The NBA All-Star Game is one of the most exciting moments of a season because we get to see the best players in the world compete in front of a packed house. After all, when it comes to talent, the All-Stars are the crème de la crème in the NBA. That’s why the All-Star Weekend is arguably the highlight of the regular season. But when you look back at all of the legendary All-Stars in NBA history, one thing sticks in your mind and that is the Legendary 1988 NBA All-Star.
This was the final moment of a legendary All-Star weekend that saw the GOAT, Michael Jordan, take the lead and cement himself as the greatest individual talent we’ve ever seen. Along with Jordan, several other superstar players played at the elite level during the 1988 All-Star Game to compete with the Chicago Bulls star on both sides of the court. It’s time to revisit arguably the greatest All-Star game in NBA history by first introducing the cherished All-Star lineups.
Eastern Conference starters
Isiah Thomas, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Dominique Wilkins, Moses Malone
In what is probably the most competitive backcourt in NBA history, the superstars Isiah Thomas (7th appearance) and Michael Jordan (4th appearance) form the Eastern Guards. It’s funny to imagine Isiah and Jordan sharing a backcourt, especially since they despise each other a lot. Thomas and the Pistons would also defeat Jordan and the Bulls in the second round of the playoffs that same season, quite fittingly.
Leading up, Larry Bird and Dominique Wilkins complete a fan-favorite duo. Bird was selected for his 9th straight All-Star game to represent the Boston Celtics and finished the season with a 29.9 PPG average. Dominique competed in a great all-time dunk contest against Michael Jordan before the All-Star Game and finished second. Dominique also made his 3rd All-Star selection.
Finally, superstar center Moses Malone was selected for his 11th All-Star appearance as the Washington Bullets representative. The big man lined up his usual numbers ahead of his selection and would finish the season averaging 20.3 PPG and 11.2 RPG. The head coach for the east would be Mike Fratello of the Atlanta Hawks.
Western Conference starters
Magic Johnson, Fat Lever, Alex English, Karl Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon
For the Western Conference, a few stalwarts would make another appearance on the All-Star starting lineup. Legendary point guard Magic Johnson would make his 8th pick for the Los Angeles Lakers, with Denver Nuggets star Fat Lever starting alongside him. The 6ft 3in guard made his first All-Star selection and what an All-Star game for him considering the excitement of the game making his debut.
Another Denver nugget, Alex English, would join Karl Malone in the run-up. English would have his 7th All-Star appearance and Malone would make his 1st All-Star selection as a member of the Utah Jazz at age 24. West would have a few debut All-Stars for its side, although The Mailman would end the season with average veteran counts (27.7 PPG and 12.0 RPG).
To rival Moses Malone, the West’s starting center is legendary Rockets star Hakeem (Akeem) Olajuwon. The powerful Nigerian-born big man would have his 4th All-Star pick to represent the Houston Rockets and use his low post talents to complete an incredibly talented starting lineup. The head coach for the West would be legendary Los Angeles Lakers coach Pat Riley.
Eastern Conference Bench
Danny Ainge, Doc Rivers, Maurice Cheeks, Charles Barkley, Kevin McHale, Patrick Ewing, Brad Daugherty
The Eastern Conference All-Stars had a stacked bench led by a selection of elite two-way guards and some big superstar men. There are two other Boston Celtics stars in the East, Danny Ainge and Kevin McHale. Along with Larry Bird, Aine and McHale form a trio of Celtics in the All-Star Game. Ainge would make his first All-Star team while McHale would make his 4th.
Doc Rivers, a defender with playing ability, joined Brad Daugherty as other first-time All-Stars. Rivers was the starting point guard for the Hawks while Daugherty was the only player on the team representing the Cleveland Cavaliers. Maurice Cheeks made his 4th All-Star selection as a member of the 76ers as a playmaking guard adept at getting steals.
Of course, big superstars Charles Barkley (2nd appearance) and Patrick Ewing (2nd appearance) would also reinforce the depth chart in the suit. With a solid lineup of defensive players and efficient scorers, the Eastern Conference bench was brimming with talent.
Western conference bench
Alvin Robertson, Clyde Drexler, James Worthy, Mark Aguirre, Xavier McDaniel, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Donaldson
Much like the Eastern Conference All-Stars with 3 Boston Celtics, the West had 3 Los Angeles Lakers with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy coming off the bench. Kareem would make his 18th and penultimate All-Star appearance while Worthy would make his 3rd selection. There would also be two Dallas Mavericks representatives, James Donaldson and Mark Aguirre.
Donaldson would make his first All-Star selection as an injury replacement for the Portland Trail Blazers’ Steve Johnson. Aguirre would have his 3rd All-Star appearance and he certainly deserved it by ending the season with a 25.1 PPG average. Xavier McDaniel, at 6ft 7in, would also make his first All-Star appearance for the Seattle Supersonics.
Arguably the best defenseman in the league, Alvin Robertson represented the San Antonio Spurs for his 3rd All-Star selection. The guard would go on to have two straight seasons and lead the league in steals and earned his place. Finally, superstar Clyde Drexler, the man believed to be Michael Jordan’s main shooting guard rival, completed an incredible bench with his 2nd All-Star appearance.
It was a hard-fought game from the start. The first quarter ended 32-27 in favor of the Western Conference, but the East fought back and took a 60-54 lead by the end of the half. The East extended their lead and went into the 4th quarter with a 10-point lead. It took some clutch performances from Michael Jordan to hold off against a rampant Western Conference team that would go on to score 44 points in the quarter. In the end, the East would win the game 138-133 in a spectacular contest.
As the contest winner and Most Spectacular Outstanding Player, Michael Jordan captured the All-Star Game MVP after averaging 40 points, eight rebounds, four steals and four blocks while dominating the game in the clutch. The legendary Chicago Bulls guard lost 16 of his points in the last 5:30 of the game as the East pulled away from the West. His 40 points was two points shy of the (then) All-Star Game record for most points held by Wilt Chamberlain (42 points). The record has since been broken by Anthony Davis (52 points).
There’s no doubt that Michael Jordan stole the show by battling some incredible performances by some western stars. One of them came in the game from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who scored 10 points in 14 minutes, earning him 247 career All-Star Game points and the game’s No. 1 all-time title. Of course, Kareem’s record has since been broken by Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. James is the current top scorer in All-Star Game history with 413 points.
Credit should also go to New York Knicks’ Patrick Ewing, who made his All-Star debut for the East in that game, scoring nine points from the bench in 16 minutes. While Ewing and several other stars were making their All-Star Game debuts, Sixers guard Maurice Cheeks was playing in his fourth and final All-Star Game.
As great as all the stars’ performances were during the 1988 All-Star Game, Jordan stole the show. In fact, he stole all weekend by adding his All-Star Game MVP to his second straight dunk contest award after defeating Dominique Wilkins. Larry Bird would also not only be a starter on the Eastern Conference team that won the All-Star Game, but he would also capture his third 3-point competitive title.
We haven’t seen a more exciting All-Star game since 1988 because we saw the cream of the crop dominating at the highest level. Not only would Jordan take on Dominique Wilkins in an all-time great dunk contest, but he would take on the All-Star game with might and main. We’ve also seen the excitement of welcoming 7 first-time All-Stars who have made statements to the world despite simply living in Michael Jordan’s world.
Michael Jordan: 40 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals, 4 blocks, 73.9% FG
Dominique Wilkins: 29 points, 5 rebounds, 0 assists, 0 steals, 1 block, 54.5% FG
Isiah Thomas: 8 points, 2 rebounds, 15 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks, 40.0% FG
Magic Johnson: 17 points, 6 rebounds, 19 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, 26.7% FG
Karl Malone: 22 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 0 blocks, 47.4% FG
Hakeem Olajuwon: 21 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, 61.5% FG
All Star Game MVP: Michael Jordan