THIS WEEKEND, the NBA All-Star festivities return to Chicago after more than three decades. The 2020 edition is already shaping up to be one of the most interesting in recent memory with Dwight Howard entering the slam dunk contest and young stars Trae Young and Luka Doncic facing off in the All-Star Game. The thing is, Chicago has a lot to live up to after hosting one of the best All-Star Weekends ever back in 1988. Let's look back on our favorite moments from the last time the mid-season spectacle was in the Windy City.
Michael Jordan’s 40-point MVP performance
There was a time when the All-Star Game was actually competitive and resembled a real basketball game, and the 1988 game was a prime example of that. It was the first (and only) time Michael Jordan played the All-Star Game on his home floor and he did not want to lose.
Jordan went off for 40 points, which was only two points behind Wilt Chamberlain’s record then. In a game where players actually looked like they were defending each other, 40 was definitely a massive achievement. The GOAT rounded out his MVP-winning game with eight rebounds, four steals, four blocks, and three assists.
Larry Bird wins his third three-point crown in a row
Larry Bird didn’t even take off his warm-up jacket for this one. Back when the maximum score you could get in the three-point contest was 30 (no moneyball rack yet), Bird put up a sizzling 23 in the second round to secure a face off with main threat Dale Ellis. At one point, it seemed like Ellis would pull off an upset with Bird only netting seven points after three racks.
But Bird had other ideas and went berserk in the last two racks to beat Ellis’ score by two and complete his three-peat. The confident way Bird pointed up while the final moneyball was still in the air will always be part of All-Star Weekend lore.
The GOAT vs the Human Highlight Reel
Vince Carter, Zach LaVine, and Aaron Gordon may have upped the ante when it comes to dunk creativity, but the Dominique Wilkins-Michael Jordan face-off still ranks as one of the best dunk showdowns of all-time. Watching the game’s best player go up against the era's best slam dunk artist was an absolute treat and something that we probably won’t ever experience again.
Wilkins was a beast, throwing down 360s and self-oops that threatened to break the rim each and every time. Jordan, on the other hand, was the epitome of mid-air grace, giving us some of the most majestic slow-mo dunk footage we’ve ever seen. We still feel that Wilkins was robbed of a few points during his last dunk, but he should have known, as we all did, that it would have been next to impossible to beat Jordan in Chicago of all places.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s record-breaking game
While Jordan was busy doing everything he could to defeat the West and claim the All-Star MVP trophy, another legend quietly had a historic night of his own.
In what was supposed to be Kareem’s final All-Star Game — he came in as a replacement for an injured Magic Johnson the following year — the No. 1 NBA scorer of all-time also nabbed the overall scoring title for All-Star Games, a record he held for 15 years until Jordan eventually broke it in 2003.
This was also Abdul-Jabbar’s 18th All-Star appearance and he currently still holds the distinction of having played in the most All-Star Games ever at 19.
The rise of the Air Jordan 3
Michael Jordan’s free throw line dunk wearing the “White Cement” Jordan 3’s is probably the single most iconic image from the ’88 All-Star event. This was not the first time His Airness wore the Jordan 3s, but it certainly cemented (pun intended) its status as one of the best sneakers of all time.
It was the first Jordan shoe to be designed by Tinker Hatfield and also the first shoe to use the Jumpman logo. The “Black Cement” version is equally legendary, appearing on Jordan’s feet during his 40-point MVP performance that same weekend — the only time he ever wore that colorway in the NBA.