Remembering The 2003 All-Star Game: When J. O’neal & Refs Ruined Michael Jordan’s Magical Night
This was supposed to be Michael Jordan’s night. It was his 13th and final All-Star game. He was given the starting spot by voted in starter Vince Carter. He was honored at half-time by Mariah Carey in one tight MJ dress. He finished the night as the All-Star game’s leader in points (262), field goals (110), field goal attempts (233) and steals (37). And the 40-year-old made what should have been a fantastic game-winning fadeaway over Shawn Marion with 4.6 seconds left in overtime. But, for some reason, the anti-basketball Gods stopped the shot clock for a few seconds, and then with a single second left in the extra session, Jermaine O’Neal was called for a foul on Kobe Bryant shooting a fadeaway 3-pointer. The basketball Gods tried to fix things by making Kobe miss 1 of the 3 freebies so Jordan would have one last opportunity to hit a game winner and pick up his 4th All-Star MVP award. Jordan missed and the game went into double OT.
The 2nd OT was all about Kevin Garnett. The kid scored the first 7 points in the session, led the West to a 155-145 victory and was rewarded the MVP award after putting up 37 points — the most in a NBA All-Star game since Jordan scored 40 in 88 — 9 boards and 5 steals. KG’s 17 field goals also tied MJ (88) and Wilt (62).
Michael Jordan finished the game with 20 points, despite missing his first 7 and a dunk.
One of the best stories to come out of the best All-Star games ever, was Kobe saying Jordan told him not to take it easy on him just because it was his last All-Star game.
“One thing that Michael said was, ‘Just because it’s my last All-Star Game, I don’t want you to come out there going soft on me,’ ” Bryant told Yahoo Sports. ” ‘I want you to play me how you would normally play me.’ I was like, ‘Mike, what do you know about me that would lead you to tell me that?’ We both got a good laugh out of that.
“I remember he and I talking for about 25 minutes,” Bryant told Yahoo Sports. “He and I were kind of [joking around]. We just talked about the season. Talked about the playoffs. He always gave me great pearls of wisdom. That was the thing that was just special to me, talking before he went out and had all the hoopla and things like that. That was special.
“He loves those challenges, those moments. I’m sure he was very appreciative and very thankful just as I was.”