With the 2016 NBA All-Star game slated for Valentine’s Day, now’s a time to reflect back on some of the best performances ever put on during the All-Star game. Despite its exhibition game-like nature, some of the league’s all-time great talents didn’t let that distract them from lighting up the scoreboard.
Please note this list is in chronological order.
1961: Oscar Robertson
The Big O is one of the greatest playmakers the league has ever seen. Throughout history, playmakers generally have the best performances in All-Star games. Robertson was no different. As a rookie, Robertson nearly put up a triple-double, a feat that has only been accomplished three times in ASG history. He missed it by a single rebound, finishing with nine boards, 14 assists, and 23 points.
1962: Wilt Chamberlain
Wilt Chamberlain was a monster during his time in the league. Widely considered the most physically dominating player of all-time. The 1961-62 season was the year Wilt averaged 50.4 points per game, and he didn’t even take off for the All-Star game. 1962’s ASG featured many of the league’s best all-time players: Oscar Robertson, Wilt Chamberlain, Bob Petit, and Jerry West just to name a few. Wilt’s performance dwarfs all of theirs.
He put up a staggering 42 points, which remains the most ever, and hauled in 24 rebounds. What’s even more amazing is that he didn’t receive MVP; it was given to Bob Petit who had 25 points and 27 rebounds.
1977: Julius Erving
The Doctor is a player who was the first of his kind. Michael Jordan is seen as the most athletic NBA player ever, but Julius Erving is a close second — perhaps even 1b. He would soar through the air, palming the ball like a grapefruit as his afro blew in the breeze. He brought his afro with him to the 1977 ASG in Milwaukee and didn’t disappoint. The game itself was a nail-biter, and Erving’s East team lost 125-124. Erving put on a remarkable performance — 30 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, four steals, and one block — en route to an MVP award.
1984: Magic Johnson
If you like great point guard play, 1984’s ASG featured none other than Magic Johnson. Johnson’s game overshadowed the great Isiah Thomas, who threw up 21 points, 15 assists, and four steals. Magic, much like Robertson in 1961, missed a triple-double by one rebound but managed to dish out 22 dimes, and score 15 points. His extraordinary effort was, somehow, not enough to capture MVP; The aforementioned Isiah Thomas took home that honor.
1988: Michael Jordan
Despite Jordan being a fourth-year player, he had already established himself as a superstar in the NBA. The ASG that year was played in Chicago Stadium and Jordan put on one of the best all-around performances in history. Jordan dropped 40 points, which was expected because of his fantastic scoring ability. The DPOY for the 1987-88 season tallied four steals and four blocks in the contest, going along with eight rebounds and three assists.
1992: Magic Johnson
The 1992 All-Star game was stolen by Magic Johnson. He went off in Orlando, going for 25 points, nine assists, five rebounds, and two steals, but that wasn’t the most special part of the day. Before earning the MVP, Magic had retired the year prior after announcing he contracted HIV. Despite the shock that was bestowed upon the NBA, Johnson was selected as an All-Star and put on a fantastic performance. He battled with rivals Isiah Thomas and Michael Jordan and culminated it all with a long three-pointer at the end of the game. This game remains one of the most emotional.
2003: Kevin Garnett
While in his prime, the future Hall of Famer led his West team to a victory in double OT. The Big Ticket collected 35 points, nine rebounds, and three assists. On defense, KG picked off five passes and blocked one shot. Garnett edged out some of the all-time greats with his performance that night and captured his only ASG MVP award.
2011: LeBron James
In all of the All-Star games LeBron has played in, 2011 remains his best solely on the fact he recorded a triple-double. He lost out to Kobe Bryant (37p/14r) as the MVP, and it left a lot of viewers scratching their heads because James had just put on a magical performance. Ultimately, Kobe edged out LeBron for MVP because of the homecourt advantage of the STAPLES Center. James netted 29 points, grabbed 12 boards and recorded ten assists in a five-point loss.
2014: Kyrie Irving
Despite remarkable performances from Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin, Cavalier guard Kyrie Irving was able to dance and dish his way to an MVP award. The 21-year-old dazzled with ball handling skills and scored 31 points while dishing out 14 assists in a victory for the Eastern Conference.
2015: Russell Westbrook
Coming off the bench for the Western Conference, Westbrook came in and displayed why he’s one of the league’s most entertaining players. Russ tallied 41 points, one behind Wilt Chamberlain’s record, and added five assists and three steals on his way to an MVP award.
*All data courtesy of Basketball-Reference*