Although a bit more subtle, Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game featured a huge comeback in the second half propelling the East to a victory over a high octane West squad. The run was led by game MVP Kyrie Irving who energized the rally to a tune of 31 points and 14 assists. With a dazzling array of moves, Irving put on his own show as the subplot to the featured showcase of LeBron James versus Kevin Durant. With his stellar performance, it brought back memories of another lightning-fast guard who sliced up defenders as he knifed through to the basket. In 2001 there was another comeback by the East All-Stars, who had the “Answer” to the equation as well.
In one of the greatest comebacks in NBA All-Star Game history, Allen Iverson led the Eastern Conference back from a 21-point deficit in the game’s final nine minutes to claim a 111-110 victory. It actually marked the first All-Star Game to be decided by a single point since 1977. A.I. scored 15 of his 25 points during that stretch against a West lineup that featured a land of giants that included Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan, David Robinson, Kevin Garnett, Chris Webber, and Rasheed Wallace to name a few.
"Everybody was saying we couldn't win because of our size. It's not about size. It's about the size of your heart," Iverson said. "Coming into the fourth quarter, we were all sitting on the sidelines saying 'Why not us? Why can't we be the ones to come back from a 19-point deficit (after three quarters) in an All-Star Game?"
The East trailed 95-74 in the final frame after the West dominated the first 39 minutes. It appeared the game was indeed a mismatch that would back up the claims that the Western Conference was far superior to the East who did not stand a chance at winning this matchup.
But the East continued to peck away at the lead. Iverson walked over to the scorer's table during a timeout and asked if anyone wanted to wager whether the East would make a comeback. Next Jerry Stackhouse and Vince Carter knocked down treys followed by a three-point play by Iverson to cut the West's lead to 100-96. A.I. would go on to score the East's next two points from the line, and Tracy McGrady tied it on a putback with 3:10 left. He would then score the East’s next five points, as the crowd began the chant of “M-V-P! M-V-P!”
Not to be outdone, the chants and the moment woke up the Mamba, aka Kobe Bryant who knocked down the next two jumpers in the game to give the West a 108-105 advantage. But Knicks guard Stephon Marbury would get into the act, draining a three-pointer with 53-seconds remaining. But Kobe answered right back with a jumper, only to another response from Marbury who hit another clutch three leaving 28 seconds on the clock. The West set up for a final shot after inbounding with 10.9 seconds left. Bryant got the ball, but with most people in the building expecting him to shoot, Bryant faked Marbury off his feet and then threw the ball to Duncan for a short shot that missed just before the buzzer.
With all of the excitement generated by this weekend’s game, including a record-setting scoring performance by the West All-Stars who scored 89 points in the first half, we as fans all long for games such as the spectacle of 2001. Allen Iverson gave us all we wanted, let’s hope that one day this new generation will duplicate the recipe.