With the NBA All-Star Weekend upon us, one couldn’t let this year’s festivities pass by without reflecting on the games of old. While many tune in to the weekend-long festivities that the NBA has spent years creating hype for, at the end of the day it is still about the game itself. You have a collection of the Association’s best players putting on an offensive display that will have each one trying to outdo the other. Every year casual fans and diehards alike tune in for a chance to see their favorite respective All-Stars vie for that MVP crown. The game doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, but it definitely serves as a talking point years later when the names change and older stars have faded.
That’s why on the 20th anniversary of the 1994 NBA All-Star Game, one can’t help but appreciate the significance of it in retrospect. The ’94 game was filled with memorable highlights. From the start, you had Karl Malone, Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon and David Robinson putting Shaq through the blender. Let’s not forget that this was the lone All-Star appearance for Mookie Blaylock, because who doesn’t love Mookie?
The ’94 game was also the first All-Star Game that didn’t feature Michael Jordan post-retirement (the first time). The absence of MJ hung over the weekend, but the game certainly didn’t lack a Chicago Bull. Halfway through his first full season without number 23, Scottie Pippen was in the midst of what was probably his best season as a player. For those who had written him off as merely a “sidekick” to Air Jordan, the ’94 game was his declaration to the world that he was one of the best.
With a stat line of 29 points, 11 rebounds and 4 steals, Pippen used the grand stage of the NBA’s finest as his own personal playground. Not only did he lead the Eastern Conference to a 127-118 victory over the West, but he did it wearing some of the best sneakers known to man at the time. Yes, those all red Nike Air Maestros were a pretty sight to behold. As Pippen hoisted the MVP award over his head, there is no doubt in my mind that people rushed to stores the next day in search of that colorway.
Pippen used this game as a springboard that would undoubtedly be included in his career highlight reel. Folks knew he was good, but this game was a chance for the world to realize that he was indeed great. As history would also reveal, Pippen would prove to be a Top 50 of all-time great. No, it wasn’t an NBA Finals, and certainly not his last All-Star appearance, but for one night Scottie Pippen was the most important name in the world of basketball.
Of course, it isn’t any fun if the other players can’t get none. Scottie’s performance was one for the ages, but any game that features Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton, Hakeem and the always memorable Mookie Blaylock will be filled with plenty of notable highlights. That’s the true beauty of the All Star Game — everyone gets a chance to shine.
But don’t it twisted — this night belonged to Scottie Pippen. And after a career spent in the shadows of his legendary teammate, he had certainly earned it.