The All-Star weekend of 2003 featured one of the better slam dunk contests ever. Save for a tame effort by Richard Jefferson — in which he managed the rare feat of doing an elbow dunk that didn’t involve use of an elbow — it was a high caliber affair that culminated in a showdown between 2001 champion Desmond Mason and 2002 champion Jason Richardson, both pushing the other to produce their A-games, crescendoing beautifully with J-Rich’s final clincher:
The All-Star game itself was not half bad, either. The first and thus far only All-Star game to go to double overtime, it saw 300 total points scored, an in-his-prime Allen Iverson doing what an in-his-prime Allen Iverson did at All-Star games, and an in-his-prime Kevin Garnett dominate proceedings on his way to the MVP trophy. Shaq faced off with Brad Miller for the first significant time since Shaq tried to kill him, an amusing in-game report spoke of Antoine Walker and Paul Pierce’s outrages at playing so few minutes, Yao Ming looked woefully out of place on his way to two points and two rebounds, and the close finish saw the game’s very best turn up the intensity and play at something resembling their very hardest. It was good fun to watch, right down to the Zydrunas Ilgauskas experience. Even the 52 turnovers were aesthetically pleasing.
However, this was all secondary. The weekend wasn’t about Iverson, nor Garnett, nor Richardson, nor the surprise appearance by Kool and the Gang. This whole night was about a player who, on talent alone, barely deserved to be there. (And no, that person wasn’t Yao.)