Chapter 28: 1988 All-star game MVP
The 38th annual NBA all-star game was hosted by Chicago. And for Michael Jordan, playing in front of his hometown fans was the perfect stage for the Air Jordan show to take off.
Michael Jordan started off the 1988 all-star week with a bang by defending his slam dunk championship against Dominique Wilkins AKA “The Human Highlight Reel”. The two high flying dunkers put on a spectacular show and gave the Chicago fans perhaps the greatest slam dunk contest in history, with Jordan winning it on his last dunk, the now famous foul line double clutch dunk. However, winning the slam dunk contest wasn’t enough for Jordan, he had something else to prove in front of his Chicago fans.
Michael Jordan’s all-star game performances up to this point have been less than spectacular. In 1985 during his rookie season, despite being voted to the starting lineup, Jordan played a total of 22 minutes and scored only 7 points. There were rumors that the other all-stars, led by Isiah Thomas, decided to “freeze” Jordan out of the game by not passing him the ball. Isiah denied the rumors and Jordan made no comments about it, but the controversy would survive.
Jordan was voted into the 86 all-star game but could not participate due to a broken foot. The 87 all-star game in Seattle was another disappointment where Jordan only managed 11 points on 5-12 shooting in 28 minutes. The fans did not see the Air Jordan they had all paid to see, and so in 1988, Michael Jordan would put on a show in Chicago stadium.
The Eastern all-stars had a starting lineup of Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Isiah Thomas, Moses Malone, and Dominique Wilkins. They faced off against the Western all-stars Magic Johnson, Karl Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, Alex English, and Fat Lever. The Western all-stars had a very balanced attack, with 8 players scoring 10 or more points. The Eastern all-stars however, relied on their 2 slam dunk finalists for the bulk of their scoring. Jordan and Wilkins scored 40 and 29 respectively, combining for half of the total points for their team.
Here are the Jordan highlights from the game.
You can watch the entire game here.
Jordan scored 16 points in the final 5:51 of the game to seal the victory for the East. He also recorded 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals, and 4 blocks, a typical all around performance for Jordan. The Eastern all-stars won the game with a final score of 138-133. More importantly, Jordan’s 40 point performance was the second highest all-star scoring total of all time behind Wilt Chamberlain, and it earned Jordan his first all-star game MVP trophy.
Although winning the MVP trophy was a great accomplishment, Jordan had other more important matters on his mind. His goal for the season was to improve on last year’s performance in the playoffs, and the Bulls had a long way to go before that would happen.