The 1996 All-Star Game likely felt like deja vu for Michael Jordan. Before his first retirement, his most recent All-Star appearance came in 1993. He missed the All-Star game in 1994 and 1995 due to retirement. Once he returned in 1996, he met a familiar face in Shaquille O’Neal. The two players were starters together in 1993, so it was fitting the two played again once Jordan returned to All-Star status.
The Eastern Conference featured a starting lineup that has four of the five players in the starting lineup in the Hall of Fame. Jordan, Shaq, and Penny Hardaway shined as the Eastern Conference came up victorious. By the end of the night, there was a controversy regarding the game's MVP. Here is a recap of the 1996 All-Star Game.
Point Guard - Penny Hardaway
All-Star Game Stats: 18 Points, 3 Rebounds, 7 Assists, 2 Steals, 0 Blocks, 3 Turnovers
Hardaway might have been lost in the shadows from the game that Michael Jordan and Shaq gave the crowd, but he had an exceptional showing at the All-Star Game. Hardaway was third on the team in points but led everyone with seven assists. He also shot 75% from the field by making six of his eight shots, as well as shooting four of four at the free-throw line.
Hardaway and Shaq as well as Jordan and Scottie Pippen gave the starting lineup a pair of teammates from the Magic and Bulls respectively. What had the extra flair was that the Magic eliminated the Bulls in the 1995 playoffs. Both Hardaway and Shaq were coming off an appearance from the 1995 NBA Finals. Going into their next season, the hot shooting hand never cooled off.
Shooting Guard - Michael Jordan
All-Star Game Stats: 20 Points, 4 Rebounds, 1 Assist, 1 Steal, 0 Blocks, 0 Turnovers
There is a valid argument that Jordan did not deserve to win the All-Star Game MVP. However, there are a couple of numbers that stick out when evaluating the decision. For starters, Jordan played just 22 minutes and made 8 of 11 shots to score 20 points. His 72.7% shooting in 20 minutes is some highly efficient shooting for essentially playing half the game.
Next, Jordan finished the game with zero turnovers. Shaq finished with one turnover, but Jordan plays a different position and has the ball in his hands more. Either way, the debate between Shaq and Jordan for this award certainly has merit.
Small Forward - Scottie Pippen
All-Star Game Stats: 8 Points, 8 Rebounds, 5 Assists, 3 Steals, 0 Blocks, 6 Turnovers
As mentioned, Pippen joined Jordan as the pair of teammates started the game. The combination of Jordan and Pippen was a household name during these days. The two had led the Bulls to championships in 1991, 1992, and 1993. Then, Pippen earned even more respect when Jordan retired and missed time the next two years. During this time, Pippen proved that he was a top-10 player in the league.
Pippen gave the team a great all-around game. He finished with eight points, eight rebounds, including six on the defensive end, as well as five assists and three steals. Pippen’s defense has always been considered a strong suit of his and it followed him into the All-Star Game in 25 minutes of action.
Power Forward - Grant Hill
All-Star Game Stats: 14 Points, 3 Rebounds, 2 Assists, 1 Steal, 0 Blocks, 2 Turnovers
Hill was having a sensational season with the Detroit Pistons. During this time, Hill was healthy and stronger than ever. He finished the season with 20.2 points and 9.8 rebounds. In just his second season, he was looking like the first true franchise player since Isiah Thomas retired.
In the All-Star Game, Hill provided 14 points on 60% shooting in 26 minutes of action. Hill was one of five players that scored in double figures. His all-around game helped the Eastern Conference pull out the victory.
Center - Shaquille O’Neal
All-Star Game Stats: 25 Points, 10 Rebounds, 1 Assist, 1 Steal, 2 Blocks, 1 Turnover
In 28 minutes of action, Shaq made 10 of 16 field goals to lead all scorers with 25 points. Despite the double-double, Shaq missed out on All-Star Game MVP. Looking back, a potential reason could have been the fact that it was the first time Jordan played in the All-Star Game since he had retired in 1993. Jordan’s stat line was not terrible either; however, Shaq produced the game’s only double-double.
As for Shaq, it was the second time that both Jordan and he played together. Jordan and Shaq started the 1993 All-Star Game. The two might have been the best guard/center combo in NBA history if either one ever joined each other’s, respective teams.
Terrell Brandon, Reggie Miller, Juwan Howard, Glen Rice, Vin Baker, Alonzo Mourning, Patrick Ewing
The starters stole most of the spotlight. The only player off the bench to play at least 20 minutes of action was Terrell Brandon, who was the team’s fifth and final double-digit scorer with 11 points. Reggie Miller had a poor outside shooting night. Out of his eight points, none came from behind the arc. Miller finished the night shooting 0 for 4 from three-point range.
Patrick Ewing had a slow night, playing just 12 minutes of action, but he still managed to record eight points and three steals. Behind him was Glen Rice, who made all four free-throw attempts to pad his even points. Six points came from Vin Baker, but he could hardly play as he fouled early, recording four fouls for the game. Both Alonzo Mourning and Juwan Howard recorded one field goal, combining to shoot 2 of 11 from the field.
Jordan’s Return Ends In A Win
As previously mentioned, this game was the first time that Jordan played in the All-Star Game since his first retirement. The East defeated the West 129-118. Jordan earned MVP for shooting close to 73% from the field despite a double-double from Shaq. The Western Conference gave a tough battle though, including outsourcing the East 38-27 in the final quarter.
For the West, Jason Kidd led all players with 10 assists in his first appearance. The leaders for the West in scoring were David Robinson and Gary Payton, both scoring 18 points. Both players did this coming off the bench. Payton, Robinson, Mitch Richmond, and Sean Elliott played equally or more minutes than all five starters.
The starters for the West included Shawn Kemp, Clyde Drexler, Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Kidd. Barkley, Olajuwon, and Kidd combined for 19 points. Kemp scored the most among the starters with 13 points. Elliott added 13 off the bench, while Karl Malone tied Drexler’s production with 11 points. In the end, Jordan won MVP despite the controversy surrounding the decision. Many fans believed that the award belonged to Shaq.