The 2003 All-Star Game is one of the most iconic games in the history of All-Star Weekend. This game featured a ton of Hall of Famers and also the final appearance for the great Michael Jordan as an All-Star. With Jordan appearing in his 14th All-Star Game at 39 years old, the Washington Wizards star made the team as an honor to his legacy and the popularity he brought to the game. The Wizards shooting guard was not voted in as a starter, but Vince Carter humbly gave up his starting spot for the GOAT in his final All-Star Game.
Averaging 20.0 PPG, 6.1 RPG, and 3.8 APG by the end of the season; Jordan was still capable of playing like one of the best players in the game and certainly deserved his All-Star berth. Quite fittingly, Michael Jordan also had his chance to usurp Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in most total points scored in All-Star Game history. The multifaceted Michael Jordan narrative was the fuel behind the 2003 All-Star Game, but there were more exciting stories to follow as well.
A total of 11 superstars were also competing in the game in their primes: Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Garnett, Yao Ming, and Steve Francis to represent the Western Conference. For the East, the likes of Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady, Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, and Paul Pierce were also competing in their primes. 10 out of these 11 players ended up competing at superstar levels for years to come after that and were the faces of the league en route to future Hall of Fame inductions.
The one-on-one showdown between Jordan and Bryant was yet another exciting narrative because Jordan (39) was the mentor and idol to a young Kobe Bryant (24) who was full of athleticism and natural skill. Other than this exciting shooting guard showdown, it was interesting to see how the Western team can field their 5 superstar bigs in different lineups (Garnett, Duncan, Yao, O’Neal, and Dirk). In the end, the Western Conference All-Stars found a way to win the game in one of the most exciting showcases of NBA talent ever.
2003 Eastern All-Star Roster
Starters: Allen Iverson, Michael Jordan, Tracy McGrady, Jermaine O’Neal, Ben Wallace
Bench: Vince Carter, Jason Kidd, Paul Pierce, Jamal Mashburn, Antoine Walker, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Brad Miller
Western All-Star Roster
Starters: Steve Francis, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Yao Ming
Bench: Stephon Marbury, Steve Nash, Gary Payton, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, Peja Stojakovic (replaced Chris Webber), Shaquille O’Neal
As mentioned, Michael Jordan starting for the East stole the headlines before the game after Vince Carter gave up his spot. But it was not Jordan who stole the show in the end, rather it was the MVP of the league one season later, Kevin Garnett. With The Big Ticket leading the way, this All-Star Game had records broken before it ended in 2OT. Minnesota Timberwolves superstar, Kevin Garnett, led the way with 37 points as the Western Conference All-Stars found a way to escape with a 10-point victory in an ultra-competitive game. A superstar known for carrying the Timberwolves during the 2000s, Garnett scored the first 7 points in the 2OT to fuel his team’s victory.
The Western Conference All-Stars broke the records in 2003 for most defensive rebounds (46), most points by a team (155), and also the most combined points with the East with 300 total points. But notable player performances include Michael Jordan’s 20 points after a slow start, Kobe Bryant’s one-on-one battles, and Garnett’s dominance. Jordan started his final All-Star appearance slowly, missing his first 7 shots. That was a sign that the 3-time All-Star Game MVP was not going to win his 4th MVP, but a game-tying shot to send the game into 2OT was reminiscent of a young MJ.
Kobe Bryant relished his battles with Jordan, scoring 22 points to Jordan’s 20, and also grabbing 7 rebounds and dishing 6 assists. There were some historic moments between Jordan and Bryant, as they went back and forth with Jordan launching an incredible 27 shot attempts. But once again, Kevin Garnett’s paint presence and athleticism were too much for the East to handle. Despite playing with other bigs including Duncan, Yao, Shaq, and Dirk at separate points during the game; Garnett proved to be an athletic monster capable of adjusting to any lineup. It was Garnett who put the final nails in the coffin, leading the West to a 155-145 victory.
Michael Jordan received his flowers in the end because he ended his last All-Star appearance as the all-time leading scorer (262 points) while also rankings 1st in field goals made (110), field goal attempts (233), and steals (37). The Bulls legend broke records in Garnett’s dominating game, capping off arguably the greatest All-Star Game ever.
Game Result: Western Conference All-Stars vs. Eastern Conference All-Stars 155-145
All-Star Game MVP: Kevin Garnett (37 Points, 9 Rebounds, 3 Assists)