Remember The Time: MJ's Last All-Star Game

While Michael Jordan has certainly created more meaningful moments than the shot he made in the 2003 NBA All-Star Game, his last made basket in an All-Star Game gave us one more glimpse of greatness fifteen years ago. (

February 9, 2003. The 2003 NBA All-Star Game (yes, the entire game is on YouTube) was one of the more closely contested ones in recent memory. The Association's biggest names were there: Shaq, Duncan, Iverson, Kobe, McGrady. Superstars were in attendance, both on the court and in the seats of the arena. But one name, one man, was who everyone came to see that evening.

Michael Jordan.

All-Star Weekend is truly a three-day event with the game being the denouement to another showcase of the NBA's best and brightest. But with Michael Jordan—the man who is probably at least partially responsible for every player that was on both conferences' rosters falling in love with basketball—was retiring for the third time, this truly felt like a monumentally landmark of a spectacle.

The only way I can properly put into perspective just how luminous Jordan's star was is that his name still sells shoes despite not being a player for 15 years. Yes, he owns the Charlotte Hornets. And yes, a number of his consumers are people old enough to remember his playing days. But he is able to sell his name as a clothing company because of his name as a player. It is because he's Michael Jordan and Jordan Brand sneakers are as popular as they are and other pro athletes want to be associated with that brand. "Be Like Mike" resonates to this day because of the supreme hooper Jordan was.

Back to the actual game. Jordan was not voted as a starter for the Eastern Conference in 2003, even if many NBA oddsmakers thought he would be named. Vince Carter was selected at that small forward position. Pressure rose on Carter to give up his spot because it was Michael Jordan, and he relented. Jordan himself didn't want Carter to step aside, but public pressure is an opponent not even Vinsanity in his prime could hurdle.

From the onset, it was clear the other East players, while also competing in the game, wanted MJ to shine. Jordan took 27 shots, most on the team and second only to Kevin Garnett of the Western Conference, who took home the game's MVP honor. Jordan finished with 20 points, and the game was so close that it went to overtime. Here is where we all wanted to be that night.

After Shaq tied the game at the free throw line, the East had the ball with the shot clock turned off. Everyone knew who the ball was going to. Jordan was working to get free on the baseline with Shawn Marion shadowing him. Jordan gets clear and receives the ball. One dribble, a second dribble, and he rises over an extended Marion for a fadeaway jumper that we'd seen numerous times.

Splash. East by two. 138-136.

I wrote recently about signature moves and how they're a product of honed skill through repetition. As people, we for what we're comfortable with in pressure situations. Not even the greatest basketball player in the world at the time is above that type of thinking. Shawn Marion was an elite wing defender, and MJ was so comfortable, so great in his determination to get to his spot for the shot he wanted, that it ultimately did not matter that Marion was even there. And while the lift in Jordan's legs had lessened due to age, he made up for it with a beautifully high-arching jumper that did not touch the rim.


The crowd exploded like Michael Jackson just walked on stage. The pop was of the magnitude of WWE fans hearing peak Hulk Hogan's entrance music multiplied by slamming Andre the Giant and then exponentially raised to the power of ten thousand playoff buzzer-beaters. Yes, it was an exhibition game. But it was Michael Jordan's last exhibition game, and he gave basketball fans what they wanted--to witness why he is so heralded as a player. Jordan reminded us of the reasons why he was to be celebrated that night, why Vince Carter—a better player than the 2003 version of Jordan—should have given up his starting spot. Hell, he reminded us why Carter, Kobe and several other athletic wings were falsely dubbed as "the next MJ" because no one should be compared to His Airness.

The rest of the game honestly is irrelevant. Jermaine O'Neal fouled Kobe and Kobe hit two of three free throws to send the game to double overtime. Jordan didn't play in the second bonus frame, as he let the younger players get in since his time was coming to an end. The West won, but we only care to remember that shot, that gorgeous fadeaway, that filled us with nostalgic joy. Fifteen years ago, Michael Jordan turned an exhibition into a timeless memory.

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