The stars were aligned perhaps like never before for the 1988 All-Star game in Chicago. The slam dunk contest that had been purloined from the old American Basketball Association and repatriated in the NBA in 1984 reached its zenith with the Michael Jordan/Dominique Wilkins dunk off that remains debated to this day. It was the only time the game's acknowledged two greatest dunkers appeared against one another in an exhibition contest. The shooting competition produced the drama of the all-time king, Larry Bird, going for his third consecutive crown and then walking off signaling victory on his last shot with the ball still in the air. There was the entertainment peak with Jay Leno from Tonight Show fame headlining at the French baroque style Chicago Theatre, known originally as the Wonder Theatre of the World, State Street lit up like from the days of Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Frank Sinatra. And then the game featuring a lineup of star talent rarely matched, Jordan, Bird, Wilkins, Ewing, Barkley, McHale, Thomas and Moses Malone for the East and Abdul-Jabbar, Johnson, Karl Malone, Aguirre, Olajuwon, Worthy and Drexler for the West. Then Jordan went out in the precursor to the famed flu game and led his team to victory in challenging Wilt Chamberlain's all-time scoring records. There may never have been an All-Star weekend like it before or since. The NBA All-Star festival returns to Chicago this weekend for the first time since 1988 and this is how they remembered the roar and the culmination of the roarin' 80s.
The NBA featured a variety of contests before the All-Star Saturday Night of the dunk and three-point contests became entrenched. There was a one-on-one tournament in the early 1970s that culminated with a TV finals around the time of the All-Star game. There were a few old timers games in the late 1950s and early 1960s. When the NBA brought back the dunk contest in 1984 (the three-point shootout began in 1986), it combined that with a Legends game featuring the likes of Oscar Robertson, Bob Cousy, Roger Brown, Connie Hawkins, Bob Pettit, Pete Maravich and Earl Monroe. The game lasted from 1984 through 1993, replaced afterward by the Rising Stars game of the top rookies and sophomores. The originally titled Rookie Challenge came with offshoots like the Skills Challenge and variations with old timers and WNBA players. That came about after several in the legends game suffered serious injuries in Orlando in 1992. It was played one more time in 1993 and discontinued. The 1988 game in Chicago was the only went that went into overtime, calling for many more post games massages and anti-inflammatories after Doug Collins made a three to send the game into overtime.
"It was the only three-point shot I ever hit in my career. I came down late and pulled up and hit a three. Sent the game into sudden death overtime and Dave Cowens scored to beat us in overtime. I played a few more and then played one game when George Gervin stepped on my foot and I fell on my wrist and I said that's it for me. Those games were wild. Rick Barry would make them crazy and then Bobby Jones would go after him on defense and try to lock him down. He'd get so mad Bobby wouldn't let him score. It was hilarious."
"Bobby Jones would be playing the type of tough defense he plays and I was saying, âBobby, what the heck are you doing?' Everybody would get mad at me because like when I played pickleball, they'd say it's social. Social my butt. I'm playing to win. I can join a social club if I want to be social. They'd always get mad at me being Rick Barry. Yeah, that's who I am. I'm in that game and I never went to the free throw line. What am I known for no one else is? The underhand free throw. It would have been cool, a chance to go to the line and it's an exhibition and you're supposed to show people what you can do. I was getting fouled, but no calls. If I go out to do anything, I'm going out to play the best I can and try to win. Why would I go out there and make a mockery of the game? Like they do now. Fans were coming to see a game, so I was going to compete. I could still get up and down the court then. It's about having pride. No matter what you do in life, have pride in what you are doing and always give your best effort."
"You know Rick would get his shots (Collins and Barry led in scoring with 12 points each). Once you quit playing, training, you lose that edge of being in shape, so it gets really easy to pull something. All I remember was afterwards I had to go back to the hotel and I had to sit in the bathtub for a long time because my legs were so sore."
Until 1982, individual teams organized and managed the All-Star game, another of the many innovations under the leadership of David Stern when the NBA took complete control and built the weekend to the international event, trade show and basically a world's fair of sports. Planning for the game now takes more than a year after the league moved in that first time in 1982. The game mostly had been in western cities the few years before Chicago, like Los Angeles, Denver, Seattle and Dallas, where the weather was mild. Plus the arenas were relatively modern compared to the West Madison Street Chicago Stadium, opened in 1929. Its Madhouse on Madison sobriquet originally came from the enthusiasm for hockey. It was the premier exhibition hall in the Midwest which also hosted multiple national political conventions. It was known for the deafening noise given the compact structure, and thus there were issues for accommodating the growing international media interest. As a result, the NBA had to erect an outdoor tent outside the Game 3 1/2 media/player entrance for media. At the time, NBA executive Brian McIntyre said, 'The guy promised me he could keep it heated to around 70 degrees. Just my luck, it`ll be 20 below next weekend.'' It was. Temperatures were unusually low for Chicago that weekend, around zero with wind chill temperatures 20 to 25 below. Plus, the NBA had some unique-to-Chicago issues elsewhere that also made the weekend a challenge, though which also cemented the NBA's reputation for being able to put on a big show better than anyone.
"That was the only time I've ever seen reporters writing with gloves and stocking caps. We didn't have much staff then, so some people were cutting out paper stars and decorations to put on drapes of the ballroom for the dinner. I knew the Stadium as well as my house (as a Chicago native and former Bulls media director) and went to the site to try to carve out space for a media interview room. There wasn't room. We had to go outside. David said you can't have a tent outside in Chicago in February. I said we'll get heaters. We didn't have much choice. We had that tent and had propane. Then that Friday the fire marshall comes and says we have to change to kerosene because the propane tanks could blow up half the area. It was so icy in the parking lot tent if a delivery truck skidded it would be a major catastrophe. Typing with gloves on. Not our best. The Hyatt is our headquarters and that was the last year everyone, players, media, sponsors, owners all stayed in the same hotel. The game got so big after that. It was great that way. We'd have a big party Friday night and even the players showed up. So some aide to an alderman calls someone asking for tickets and we turn him down. Happened to call someone who didn't know Chicago. So the alderman makes us tear down the facade as a fire hazard in the hotel (McIntyre had told media before the game "When you walk in you'll feel like you're stepping into Grant Park.") because he didn't get the tickets. Just asked the wrong person. But it was a great weekend. Jay Leno was so magnificent we invited him back the next year. We had all those player labor meetings, but there was no disruption. People still talk about that Saturday. It was outstanding. And those players probably don't get enough credit for making the All-Star weekend what it is the way they competed that weekend. It just went on to become such a big event from a mom and pop beginning."
"We all stayed at the Hyatt (Regency on Wacker) and nobody could get down the elevators before the game with everybody trying to leave the same time. We had the whole hotel. We actually were worried about missing the game. I remember when we first started to scout Chicago for the game, it turned out to be the game Michael was coming back from his broken foot with all the time restrictions. Rick Welts and I came out and it was the weirdest thing. That was such a loud arena and it was like everyone was holding their breath for two and a half hours. I'm not sure if that also was the year with the union."
"It was one of those games that moved the NBA along to the status it is now, when Saturday really was all stars Saturday. The game was fun, competitive, still for East-West bragging rights, which meant something. It also was an opportunity for the small market players to get a chance to be seen internationally. That's how we probably got fans in that period when the NBA wasn't marketed as much as it was. It also seemed like the advent of the great marketing plan David Stern was responsible for. I still have the picture from the Chicago Theatre, the All-Stars introduced at that event. I have a picture with Magic and Isiah and talking to Michael, all standing there together waiting to be introduced. I was a (union) officer with Junior Bridgman and Bob Lanier. Charlie Grantham (union director), those meetings that weekend with David and Russ. There were some tough negotiations (and threats of perhaps a boycott). But we were able to keep things in place and I feel that's one of the reasons the league is as strong as it is today, what we went through, the players and the league then to get where we are today."
The three-point contest only began two years earlier, but it became an immediate sensation when Bird, the aw shucks showman, famously asked upon arriving who was finishing second for the inaugural shootout in 1986. Though it was the defunct ABA that was the incubator for the current All-Star contests. The ABA debuted the three-point shot that the NBA long resisted until it dominates the game today. The ABA introduced the dunk contest, though more significantly celebrated the dunk in an era when it was viewed in the established NBA as something of an insult. The ABA with the likes of Julius Erving, David Thompson and Darnell Hillman made the dunk an art form and invited the trash talking that continues as NBA long form discussion these days. The NBA long demeaned the ABA's red-white-and-blue basketball, which became the so called "money ball" in the three-point shootout. The NBA was reluctant for a long time until it was obvious the events were the people's choices.
"I was in that first one (runner-up). I was with Milwaukee then. Larry walks into locker room while we're waiting to take photos and looks around and starts pointing people out, âLeon Wood, nah you might shoot yourself out in warmups.' âWho coming in second.' It was over at that point (even though Hodges had the best overall one round earlier in the competition). Being in it in Chicago was cool, a chance to be with family and friends. I was still with the Bucks (traded the next month to the Suns and then later in 1988 to the Bulls). Growing up in Chicago the Bulls meant so much to you. In Milwaukee, Nellie was a promoter of the point forward, so I'd stretch the defense at guard. Nellie was the first to be big into the three-point shot. So he promoted me going into the competition. It was big for me because it solidified myself as one of the top shooters in the league finishing second to Bird that first year. The one in Chicago I felt like I had a good chance to win and I think I got too excited about being in Chicago and it did me in. I was terrible (finishing last). It was a learning experience, but it was such a big basketball weekend in Chicago. I probably should have treated it like I did all the others (winning three straight), like a road trip, stay in a hotel. The funny part was a few years later (1990) when Michael got in I'm thinking, âI'm not letting that brother outshoot me.' We used to shoot two people on the court at the same time, so I'm shooting with Michael. The first round they put me and Michael against one another. I'm on one end and I'm hearing the crowd going crazy. I'm shooting the ball well, but I'm wondering if they are cheering for him. What's he doing? I shot my last ball and looked up and it wasn't close (20-5 for Hodges). I'm not going down to him shooting."
"It was my first All-Star game, so that was special. I was saying that playing with Michael it could be the highest scoring guard combo in All-Star history. What'd Michael get, 40? The shooting contest was such a new thing for us with the racks. The best shooters are specialists, but it tells you what a great shooter Larry was because he took such a variety of shots and kept winning. I wasn't in the '86 one, but Larry was extremely confident and such a great shooter it wouldn't surprise me that (he'd trash talk about who's second). Didn't even take his warmups off (in 1988) and walks off with his finger raised to beat Dale Ellis."
"That was my first time of the four times I did it. The biggest thing I remember we all were sitting in a room getting ready for the call to come out there. So everyone is in there but Larry, who was (defending champion). The door opens and he sticks his head in and says, âExcuse me fellas, this must be the room for second place' and closes the door. And, of course, he won. It didn't go that well for me. I really didn't practice for it and I found out after doing it that it helps because it's a different kind of shooting off the racks. Brad (Daugherty) was on the East team, so we were hanging out enjoying the city. It was a good time for us, too, because we'd just been in the playoffs for the first time and making that move to be a contender in the East."
"One guy played for me and was my franchise and was carrying me every night and the other guy is the guy we are trying to beat and is beating every team to death. Who do I think won the dunk contest? I remember preparing an envelope for each of the guys when they checked in with one page of the offense we would run. I'm sure they were saying this guy is nuts. But I remember we had a practice on Saturday, just shooting around, four groups on both ends. So that night Bird wins the three-point competition and as he's walking off the floor he turns to me and says, âMust have been the shooting drills this morning.'"
Michael Jordan defeated Dominique Wilkins in one of the greatest NBA slam-dunk competitions of all time.
The slam dunk contest was being anticipated perhaps even more than the All-Star game, which in the 1980s reached its zenith with an alluring combination of artistry and competition. The expectations about the dunk contest were elevating for months with the face-off between the two premier dunkers and athletes of the era in Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins. Jordan was the one legged creative and imaginative dunker and Wilkins was the two-legged fierce power dunker. They were the games best athletes with Julius Erving in retirement the previous season. Wilkins' Atlanta Hawks and Jordan's Bulls both would win 50 games that season and were battling to be the next team to break through and take a run at Boston and Detroit. Wilkins had won the 1985 contest with Jordan second. Jordan was injured for 1986, and Jordan won in 1987 with Wilkins second. Now it was the rubber match, the face off for the crown, the two greatest athletes of the era taking flight in Chicago for the ultimate dunk off. Terrific athletes like Otis Smith, Jerome Kersey, Clyde Drexler and 1986 champion Spud Webb were in the contest, but hardly anyone noticed. Wilkins won the first round over Jordan with a tomahawk 360 as Jordan featured an over the shoulder reverse. Jordan won the semifinals over Wilkins with a Dr. J.-inspired free throw line jump over Wilkins' angry windmill. Then the finals and three dunks. Wilkins went first off the backboard to himself. Jordan got a 47 that rained boos on his second for a rocker step driving dunk while Wilkins got a 50 again for a baseline windmill slam. These, by the way, were without props and resembled the dunks done in games. Wilkins needed 48 to win. Wilkins went for the kill shot with a baseline two-hand windmill that drewâ¦just a 45. Even Jordan later said that had to be a 49 or 50. Jordan went back to the fullcourt runway free throw line dunk for 50 and the winner andâ¦the controversy. It would be Jordan's last dunk contest. Wilkins sat out a year and won in 1990 for his final one. It still was the gestation time for the contest and perhaps it never reaches the heights it did without Jordan and Wilkins.
"That's the best dunk contest there ever was. It changed the landscape because you had two of the best dunkers of all time, Michael Jordan and Dominique. The league was just trying to turn the corner with Magic, Bird, Michael and that game is in Chicago. There was no way anyone else was going to finish first; the rest of us were competing for second. I say it was the best ever because they (eventually) got into the props and trying to do different things. And those guys just dunked. They didn't play to the crowd as much as they are doing now. It was one of the high points of the weekend. Our guys at that time understood where the league was at and where it was trying to go, to the Olympics, the Dream Team and when the league asked, everyone said no problem. Back in those days, some of the best dunk contests were in warmups. You'd see Dominique on one end and Micheal on the other with their teams and they'd be watching one another and then dunking in the layup line. You tried a little bit of everything. I remember I left my jersey in the hotel room, so I had to do the contest in my shooting shirt. What more could you ask. The two best dunkers of the time in the finals and you could score at home. But no way Michael was losing."
"It was a highly electric atmosphere that set the stage for both of us and the All-Star game itself was outstanding. It was a great weekend. The level of competition, the guys were legendary players who became Hall of Famers. Chicago had a great team at the time. It was a perfect stage. It was Kareem's last All-Star game, Bird and everyone else for second. The best players competed throughout; that's what made it so special. OK, find out who the best is. It wasn't a time for taking off. You looked forward to competing against your rival. I didn't realize until later we, me and Michael, each averaged over 30 a game against each other. I thought I won (the dunk contest). Actually, I saved my best dunk for last. But no matter thinking back. The fans got their money's worth. That was the main thing. The dunks we did were not only spontaneous, but it was stuff we were doing in games. That was the purity of the contests then we loved. One of my favorites was when I went off the glass and went high and caught it in the second round. I'd never even tried that one before. I just decided as the contest went on. How you measure greatness is when you compete against the greatest. That was a big part of what those dunk contests were about."
"It was close, very close. I thought Michael was just a little better and I voted for Michael. Dominique was great, too. As we all know, everyone has an opinion and you can't please everyone. That last dunk by Michael I thought was incredible. It was a spectacular tribute to Dr. J."
"I remember Nique got screwed. For Nique to get a 45 on that last dunk he did was an injustice. Watch that dunk. No way it's a 45. Michael missed the first one and then does the next. If Nique gets a 48 the contest is over. They give him 45. I said before Nique was going they were in Chicago and that Michael was going to get a super high score. I'd like to see what Gale Sayers gave Dominique. I guarantee Sayers gave Dominique a low score. I was shocked about 45. That was embarrassing. The quality of the dunks was absolutely outstanding. All those dunks were 50s, 49s. Nique dunked with that power and ferocity in regular games. Michael did his fancy kind of cool stuff. They were two of the most superior dunkers in the history of the game and it was a great, great show. But if it were not in Chicago, there was no way Nique wouldn't have won."
The game, Feb. 7, 1988, was the culmination of the weekend many say gave the NBA its momentum to grow the All-Star events into one of the principal dates on the sports calendar. It would be a coronation for Jordan, but also a warning of sorts to the rest of basketball that he was coming, and he was coming fast and perhaps rising above everything. Isiah Thomas and Magic Johnson, old friends from prep days and charismatic with the ball, knew how to direct a game with both style and substance. Thomas had 15 assists mostly to Jordan and Johnson had 19 assists. Jordan nearly reached Wilt Chamberlain's record scoring game with Wilkins just behind him with 29 points. Points didn't come easy. Defense was not optional, but stopping that kind of offensive talent wasn't possible. The East prevailed 138-133 in perhaps the greatest show in All-Star game history given the individual performances and unwillingness to surrender to pantomime.
"For me it was a chance to come back and live out your childhood dream in terms of family, friends, high school. The Stadium for us growing up was magical. It was something as a kid you never thought would happen. Coming back home to be a part of that was beyond anything you could have dreamed of. I'm not sure people to this day understand the significance of the Stadium to us, Chicago east side kids. That was our beacon of light. That was all that was there. Remember after the (1968) riots everything burned down; there was nothing there. It was just starting again. On one side of the Stadium you had skid row. Then boarded up on the north. South the projects and east where we were. There was nothing there, but Reinsdorf and those guys never left while everyone's moving to the suburbs. The only thing we had we could go to and point to was the Chicago Bulls and the Stadium. Standing outside waiting for them to throw the popcorn away, picking it out of the trash can. When teams came to play games you had a chance to see people of relevance. The Black Panther headquarters where we got free breakfast was at Madison and Western. So going back that weekend for my mom, my brothers, nieces and nephews, friends, it was like, âDo you believe this?' Mark Aguirre got married that weekend on Saturday. He had planned it for that weekend for us to be there. I feel like that was one of the best shows ever for an All-Star game. Being back in Chicago we wanted to make it one. The defensive resistance actually made you take your skill to a higher level. Like jazz with everyone coming to the same tune and beat. âOK, you got this, OK I got that.' You were putting the 24 best players on the floor. You didn't have an opportunity any other time in the regular season to compete like that. There was a feeling of great pride for the conference. You came into that game saying, 'OK, Let me see your stuff. Let me see how good you are.' With Magic and I being around the Jacksons, the great entertainers they were making it their responsibility to not only perform but engage the audience, Magic and I always tried to bring that to the game. From being around Michael Jackson I took his thing about, âCan you make the person in the 20th row feel that emotion and excitement and my joy.' So we always tried to give you five minutes doing something you might not have seen before in a game. Like the backboard passes I had to Jordan. He and I connected on some full court passes. Magic was making his with Worthy, Drexler. It was a great weekend for all the Chicago guys, myself, Mark, Doc Rivers, Mo Cheeks. Every year wherever you'd go to play back then you wanted to be competitive but also feature the home guy. Seattle the year before we did with Tom Chambers. In Chicago, you wanted Jordan to be great and also have a great game. But no one was letting him score. That's not the way the game was."
"Michael had 40 points and he kept asking me as he went down the court, âHow many more do I need to tie Chamberlain?' I kept telling him two, but he never got the 42."
"I didn't play a lot, maybe three or four minutes. I told Mike Fratello there were a lot better players than I was and he should play them. Probably the biggest thing for me after having grown up in the Robert Taylor Homes was being introduced in the Chicago Theatre as an All-Star. I'd never even been in the Chicago Theatre let alone the Chicago Stadium. I remember telling Mike to just put me in for a few minutes and let people see me get on the court. Just the fact of being a Chicagoan and growing up where I did and watching Sloan and Boerwinkle and Bob Love and Chet Walker play and to have the opportunity to play in Chicago in an All-Star game on the same floor was special. It's something I never even dreamed."
"The game had so many different meanings for me, my first All-Star game; my teammate Alex English with me made it easier. It meant everything to get selected. I thought maybe I should have made one game before and didn't. I was always somewhat overlooked, odd man out. Denver also not being a high profile team like New York or LA or Chicago. So to be able to play in Chicago probably was more more important than playing in a game in Salt Lake City because Chicago was the town and everybody talked basketball in that town. I'm not a big city guy, but being in that atmosphere in an All-Star game kind of put me on the map. Chicago knows how to throw a party and the All-Star game is a big party for the NBA. And the way the Chicago Bulls were then playing and their star player and the stars were coming out. I think from that point on the momentum carried for the NBA to this day. Before the game we're in the locker room and (coach) Pat Riley says, âOK Fat, you held Michael to 13 points in Denver. You can guard him tonight.' I said, âAhhh, I don't usually.' It was Chicago and you knew Michael was going to put on a show. Then we come in at halftime (trailing 60-54) and Pat asks who wants to guard Michael. No one put up their hand. So Magic comes up with a great idea. He says whoever is close to him when the ball comes in is guarding him. No one wanted to get too close to Michael."
"It was my home town. My whole family was there and my brothers still are arguing about Wilkins and the dunk contest. I remember the Hyatt was wild. They gave me the room of one of the owners by mistake and I had a heck of a suite for that weekend. Jay Leno was great. My first year in Dallas they have Willie Nelson for the entertainment and I think half the players walked out halfway through. Pat was always complaining he had too many forwards on the West team. I remember Alex English was mad one year because Pat hardly played him. We didn't have the guards like the East. They had all that quickness. Pat wasn't really comfortable if he didn't have Magic and James and Kareem on the floor. He'd cut down the minutes for a lot of the other guys. I went to five straight All-Star games as an assistant until I took over (the Lakers) as coach. Then there weren't any. That was Kareem's last game and Pat had to get him back in to set the scoring record. Bill Bertka is saying on the bench, âPat you have to get him back in.' But he's trying to win the game and now there was no margin for error. Pat put him back in and he pretty much had to make the shot and get the record or miss it and the game's going to be over. Typical Kareem style he goes to the block, turns baseline so they couldn't block it and nailed it. I don't ever remember Pat talking about that stuff. Berka was a good right hand man for that. He'd whisper in his ear if there was something going on. It was so amazing going to those games. I didn't know we also got a check. I remember the first year we were All-Star coaches and Bertka was cussing on the bench. Magic missed a couple of jumpers in the Dallas game and he says, âThose are your dollars he's cranking off the rim. The winner's check is bigger than the loser's.' I said, âAll this and I get a check, too?'"
"About the slam dunk I always tell my dear friend Michael, âYou were fabulous but Dominique was better.' He always says screw you. The two of them were so spectacular in that game. People don't realize how good Dominique was and how great the matches between them were and then playing together; they were the two most exciting players in the league. They understood they were going to put on a show you were not going to see. That's why I laugh at that load management. Try telling those guys. That East team was a better team than the Dream Team. Michael had strep throat the day of the game. He comes to us before the game and (Bulls trainer) Mark Pfeil says he's really sick. We put in some plays, but I don't think they ran them once. Mike (Fratello), I love him and we're trying to win the game. So Barkley ends up with 15 minutes and four shots. Mike didn't mean it. One of my jobs for All-Star as top assistant is, âMike, here's how we're dividing the minutes.' Mo Cheeks comes to us and says we don't have to put him in, but you have Michael and Dominique, Bird, Isiah, Moses, McHale, guys from championship teams. I'm saying Barkley needs to go in. He doesn't get in. So that Tuesday after All-Star our first game is Philadelphia. Barkley goes for 47, 15 rebounds, 26 free throws. On the bench, Mike is asking what we should do. I said we should have played him Sunday. Jordan was really sick. Had like 104 temperature. He couldn't talk before the game. So of course he goes off for 40 points."
3 Die 3 Blow Bolt Former Factory OEM/ODM Products
"Jordan was ticked off at halftime (six-point East lead). He didn't want to lose in his own building. He went off because he felt some guys were goofing around. He looked at Mike (Fratello) and said. 'Put somebody else in because I'm not losing in this building (Jordan had 16 points in the last 5:30).'"
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.
Nail Making Machine, Nut Tapping Machine, Coil Nail Machine - Union Fasteners,https://www.unisenfastener.com/