If only that idiot Jermaine O’Neal hadn’t fouled Kobe… Michael Jordan would have ended his All-Star Game history on a game winner. Or Kobe would have made a buzzer beater!
On February 17, 2003, Michael Jordan celebrated his 40th birthday. Sneakers on his feet, long shorts, carnivorous smile, the GOAT had still not hung up his mythical number 23. Even better, 3 days before, he was playing his last All-Star Game in the middle of a pack of hungry young wolves, all ready to take over. Among them, his spiritual son, the one who will become an icon in his turn a few years later, Kobe Bryant.
On February 14, 2003, the Atlanta crowd decided to honor the Chicago legend. The Hawks fans were not averse to this. Vince Carter had even given him his place in the major five for the occasion. Cheered, applauded, greeted by all, he had even shed a tear when Mariah Carey had paid tribute to him with the title « Hero » (see below).
Kobe Bryant was still a young and fiery superstar, always ready to challenge his idol on the floor (see video below). He was voted for by the fans with more than a million votes, and finished on top of the polls. He was the new face of the league. The little Prince. The worthy successor to His Majesty. So, on the field, the Black Mamba decided to tease Mike. The latter had gently reminded him that he had six rings, three more (at the time) than his young rival.04
The Bryant-Jordan duel was a game within a game during this epic All-Star Game. The former finished with 22 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists. The latter had scored 20 points despite a difficult first half (6 points at 3/12). Their mano à mano had given some spice to the game, one of the most mythical in the history of the ASG, the first one broadcasted live on TNT (for a record audience rate which has still not been beaten since).
Overtime. Game winner. The perfect ending for Michael Jordan, except…
10 seconds to play. 120 to go. Michael Jordan has all the shot tickets since one minute. His teammates want (a little too much) to force history. But Shawn Marion doesn’t give up on the legend. He doesn’t want to be the Bryon Russell of the day. Matrix defends hard. He’s solid and Mike keeps failing. On this last shot, once again, the Suns winger takes over. The shot is good but doesn’t go in. Overtime.
Jason Kidd, T-Mac and Allen Inverson start playing again and hold the line during the overtime. The Sixer just scored 8 points. 136 all. 10 seconds to play. It’s up to Jojo to finish. Jason Kidd sets up his offense and serves Jordan who has the whole right side to work with. Marion is once again facing him. He is perfect, in his supports, does not let go. But, this time, Michael Jordan takes over and shoots an incredible shot. A perfect fadeaway, fluid. His trademark. The ball rises high, very high, and ends up caressing the net. The crowd is ecstatic. The East wins on the score of 138-136.
A perfect ending to the story of His Airness with this All-Star Game that saw him shine so much since 1984. But no. No, because there was 3 seconds left to play and Jermaine O’Neal was unfortunately not the smartest player in the world… Difficult reset, the defense cuts the pass lines, it is active, Jason Kidd deflects Garnett’s pass, but Kobe ends up getting the ball back. One second left, he goes up to try an impossible shot and… Jermaine O’Neal comes up to him. Whistle blows. Chilling. No, it’s not!
Yes, it is. Three shots to go for the #8. For the win. The first one is successful. The 2nd one hits the circle, bounces and comes out. Jordan blows and comes to slip a few words in the ear of the young Laker. We love it. Kobe smiles but stays focused. It goes in. Tie. He goes directly to Mike to drop a word to him. Jordan turns back to his bench with a smile on his face. Great moment.
2003 All-Star Game rosters
Allen Iverson (Philadelphie 76ers)
Michael Jordan (Washington Wizards)
Ben Wallace (Detroit Pistons)
Jermaine O’Neal (Indiana Pacers)
Tracy McGrady (Orlando Magic)
Jason Kidd (New Jersey Nets)
Vince Carter (Toronto Raptors)
Paul Pierce (Boston Celtics)
Brad Miller (Indiana Pacers)
Jamal Mashburn (New Orleans Hornets)
Antoine Walker (Boston Celtics)
Zydrunas Ilgauskas (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Steve Francis (Houston Rockets)
Kobe Bryant (L.A. Lakers)
Yao Ming (Houston Rockets)
Tim Duncan (San Antonio Spurs)
Kevin Garnett (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Shaquille O’Neal (L.A. Lakers)
Shawn Marion (Phoenix Suns)
Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks)
Steve Nash (Dallas Mavericks)
Gary Payton (Seattle Sonics)
Stephon Marbury (Phoenix Suns)
Peja Stojakovic (Sacramento Kings) ** (remplaçait Chris Webber)
Chris Webber (Sacramento Kings) *
Est: Isiah Thomas (Pacers)
Ouest: Rick Adelman (Kings)
Michael Jordan’s tears