The All-Star game was an answer to a prayer. NBA President Maurice Pordoloff, NBA Publicity Director Haskell Cohen, and the owner of the Celtics Walter Brown were brainstorming because they had a massive problem of perception. People were turned off by basketball all of a sudden. The country had just endured a point shaving scandal and it made the sporting public nauseous.
The scandal implicated seven schools including the NCAA and NIT champion, The City College of New York. 33 players were ensnared. It ruined all of the schools that were involved except for Kentucky who had to cancel a season but then continued on as usual. No such luck for NYU, Long Island University, Manhattan College, Bradley University, CCNY, and University of Toledo. Their basketball programs were devastated. Fans who had once enjoyed basketball looked upon the players as bribe takers, cheaters and in bed with the mob. Fans could not trust the sport to be fair.
Players from the seven affected schools admitted to taking bribes for three years. They fixed 86 games in 17 states. This made the public weary and skeptical about anyone associated with basketball. Hence, the meeting between Pordoloff, Cohen and Brown.
An exhibition game was the agreed upon solution, suggested by Cohen. He used MLB’s All-Star game as a model. As often happens when you have a group of three, one person is the one who shakes his head no. That was the NBA President. But the Celtics owner Walter Brown liked it. He was so on board he fronted the bill for the entire event.
The first All-Star Game was won by the East 111-94 on March 2, 1951. The first MVP of the All-Star Game was Ed Macauley. Easy Ed, as he was fondly called, is the answer to a trivia question. Who was Bill Russell traded for? Ed MacCauley is the answer. After six seasons in Boston, Macauley wanted to be traded because St. Louis was his home and his son was sick. But years before the Russell trade, Macauley, who attended Saint Louis University, was a territorial draft pick. In those days, teams could draft players in their local area and Macauley was drafted by the short lived St. Louis Bombers who traded Maculey to Boston the year they folded, 1950. The power forward/center played the bulk of his career in Boston. He was a 7-time All-Star, three time All-NBA, a NBA champion inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1960, the youngest player ever inducted, at the age of 32. His number is retired by the Celtics. In a decade, he scored over 11,000 points.
Give Haskell Cohen credit. The first ever All-Star Game was a success. NBA attendance was about 3,000 fans but All-Star Game number one drew 10,000. They had a hit on their hands. Who wouldn’t want to see the league’s best players?
The next year the All-Star Game was in the Boston Garden as well. The Garden has hosted the All-Star game 4 times. Teams never to host: Sacramento, Memphis, Oklahoma City, Portland, Brooklyn. The next three years (2019-21) Charlotte, Chicago and Indianapolis will be the hosts.
Rarely have the games been competitive. The players don’t play hard, want to avoid injury, and consider it part of their vacation. Despite Team Steph and Team LeBron rules, no one is going to take a charge, chase shooters, impede dunks, grab, bang, cheap shot. It’s an exhibition game. The problem is that forty years ago there wasn’t much competition so it didn’t matter if the product could not live up to the star billing. Today viewers have more choices and aren’t going to watch professionals acting like they are at the Rec League.
The Biggest Rout. The Magic Johnson HIV game in 1992. The East won by 40 but that’s irrelevant. David Stern loosened the rules so retired Magic Johnson could play in the game. When he retired from the NBA with HIV, it was a lonely moment in September. One of the most beloved players in NBA history was never given an appropriate goodbye. There were a group of players headed by Karl Malone who publicly said they wouldn’t play with HIV asymptomatic Magic. They were afraid he was contagious. Magic put on a show for his haters and his fans and hit a three as time dwindled down, furthering his point that he could still play. He was not sick. He was human. He was not to be ferared. Magic was truly inspirational on February 9, 1992. 25 points. 9 assists. Only Jordan played more minutes than Magic.
The Closest Game. The Kobe passes the Ball game, 2001. Allen Iverson was the MVP as he pulled the East out of a huge hole. They trailed by 21 with nine minutes left in the game and AI scored 15 points, Stephon Marbury drilled a couple of threes, including the game winner. Kobe, who was the leading scorer for the West, had a chance at a last second shot but felt his inner LeBron doing things and passed it to Tim Duncan who missed.
The Overtime Game All the Starters But one Are In the Hall of Fame. All- Star 1993. It was Michael Jordan’s last All-Star before his first retirement. Isiah Thomas’ last All-Star game of his career. Shaq’s first All-Star game. Other Hall of Fame starters were John Stockton, Clyde Drexler, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, David Robinson, Scottie Pippen. Stockton and Malone would win co-MVP’s in Utah.