With Kobe Bryant set to make his final All-Star appearance on Sunday in Toronto, it feels like the right time to take a look back at Michael Jordan’s All-Star exit, one that a much-younger Kobe, in hindsight, sort of ruined.
As it goes, the game was tied, Jordan’s East All-Stars had the ball at the end of overtime, and Jordan, of course, got the final shot. Jordan, age 39, of course, made that shot with five seconds left.
Let a trip back into the SI Vault with Jack McCallum (Going out in Style, Feb. 2003) give us the play-by-play as Jordan, then with the Wizards, took the floor for the final time.
On defense it is not Jordan but Jerry Stackhouse, his talented teammate, who usually draws the tougher big guard or small forward--probably the clearest indication of the king's advanced age. But to the majority of the basketball-watching public, Jordan is still Jordan, and to criticize his game is egregious nitpicking. Consider that at the All-Star Game in Atlanta on Sunday, he could hardly have gotten off to a rockier start. With his Eastern Conference teammates feeding him like a gang of aproned cafeteria workers, he looked nervous and missed his first seven shots. Jordan's final All-Star appearance, it seemed, was going to be his worst.
But then he found his stride, and sure enough, there he was with the ball in his hands and the game on the line. With the score tied and only five seconds left in overtime, Shawn Marion was all over Jordan, but he shouldered the 6'7" defender away ever so slightly, rocked back and hit a perfectly rotated, rainbow fallaway jumper from the right corner that should have given the East the game and MJ the MVP trophy.
Then, Kobe stepped in.
A questionable foul call at the other end, however, enabled Kobe Bryant, decked out in a pair of Air Jordans, to send the game into a second overtime. The West eventually won 155--145. "The script was written," said Jason Kidd, Jordan's East teammate. And, as usual, Michael played his part.
Jordan’s final line? 20 points on 9–27 shooting. Bryant? 22 points on 8–17. Kevin Garnett, for the record, won MVP that day with 37 points and nine rebounds. Relive the final sequence below, starting with Jordan’s shot.
With Kobe in midst of a strong run of play, it’s anyone’s guess how the 37-year-old Lakers legend will ride off.
If his career to date has been any indication, he just might follow in MJ‘s footsteps.
- Jeremy Woo