Thursday, February 11, 2010

The 1992 NBA All-Star Game


You didn’t ask for it.  You didn’t want it.  But now you are going to get it.  That’s right, in all it’s glory it is my play by play of the 1992 NBA All Star Game.  The game took place on February 9, 1992 from Orlando Florida.  The back drop of the game was that earlier in the season, Magic Johnson had retired from basketball when it was discovered that he had contracted “the HIV virus.”  Magic had announced that he would play in the All-Star Game as part of a comeback training tour to get him prepared for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona as part of the Dream Team.  So, the NBA added a spot to the Western Conference All-Stars and Magic joined the roster.  With all that set up, let’s get to the programme.

NBC’s coverage opens with a spectacular and inspiringly choppy montage of 80’s and 90’s NBA clips, which is backed by strange outer-space early 90’s murky funk music.  The montage takes a turn to Magic Johnson clips so you know the backdrop of the game before clips of the rest of the players in the game come in as well.

Then, glory, “Roundball Rock” by John Tesh, the legendary NBA on NBC music comes in.   Then Bird, Magic and Jordan do their classic smiling acting as they pass the ball to each other through magical openings in different surfaces and windows.  The music begins to fade and then we are passed off to Bob Costas who is in Orlando with a stiff Quinn Buckner a solid defensive player from the 70’s and early 80’s.

Bob asks Quinn about the players preparation for an All-Star game.  Quinn says the players will be a little nervous but will ultimately come out to “have fun” and “compete.”  Very good, Quinn. Very good. 

Then, ever the economic sports anchor, Costas runs down the Magic has HIV backstory. While he is doing this, you have to marvel at how good Costas’ hair looks and the fact that he has always looked like child man, which has made him soothing to listen to in some way.  Costas leads us into a Dick Enberg interview with Magic Johnson.  Now, if you don’t follow sports carefully, Dick Enberg is one of the worst play by play guys out there.  However, he is great for unintentionally funny lines that sound vaguely homoerotic or innane.  His pinnacle coming in either the 2009 Australian Open (“look at Federer and Nadal fling those balls at each other”) or at the 2008 U.S. Open when McEnroe commented on the amount of people that drink New York water and asked “I wonder who takes those surveys?” (a stupid question in itself) to which Enberg responded, “Thirsty guys.”  Enberg doesn’t disappoint on this 1992 day either.

In their interview, Dick and Magic discuss Magic’s battle with HIV. Almost twenty years later, its hard to feel the impact that this story had at the time.  Magic has been healthy and living with the virus for years and HIV and AIDS have become well known parts of life.  At the time, though, this was staggering that a charismatic, handsome, rich and notoriously heterosexual black man could have HIV.

During the interview, Magic brings up a good point of how Dr. J passed the NBA leadership torch to him and that he has now passed it to Michael Jordan, although perhaps too soon.  Magic notes that he feels bad he has to because Michael has no competition left to measure himself by. Magic says that both he and Michael know this to be true and that he wishes it wasn’t.  This is a poignant point because it somehow makes Michael’s sustained success that much more fascinating since he had no true rival to work him up (maybe the Knicks collectively) when he was on top.  He competed against himself and cast his own competitiveness onto innocent bystanders.  Just an interesting point by Magic.


We return to Bob and Quinn who say that magic has left the door open.  Well he left quite a few doors open in the first place.  (Too soon? Still?)  They say that Magic has given HIV sufferers hope to get better.  That’s true, but they don’t have millions have dollars that Magic has used to help him fight the disease. But I digress.

We skip to pre-tip where Magic and Isiah greet each other at midcourt and kiss on the cheek.  These two are now mortal enemies.  Sad.

The starting lineups are announced:

Phil Jackson – Coach

Michael Adams – Bullets
Brad Daugherty – Cavaliers
Joe Dumars – Pistons (Hall of Fame)
Reggie Lewis – Celtics
Mark Price – Cavaliers
Dennis Rodman – Pistons (potential Hall of Fame)
Kevin Willis (for Dominique Wilkens) – Hawks

Charles Barkley – Sixers, but on his way to the Suns (Hall of Fame)
Patrick Ewing – Knicks (Hall of Fame)
Scottie Pippin – Bulls (Hall of Fame)
Isiah Thomas – Pistons (Hall of Fame)
Michael Jordan – Bulls (Hall of Fame)


Don Nelson – Coach

Tim Hardaway – Warriors (originally starting but gave place for Magic)
Jeff Hornacek – Suns, but on his way to Sixers for Barkley
“Thunder” Dan Majerle – Suns
Dikembe Mutumbo – Nuggets
Hakeem Olajuwon – Rockets (Hall of Fame)
John Stockton – Jazz (Hall of Fame)
Otis Thorpe – Rockets
James Worthy – Lakers (Hall of Fame)

Karl Malone – Jazz (Hall of Fame)
Chris Mullin – Warriors (Near Hall of Fame)
David Robinson – Spurs (Hall of Fame)
Clyde Drexler – Trailblazers (Hall of Fame) First All-Star start - hmmm…
Magic Johnson – Lakers (Hall of Fame)

Michael Bolton steps onto the court looking terrible and begins to belt out the National Anthem, wrenching every syllable that he can out of the song.  Thank god that’s over.

Players get ready for the tip and Dick Enberg tells us that the East won by two points in 1991.  The East leads the series 27-14.

First Quarter:

The East wins the tip and Jordan soars in for a layup, but Clyde blocks him at the rim.  Dick and “The Czar” Mike Fratello begin to discuss the Jordan vs. Drexler talk that dominated 1992 but was quickley discarded after Jordan owned Clyde in the 1992 Finals.

Malone hits Mullin quickly on the other end for an easy layup.  A sign of things to come.

Ewing back the other way nails his patented step back two from the baseline extended.

Magic makes a nice ball fake down at the other basket and Isiah fouls him as he goes up for a finger roll.  Magic makes both.

Barkley misses at the other end and Magic leads the break with a terrific outlet pass to Mullin who swishes a shot from the right corner. Then, Magic and Isiah exchange beautiful coast to coast layups.  Jordan gets in on the scoring with a smooth gliding reverse layup through traffic.  The action is fast and loose.  The first thing you notice is the ridiculous amount of body control and grace these guys all had.

Meanwhile, Mike Fratello tells Dick that Barkley is not a good defender but that he will make an excellent studio host on TNT someday.  No, he didn’t say the last part. Maybe if they had those Taco Bell boxes back then Sir Charles would have been a better defender?

Pippin glides in for the East and makes a monstrous dunk, which sets a theme for him for the rest of the game. Dick tells us that Scottie went to Central Arkansa on a managerial scholarship for football and was a walk-on for basketball.  Good fact.

Pippin and Jordan run an out of bounds play where Jordan fakes Clyde out in the paint and rises up for an alley-oop.  Masterful.

The West takes the ball down to the other end and Fratello points out how big the West looks compared to the East.  And damnit, he’s right.  Well, the West could trot out Hakeem, Dikembe, and Robinson.  Barkley was 6’4” for Christ sake.

On the court I notice the classic “NBA Stay in School” early 90’s campaign with the weird early 90’s off-neon colors and shapes.  Interesting how the rest of the 90’s in the NBA would be about leaving school to make millions of millions of dollars and have out of wedlock children.  Funny how life works.

M.J. and Magic exchange layups, though Jordan’s is of couse more breathtaking and gravity defying, but this was Magic’s came so we aren’t keeping track.

Magic takes a seat and the actual starter Tim Hardaway comes in.  Young Tim Hardaway was one of my favorite players of all time.  A cross over that any guard should study.

The West’s passing is absolutely textbook and its actually quite alarming how good it is.  Watching it just makes you want to jump up and start playing basketball.  Timmy drives into the lane and drops it off for David Robinson who slams it home.  How fast was Timmy? Damn.

At the other end, Pippin follows up an Isiah miss with a ridiculous dunk.  You forget how much of an athletic freak Scottie was and he was just coming up in 1992. Unbelieveable.

The subs start coming in.  Good to see Mark Price’s pale face out there. The West continues to put on a passing clinic and are slowly building a lead.

Jordan glides in and misses a layup after a magnificent drive.  Clyde comes back and makes a driving dunk and then hits a three.  After a steal from the East, Hardaway leads the break, fakes behind the back and dishes to Clyde who lays it in.  A very nice sequence for Drexler.

2:33 left in the first quarter and the West has a 12 point lead.

Price hits Pippin for a nast reverse alley-oop dunk and Pippin absolutely flushes it down. 

Staggering stat: Rodman averaged 18 rebounds in 1992!

Charles Barkley is interviewed by Ahmad Rashad (the man) at courtside.  Charles tells Ahmad, “I have one NBA All-Star MVP from last year.  I don’t need to kill myself to get another.”  And he wondered why Michael always beat him.

Hornacek and Price are on the court for the West and East respectively.  Great white guys with great heads of hair, which were outlawed by the NBA in 2000.

Second Quarter:

The second quarter opens and Rodman dunks right on Olajuwon.  Rodman would later go on to marry Carmen Electra and marry himself.

Magic comes down and does one of his classic “push the ball like a point guard, backdown my defender like a power forward and make a move to the paint like Kareem” and gets fouled.

The West is just flat outplaying the East as Hardaway nails a three to bring the lead to 14.  Dick says that Hardaway’s stats in his first three years match up with Magic’s.  More on this later.

Magic with a phenomental reverse one handed layup through the lane!  He started from the right side, shielded the ball with his body and his left hand and then finished away from the defender with his right hand.  Beautiful.


Magic backs down Rodman, plays a little two man game with Worthy and then nails a baby sky hook over Rodman.  Vintage Magic. Its funny, but Worthy, who was younger and much less HIV positive than Magic in 1992 looks and moves like he is 3-5 years older.

Reggie Lewis nails a smooth 18 footer for the East. He was 26 years old.  One year later he was dead.

Jordan re-enters the game and nails an 18 footer.  He has 8.

Sloppy sequence:  Michael Adams misses a 3 in the corner after a nice Jordan pass.  Hornacek takes the ball the other way, fakes drive and pulls up for about a 16 footer and bricks it.  However, even on these sloppy sequences and bricked shots, the mechanics and the moves are much crisper and more graceful than the current NBA.  Wait, how old am I?  Today’s NBA is just great!

The pace has slower considerably as we have 4:00 minutes left in the half.  The West has shot 64% as Stockton drills a three. Hornacek follows that three up with a long two from the corner.  Stockton. Hornacek.  1997-2000 Utah Jazz Teams.  Hated them.

Isiah nails a long two and the half ends with Magic having 16 points.  The West leads 79-55. This is getting out of hand.

Third Quarter:

Jordan grabs a loose ball and swishes a 15 footer at the top of the key.  He has 10.

Pippin comes back and slides through traffic and misses a layup.  Dick says, “Boy, he runs like a quarter-miler.”  Dick Enberg, making pointless asides since 1992 and earlier.

In the paint, Barkley pulls off some nice moves: behind the back fake and a dish to Jordan who slams it home with a classic leaning-forward one hander.

The West comes down and Drexler hammers is down to answer.  This is followed by Fratello mentioning how Magic said that if the Blazer allowed Clyde to take over in the clutch that they could seriously challenge the Bulls.  This storyline dominated 1992.  However, it is shortly followed by Clyde running on the break and finishing with a breathtaking layup off the glass.  He was damn good that year.

The East has another miss on their end.  Magic leads a break with superb passing, which all leads to a Robinson dunk.  Finally, on the other end Michael drives and makes another flying reverse layup off the glass.  He has 14.

For the West it is a rerun: great passing, Robinson dunk. Ho hum.

Jordan steals the ball and lays it off to Pippin who, “EXPLODES to the HOLE” according to Dick, and finishes with a nice two-handed jam.

The West is up 30 points with 6:56 left.  After a long Magic outlet pass, Drexler makes a touch pass to Mullin, who passes back to Drexler who finishes.

We come back from a commercial break and a replay of the 1972 All-Star game is shown. Jerry “The Logo” West is working on Clyde “The Glide” Frazer and then nails the game winner at the buzzer over him.  Great memories at the L.A. Forum.

On the East’s end, Michael drives in from the corner, gets his head as high as the rim, decides not to lay it up and leaves it for a Ewing dunk.

Isiah cuts the West lead to 100-76 after a jumper.

Drexler steals the ball and takes the ball on the run.  He glides and hammers home a one handed curling dunk.  Very nice.  Clyde has 20 points on 9 of 14 shooting.  Dick Enberg explains that he is a Clyde Drexler fan – a very touching moment.

The West is just destroying the East, they just can’t miss. You know that the talent in the game is good when you mumble, “Even Worthy has 7.”  He is one of the 50 Greatest Players of All Time.

Clyde again has the ball in transition.  He splits two defenders and hammers home a Jordanesque split leg dunk.  112-81, West.  After the dunk, Dick wonders who gave him the nickname Glide.  Where is Marv Albert for the love of God.

Olajuwon blocks two Pippin dunk attempts at the other end.  After that sequence, Tim Hardaway takes the ball down and nails another three.

Price catches a long pass on the East’s end and makes a simple reverse layup while Dick says he is “feisty enough to be a wide receiver.” Ummm…Jerry “Feisty” Rice?

Fourth Quarter:

The camera pans the crowd and we get a great MC Hammer and entourage shot.  Give me Jay-Z and Beyonce or even Lady GaGa any day.

A “1992 NBA Headlines” graphic comes up:

1.    Magic retires
2.    Bird and McHale Ail (the Celtics were already slipping)
3.    Bulls – 70 Win Season? (They fell off.  This was four years too soon, but may have been the best Bulls team)
4.    Riley’s Knicks Lead Atlantic (get fans hopes up only to choke repeatedly for years)
5.    Dominique Wilkens Out for Season (Poor ‘Nique)
6.    Heat Hot for Playoff Spot (Tsk. Tsk.)
7.    Pacific – 4 Games Separate Four Teams (Kind of like the West now)

The camera moves back to the crowd where there is a great shot of David Stern on a landline phone.  Where is it coming from?  As Stern is on the phone, Fratello reflects on his greatness. 

In the game, Lewis passes to Barkley. Barkley misses the pass.  This is the millionth missed pass by the East.

7:53 left in the game.  125-90.

Tim Hardaway in transition again. He dribbles between the legs, moves through the paint from right to left and finishes with a lefty layup.  This leads to the Hardaway vs. Magic graphic after three years:

Hardaway: 205 games, 19.7 points per game, 9.3 assists per game (Wow!)

Magic: 192 games, 18.9 points per game, 8.5 assists per game.

Very interesting comparison. I loved Timmy.  He had injuries that slowed him down, but he did have all the tools and the potential in the world.  1992 Tim Hardaway was to be admired. 2006 Tim Hardaway: “Gay people don’t belong on this planet or in this country.”  Oh, Timmy.

133-96 at the 5:30 mark.

Jordan with a smooth pass to Barkley for a dunk to get the East to 100.  Isiah then steals a Mutumbo pass, dishes it to Barkley who dunks right on Mutumbo.  He was only 6’4”.  What a freak.

Magic brings the ball down and drains a 24 foot three pointer. After an East miss, Magic takes the ball to almost the same exact spot and nails another three.  The crowd is on its feet for this.  The next West possession, Magic hits Majerle with a textbook backdoor pass and Majerle lays it in.  Every player on the West has scored.

Lasting images from the game: Isiah plays Magic one on one.  Isiah playfully dribble as Magic playfully defends (didn’t he always?) and then chucks up a three as the shot clock expires. 

Lasting images from the game:  45 seconds left and Jordan plays Magic one on one.  The crowd is on its feet.  MJ takes it easy on Magic, drives baseline and takes a difficult jumper that misses.  Magic brings the ball down and backs down Isiah.  The crowd is going crazy.  The shot clock winds down and Magic takes a step back and puts up a three.  He drains it with three seconds left on the shot clock!

The East lets the clock run out.  West wins big.  Magic is the MVP.


Well, it isn’t one of the legendarily competitive All-Star games, but it had all the talent;  it had the Magic storyline; it had the vintage NBA look of the late 80’s early 90’s; young Bob Costas; John Tesh “Roundball Rock”; Ahmad Rashad; and terrible Dick Enberg commentary.  A must watch for any NBA fan.

If this doesn’t excite you for live NBA All-Star action this weekend, then I don’t know what will.  I’ll enjoy it and I hope you tune in. Or maybe you can crack a beer with me and watch it all.