Magic moment was best ever at All-Star game - East Valley Tribune: Sports

Magic moment was best ever at All-Star game

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Posted: Wednesday, February 11, 2009 9:09 pm | Updated: 2:13 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

There are so many great memories from NBA All-Star games, it's hard to choose just one favorite moment.

Consider:

-- Spud Webb winning the 1986 Slam Dunk Contest.

-- Tom Chambers scoring 34 points and winning the MVP in 1987 during the highest-scoring All-Star game ever.

-- Larry Bird pointing his index finger in the air before the last ball swished through the net to win the 3-Point Contest in 1988 (his third straight title).

-- Michael Jordan beating Dominique Wilkins in the 1988 Dunk Contest.

-- Vince Carter in the 2000 Dunk Contest.

-- Jordan's dunk from the free throw line in 1986.

-- Marvin Gaye's stirring rendition of the National Anthem at the 1983 game.

-- Dwight Howard donning the Superman cape in last year's Dunk Contest.

-- Jordan's final All-Star Game in 2003.

-- And, of course, Cedric Ceballos' blindfolded slam that won the Dunk Contest in '92.

But the greatest moment, to me, came in 1992 -- the year Magic Johnson returned to the game after announcing he had contracted the HIV virus.

It was much more than the MVP performance, the 25 points or the 9 assists that Magic put up in 29 minutes.

It was the emotion that filled Orlando Arena.

The outpouring of affection from fellow players.

And the effect his return had on society as a whole.

Magic had shocked the world at a press conference on Nov. 7, 1991, when he announced that he had contracted HIV and was retiring immediately. The news reverberated far beyond the sports world. It showed that anyone -- even an NBA legend -- could contract the disease, that it wasn't something that only affected drug users and the gay community.

Despite not playing one minute in the 1991-92 season, the hugely popular Johnson was voted in by fans as a starter for the All-Star Game. Prior to the game, the media and some players, most notably Karl Malone of the Utah Jazz, expressed concerns about the health risks of playing against Magic -- showing just how little we knew about HIV at the time.

But when Magic jogged onto the court for introductions at the All-Star game on Feb. 9, 1992 in Orlando, Fla., the ovation from fans brought goosebumps. When longtime rival and close friend Isiah Thomas then came over and embraced Johnson, the emotional level went up even higher.

Magic looked liked he'd never left the game during the West's 153-113 victory, dishing no-look passes and draining 3-pointers while flashing his trademark smile. Toward the end, there was a perfect pass to the Suns' Dan Majerle for a layup. Then, as players stepped aside in reverence, Magic went one-on-one against Isiah, and then against Michael Jordan in the closing minutes, before capping it all with a turnaround 3-pointer.

In the end, though, this Magic moment was about much more than basketball. It was about what an NBA legend meant to the game, and the lessons society as a whole would take from him.

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