The All-Star Game has been an NBA tradition since 1951. It was modeled after the MLB All-Star Game and was an instant success. Since then, we’ve seen some iconic moments and great games.
Of course, at the end of the day it’s an exhibition, so the players don’t worry much about the score. Still, some of them ended in a great way, with tight scores, great comebacks, and some great performances. Of the 71 competitions held to date, some stand out as historic in their grandeur. Here are the four best NBA All-Star Games of all time, ranked.
Best NBA All-Star Games of all time
4) 1992 All Star Game
Essentially, the 1992 All-Star game was nothing too grand. The Western Conference team blew out the Eastern Conference team by 40 points. While there were some iconic players, there were also guys who didn’t really do much besides that game. It is known that Dominique Wilkins and Larry Bird were injured and unable to play, and they were replaced by Michael Adams and Kevin Willis, respectively, who both only played in one All-Star Game.
However, it will forever be known as the game when the great Magic Johnson returned to the NBA. The Los Angeles Lakers legend and one of the greatest point guards of all time retired in 1991 after contracting HIV.
Still, fans massively voted for him and he was chosen as the starter in the game, despite objections from some of his peers. Johnson still took the field, turned back the clock and had an iconic performance. He scored 25 points, had nine assists, caught five boards and finished the game with a score of three points. While the score didn’t matter much, it was still an All-Star Game that will be remembered forever.
3) 2009 All-Star Game
The 2009 All-Star Game was held in Phoenix and featured Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal’s first appearance on the same team since the failed 2004 NBA title run. biggest feud in the NBA. But the magic of the All-Star game took care of that and we got a great performance from the duo that was incredibly entertaining.
As he got older, Shaq played just 11 minutes, but still 17 points, five boards and three assists. His former Lakers opponent, Kobe Bryant, scored 27 points and made four steals. The duo led the Western Conference to a blowout 146-119 and they both earned All-Star Game MVP honors. It is also very important to mention the incredible way O’Neal entered the game, with the famous dance crew Jabbawockeez, which is a key part of the iconic 2009 All-Star Game.
2) 2003 All Star Game
2003 turned out to be one of the most significant years in NBA history. Not only was it the year that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh, among others, entered the NBA via the draft, it was also Michael Jordan’s last season in the NBA. Air Jordan played for the Washington Wizards and, of course, made the starting grid for the All-Star Game by taking Vince Carter’s offer for a spot a few days before the game itself. While his latest All-Star Game is iconic in its own right, what happened in the game itself made it even more iconic.
Jordan did his best to give the Eastern Conference victory. He scored 20 points and tried to win the game with about five seconds left but missed a fadeaway jumper. He did score with about two minutes left to give the East an eight-point lead, but it was quickly cleared by the West, in part as Kobe Bryant hit some important free throws towards the end of regulation. Neither of them ended up getting the MVP, as that honor was taken by Kevin Garnett, but the symbolic transfer of the torch from Jordan to Bryant will always remain the best thing NBA fans took out of this 2003 All-Star Game.
1) All-Star Game 2020
All of these games are iconic and there could have been many more on this list, but speaking of the irreplaceable Kobe Bryant, the 2020 All-Star Game is just another level. This match had a different format, inspired in part by the status of Bryant, who passed away a few weeks before the match. Instead of a straight-up game with normal scores, the first three quarters were scored separately. The fourth quarter was played without a shot clock, with the goal being 24 points more than the cumulative score of the leading team.
The format was a bit complicated, but the fans got the hang of it right away. Team Giannis won the first quarter, Team LeBron took revenge and the third quarter ended in a draw. The target score was set at 157 and while Team Giannis had a better starting position, the fourth quarter turned into a real, competitive game from some of the best players the NBA had to offer.
Team LeBron, led by All-Star Game MVP Kawhi Leonard, played a decisive defense and won by two points, 157-155. It was a game that lived up to both the flashy and competitive nature of the late great Kobe Bryant, and it will forever remain one of the most iconic All-Star Games in NBA history.