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1993 NBA All-Star Game a special moment for Utah

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Utah Jazz teammates and co-Most Valuable Player winners John Stockton, left, and Karl Malone hold up the All-Star MVP trophy after playing for the West team, which won the 43rd NBA All-Star game, 135-130, in Salt Lake City, Sunday, Feb. 21, 1993. Malone holds his daughter, Kaydee. (AP Photo/Roberto Borea)

By Steve Luhm

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Feb 16 2013 04:51PM
Updated Feb 18, 2013 01:13PM

For one exhilarating weekend, Utah was the center of the basketball universe.

Just six months after the original Dream Team began the true globalization of the sport by striking gold at the Barcelona Olympics, Salt Lake City played host to the 1993 NBA All-Star Game.

"It’s hard to believe it was 20 years ago," says former mayor Deedee Corradini.

With the world watching, basketball’s greatest players descended on the still-new Delta Center, where Jazz stars John Stockton and Karl Malone sparkled brightest of all.

After the Western Conference’s 135-132 overtime victory, Stockton and Malone were named co-Most Valuable Players — a fitting tribute for their performance in the game and their joined-at-the-hip careers that eventually landed them in the Hall of Fame.

Stockton finished with nine points and 15 assists. He was dominant in overtime. Malone scored 28 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and went 11 for 17 from the field.

"I remember it so well," said Corradini, who is now the president of Women’s Ski Jumping USA. "… It was such a great opportunity for us to show off our city, and John and Karl did so well. It was just a great thing for Salt Lake. In many ways, it put us on the map."

The All-Star Game also ushered in the Jazz’s golden era.

Led by Stockton and Malone, the franchise’s climb from laughingstock to respected contender reached its zenith in the coming years.

Between 1994 and 1998, the Jazz reached the Western Conference finals four times and advanced to the NBA Finals twice — winning an average of 59 regular-season games along the way.

Before the end of their careers, Stockton became the league’s all-time leader in assists and steals. Malone ended up as the No. 2 scorer in NBA history, behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

"I think the All-Star Game made us realize there was something very special happening with John and Karl and the Utah Jazz," Corradini said. "It was a golden moment in time. … [and] put us on the road to the Olympics."

Less than 10 years after Utah’s All-Star Game, the state staged an even bigger event: the 2002 Winter Olympics.

"It gave the city great credibility," former Jazz coach, general manager and president Frank Layden once told The Tribune. "It announced that we were truly a major-league city. It had a lot to do with the Olympics coming here. … Major-league sports had arrived."

The All-Star Game was played on Feb. 21, 1993. It featured seven members of the Dream Team: Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Charles Barkley, Stockton and Malone.

Detroit’s Isiah Thomas played in the last of his 12 All-Star Games, finishing with eight points and four assists in 32 minutes.

Orlando rookie Shaquille O’Neal played his first All-Star Game. He was selected to play 14 more times during his 18-year career.

O’Neal was also the victim of a leaping at-the-rim block by Malone, which became a highlight of a game that was surprisingly competitive and intense.

"… It was a very good basketball game," said local broadcaster Steve Klauke, "as opposed to what it’s become in this day and age."

It didn’t take long for the All-Stars to set the tone.

Jordan forced a turnover on the West’s first possession and, moments later, O’Neal took a hard foul to prevent a dunk by Robinson. Each team committed a 24-second violation in the opening three minutes, when it couldn’t find an open shot.

At the time, Ewing called it "the best defensive All-Star Game I’ve ever played in. Both teams were focused and really getting after each other."

East coach Pat Riley said, "I think instinct took over. These guys started getting after one another. This was a pretty good game."

Utah fans were delighted when Stockton nailed an early 3-pointer and Malone scored twice in the first five minutes — once on a post-up jumper and once on a dunk after a Stockton-led fast break.

"It really got competitive and that’s the way it should be," Stockton said. "That’s when it really gets fun."

According to Klauke, even All-Star Saturday in Utah was a bit historic.

Cleveland’s Mark Price won the 3-point contest and Miami’s Harold Miner won the slam-dunk contest, earning the overstated nickname "Baby Jordan."

The Legends Game was also played, but for the last time. A continuous outbreak of injuries forced league officials to replace it with the Rookie Game, which eventually evolved into today’s Rising Stars Challenge.

Along with analyst Dave Blackwell, Klauke did a local radio broadcast of All-Star Saturday — the first time it had ever been attempted.

"The NBA broadcasting people were hanging around, listening in," Klauke said. "They had us send in the tapes and something must have clicked because, the following year in Phoenix, they did it on national radio for the first time."

luhm@sltrib.com

Twitter: @sluhm

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