ATLANTA (AP) – On a night for Michael Jordan, all he was missing was the game-winning shot.
Jordan said goodbye to the All-Star game with his eyes teary and his game a bit blemished as the West beat the East 155-145 in double overtime yesterday night.
A last-minute starter after Vince Carter relinquished his spot, Jordan had a poor start, a bad finish and then a good one. After clanging the potential winning shot off the iron at the end of regulation, Jordan made a high-arching 15-footer with 4.8 seconds left in overtime to give the East a two-point lead.
Kobe Bryant tied it, however, by making two foul shots with 1 second left, and Jordan’s final shot of the first overtime was blocked just before the buzzer.
MVP Kevin Garnett scored nine of his 37 points in the second overtime as Jordan watched the final five minutes from the bench. It was the first double-overtime game in All-Star history.
Although Jordan missed his first seven shots, had four others rejected and blew a dunk, he did score 20 points to move past Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for most total points in All-Star history. But he needed to take 27 shots from the field – making only nine – in order to do it.
His most memorable moment came late in the first overtime, while the most poignant one came at halftime. Jordan joined singer Mariah Carey at center court, took the microphone after an extended ovation and bid a public farewell as Yao Ming, Kobe Bryant and basketball’s future stood and watched.
“I leave the game in good hands,” Jordan said. “So many great stars rising and playing the game. I have passed on the things that Dr. J and some of the great players – Magic Johnson, Larry Bird – have passed on to me, I pass on to these All-Stars here, as well as to the rest of the players in the NBA.
“I want to thank you all for your support. Now I can go home and feel at peace with the game of basketball.”
The entire evening played out as though it was a Jordan tribute.
Allen Iverson arrived at the arena wearing a retro Bulls No. 23 jersey, Yao donned a pair of powder blue low-tops, a tribute to Jordan’s alma mater, North Carolina, which clashed garishly with his bright red Western Conference uniform.
“I’m somewhat embarrassed because I got a feeling it’s going to turn into the Michael Jordan show, which I don’t want it to be,” he said before the game.
In the end, of course, it was.
Jordan’s go-ahead shot late in the first overtime was a thing of beauty, a perfectly rotating, high-floating jumper that looked true from the moment it left his fingertips.
After hitting the shot, he drifted into a row of photographers and pumped his fist, getting a chest bump from Iverson as he went to the bench.
Things weren’t over, though.
Referee Ted Bernhardt called Jermaine O’Neal for a foul when he blocked Bryant out of bounds as Bryant threw up a 3-point attempt from in front of the West’s bench.
“Leave it to the refs to ruin it,” East coach Isiah Thomas said in disgust.
Bryant made the first, missed the second and then had Jordan come over and say something to him. He buried the final shot to tie the game, 138-138.