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On This Date in Sports February 9, 1997: NBA 50 Greatest Players

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

The NBA All-Stars come to Cleveland as the NBA Celebrates its 50th Anniversary with the unveiling of the 50 Greatest Players. The Eastern All-Stars would win the game 132-120 as Glenn Rice of the Charlotte Hornets was named MVP. The only members of the NBA 50 team not present were “Pistol Pete Maravich, who died in 1988; Shaquille O’Neal, who was nursing a knee injury; and Jerry West, who was under the weather and was not a part of the ceremony. 

The 47th Annual NBA All-Star Game was held at Gund Arena in Cleveland. It was the second time the NBA All-Stars played in Northern Ohio. The 1981 NBA All-Star Game was held at the Richfield Coliseum. That game was won by the East 123-120, with Nate Archibald of the Boston Celtics winning the All-Star Game MVP. Archibald was among the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players who were honored at halftime.

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Players wore their team uniforms at the All-Star Game for the first time. Doug Collins of the Detroit Pistons was coaching the Eastern Conference, while Rudy Tomjanovich of the Houston Rockets led the team from the Western Conference. The day before the All-Star Game saw a glimpse of the future as Steve Kerr of the Chicago Bulls won the Three-Point Contest, while Los Angeles Lakers rookie Kobe Bryant won the Slam Dunk Contest. 

The Western Conference controlled the All-Star Game early, holding a 34-21 lead after the first quarter. The East began clawing their way back in the second quarter, cutting the deficit to three points at the half. In the third quarter, the Eastern Conference took control thanks to the play of Glenn Rice of the Charlotte Hornets, who set a new record with 20 points, the most ever scored by one player in a quarter during the All-Star Game. The previous record was 19, held by Hal Greer of the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1968 All-Star Game. Rice would get four points in the fourth quarter; this allowed him to break the 23-point half scored by Wilt Chamberlain and Tom Chambers. In total, Rice scored a game-high 26 points as the East won the game 133-120.

Other All-Star performances included the first Triple-Double in All-Star Game history by Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls with 14 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists. Anfernee Hardaway of the Orlando Magic and Vin Baker of the Milwaukee Bucks both had 19 points. For the West, Latrell Sprewell of the Golden State Warriors was the top scorer with 19, while Gary Payton of the Seattle Supersonics had 17 points.