
On Saturday, Jason Richardson held off Desmond Mason to win the Slam Dunk Contest, Peja Stojakovic prevailed in the Three-Point Shootout for the second straight year, and Jason Kidd won the Skills Challenge.
In the Rookie Challenge, the sophomores held out against the rookies, with Gilbert Arenas named MVP.