**Note** This is Example 3/5 of our “coiski 101: 4 Steps on Writing an Effective Personal Narrative” lesson.
Once fans get passed the ridiculousness of the voting process, the majority of the sports world sits down and tries to enjoy the NBA All-Star weekend. Starting on Friday night, the festivities have included everything from a H-O-R-S-E competition to the staples of the 3-point and Slam Dunk contests. There are gripes every year about snubs and how bad the Dunk Contest is, but it is usually still appointment television for most. I mean, who could forget Vince Carter’s display at the 2000 Dunk contest or last year’s duel between Aaron Gordon and Zach Lavine?
As high as we get on the excitement of All-Star Saturday, we are usually over it by the time the actual game comes along on Sunday. Many people criticize the game for not being competitive and players going half speed. But for me, that display of talent on the court at one time should be appreciated. There are so many magical moments that the All-Star Game has brought us: there was 1992, when Magic Johnson won the MVP award, post-retirement; there was the ridiculous game in 2001, when Allen Iverson and Stephon Marbury brought the East back from down 21 in the last nine minutes to win; there was the 2009 All-Star Game that saw former (low key current) rivals, Shaq and Kobe, winning co-MVP honors; and then there was San Antonio – the All-Star game in 1996 that brought us the illest uniforms of any All-Star game in any sport at any time in the history of sports. The NBA first experimented with doing away with the traditional blue and white uniforms in 1995 in Phoenix. Those were cool. The 1996 joints, though? Iconic. Not only were the uniforms dope, but it’s the game when Michael Jordan introduced us to the original Columbia Jordan 11. When he stepped on the court in those, it was pure pandemonium for me, and the rest of the world for that matter.
The 1996 All Star game was dope for many reasons, but Michael Jordan brought about my favorite All-Star memory almost a decade later. As I spoke about previously, Michael Jordan is my favorite player of all time. Outside of Rockets fans, no one even thinks about his first retirement. We all consider his last shot to be the one in Utah that probably still haunts Byron Russell to this day. We were all good with that ending; there was no reason for him to come back. Yet, he did. In 2001, he made his debut as a Washington Wizard.
I was a freshman in college at Temple with no television in my cramped dorm room. One of my teammates had a TV, and decided to let us all enjoy the riches of his 17-inch screen. So nearly all of my teammates and I gathered around it in a random ducked off “study room” to watch Michael Jordan play his first game after retirement. That season came and went. Though he shot poorly and averaged his lowest points per game since the 1984-85 season, Jordan was still voted into the 2003 All-Star game. Cool. Nothing really to see outside of him missing a dunk, and us Jordan heads wondering why in the world he would taint his legacy by coming back to the NBA.
My heart hurt for Jordan. I needed him to be good. Otherwise, how could I justify wearing #23 and win arguments with these young, up-and-coming punks who thought somebody could possibly be better. The 2002-2003 season was actually worse. He shot slightly better, but his points hit an all-time low. Plus, the Jordan 18 is among my least favorite. I mean, it was all going south in my mind. Then, the All-Star Game came. Vince Carter did his fellow Tarheel a solid favor by allowing him to start, knowing that it would be Jordan’s last. I pulled up a seat – front and center – ready to witness SOMETHING. I knew Jordan. I knew something great had to happen. His whole career had been a series of, “Yo, did you see that?” moments. I wasn’t disappointed.
The game was one of the best All-Star games ever. It was back and forth the entire time. Competitive juices were flowing more than usual for an exhibition game. We saw Allen Iverson, Jason Kidd, and Vince Carter all as teammates of Jordan. By this time, we had campus apartments, so my roommates, other teammates, and I watched every second intensely. We talked trash to each other as if we were playing.
Without going into the detail of every single possession, the game went into overtime. Again, we knew something had to be up Jordan’s sleeve. He looked old all night, but this was Michael Jeffrey Jordan. No way in the world he was going to go out like this. Sure enough, it happened. With all of us on the edge of our seats, Jordan got the ball on the right wing with the game tied at 136. With his legs creeping ever so closely to the washed line of demarcation, Jordan did his best to get around Shawn Marion to no avail. Giving up on the idea of getting to the cup, Jordan – and I – rose up for a fadeaway on the baseline. Nothing but the bottom. I jumped and screamed like I hit the shot. Hell, I even did the famous celebration Jordan did after hitting the shot against a crumbling Craig Ehlo and the Cavs back in the day. We all knew it was going happen. This was Jordan, man.
There was still 4.8 seconds left, though. As the West went for the three to win, an overzealous Jermaine O’Neal fouled a fading, off-balance Kobe Bryant. The look on Coach Isaiah Tomas, Michael Jordan, and my face was the exact same. It was a shared, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING??” This was pre-Mamba. There is no way he’s making that shot (at least that what we thought at the time). Long story short, Kobe sank three free throws, and there was another picture perfect ending…ruined. I hated Jermaine O’neal from that day forward.
This game was so memorable for a few reasons. If you have two free hours, you should do yourself a favor and watch the game in its entirety on YouTube. Not only did I get to see the greatness that was Michael Jordan flash before my eyes one last time, I also witnessed the proverbial passing of a torch. It was only right that Kobe hit the game-winning free throws after Jordan hits what we thought was the game-winning shot. I saw that. I witnessed that. I’m no Kobe fan, but that night, I was able to witness his greatness despite the greatest being present. Not to mention, four months later, the 2003 draft brought us another transcendent star whom some of you may or may not know – LeBron James. The 2003 All-Star game will forever be etched in my memory as the night greatness was passed along.
**Note** Read the five steps we implemented in creating this article here.