Friday, February 18, 2011

My Favourite All-Star Game

Back in 2001, I was a 12 year old kid who was absolutely enamored with the NBA. I would tape everything - from NBA games, to NBA Action Top 10 countdowns (every week no less), to dunk contests and All-Star games. From 1999-2004 I taped literally everything NBA-related - nerd-tastic to say the least. Even now, 24 tapes worth of basketball from that time period are still scattered in my basement.

With All-Star 2011 (the 60th ASG in NBA history) happening this Sunday, I thought now would be a good time to reflect on what is, in my mind, the best All-Star game I've ever watched. The 2003 ASG featuring a would-be MJ game-winner could have taken the cake had Jermaine O'Neal not ruined the game by fouling Kobe Bryant and preventing a storybook ending to Jordan's ASG career.

The 2001 game sticks out in my mind because it embodies an entire generation of players coming into their own, as well as the typical things that make an NBA game exciting. It featured the ascension of players who successfully carried the enormous post-Jordan void (KG, Tim Duncan, Kobe, AI, Jason Kidd, etc), some spectacular dunks courtesy of Kobe and Vince Carter (this is one of the most difficult 360s I've ever seen - Vince in his prime made it look frighteningly easy), strong defense spear-headed by Dikembe Mutumbo, a 21 point comeback led by Allen Iverson in his prime, and possibly the most exciting finish in All-Star game history. The last 2 minutes alone featured heroics from Kobe Bryant (THREE clutch jumpers; yes Henry, Kobe could deliver even 10 years ago - too bad it wasn't with less than 24 seconds left), C-Webb, AI, and, in possibly a career-highlight, Stephon Marbury (!).

The entire game can be watched on Youtube, but I'd suggest you just start watching from the second half, with the West up 61-50.

Looking back at this All-Star game, its crazy how much has changed. The generation of stars in their primes today (the class of 2003) were still yet to be drafted, and guys like KG and Kobe were still youngins with hops trying to establish themselves as individual players.

From that All-Star game, the three top players from the West (KG, TD, KB) still reign supreme to this day - veteran warriors who've experienced everything from MVP seasons, to frustration (minus Timmy D of course), and finally, certified Hall-of-Fame status. Once the pinnacle of youth, these 3 players (and Ray Allen) are the only ones from the entire 2001 All-Star selection to still remain All-Stars, 10 years later. It is obviously no surprise then, that these are the players who have been crowned champions and have endured the test of time to prove themselves over and over again this past decade.

Looking back on games like these makes me think about the fact that much like people lived their childhoods watching Jordan, Bird, and Magic, I lived my childhood through guys like Kobe, Tim Duncan, Shaq, and KG. It is sad to know that those three guys - the last remaining (basketball) pieces of my childhood - only have 2-3 (at most) of these games left before they ride off into the sunset, leaving my youth behind in the process.

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