ARLINGTON, Texas - Imagine, an All-Star Game that had diagrammed plays and timeouts being called in the last minutes of the contest.
That's what happened last night at Cowboys Stadium, as Toronto Raptor Chris Bosh nailed two free throws with 5 seconds remaining to give the East a 141-139 win over the West.
Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade picked up the MVP trophy after collecting 28 points and 11 assists in his sixth All-Star appearance. LeBron James collected 25 points for the East, while Bosh added 23 and 10 rebounds.
Carmelo Anthony scored 27 to lead seven West players in double figures. He was followed by Dallas Maverick forward Dirk Nowitzki, who canned 22 in front of his home fans.
"To be able to perform in front of a crowd like that, I know that. I know I can do it, I've done it before," Wade said. "So just to be able to put on a show like that and to get the win, and to make key plays down the stretch was what I like."
Few of the participants in this weekend's All-Star events appeared to have as much fun as Orlando Magic forward Dwight Howard.
From signing autographs to interacting with kids to setting a world record, Howard did it all with an ever-present smile. Other than Kobe Bryant and James, he may be the most recognizable name and face the NBA has to offer.
They could do far worse. On and off the court, the one dubbed "Superman" has it.
Last night, Howard was a part of a balanced attack in leading the East to the victory.
Howard, who on Saturday made a shot from 52 feet and 6 inches while sitting on the court - setting a world record, did all the things around the basket that makes him one of the NBA's best inside men. He scored (17 points), rebounded (five) and blocked shots (three). He also showed off his guard skills, nailing a three-pointer from straight on in the first quarter, and later dribbling the length of the court for a fast break dunk.
He also got the biggest roar on the night from the huge crowd when he windmilled an alley-oop from Wade early in the third quarter, giving the East their biggest lead of the night at 90-74.
Speaking of the crowd and world-record, the 108,713 that were in attendance last night set a record for most fans gathered at a basketball game. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban gleefully announced the number at the end of the third quarter, with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones standing by his side.
"To be in front of 108,000 fans, that was actually what it was, that was not a false number. You could look up in the stands, and there was not a seat open," LeBron James said. "To be part of history is something that you always wish and dream for."
Despite holding a 31-23 rebounding advantage in the first half, the West found itself trailing, 76-69, in a typically defenseless exhibition game. The East put four players in double figures, 11 each by James and Howard and 10 each by Wade and Bosh, and shot a blistering 59.6 percent (34-for-57).
The defense that was barely visible early almost disappeared in the second half. Both teams shot well above 60 percent in the third quarter and combined for 82 points.
But the West came back in the fourth and forged their first tie since late in the second quarter when Chauncey Billups (17 points) made an 18-footer with 1 minute, 5 seconds left to tie the game at 137-137. With 18 seconds left, Wade stole the ball from Deron Williams, then made both free throws after getting fouled by Williams.
The West's Nowitzki made a pair of free throws with 12.7 remaining to tie the game at 139-139, before Bosh hit the winning foul shots. Anthony's trey attempt at the buzzer fell short.
This weekend was a homecoming of sorts for many of the players. Bosh was a high school hero at nearby Lincoln High in Dallas. Steve Nash spent several seasons with the Dallas Mavericks before going to Phoenix, and Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder played at the University of Texas. Deron Williams also played his high school ball near Dallas.
Cleveland center Shaquille O'Neal sat courtside, often ribbing the players during the game ... The first foul of the game wasn't called until almost 6 minutes had elapsed ... Many of the players were wearing some of the ugliest sneakers ever - aqua-colored Nikes ... LeBron James and Dwyane sang along and danced while Alicia Keys performed at halftime. Kevin Garnett took a seat on press row to take in the performance ... The only player who didn't score was the West's Jason Kidd ... It must have been a lot brighter and colder in Cowboys Stadium to some than others. Many, many of those in attendance, particularly in the high-priced seats, were wearing sunglasses and skicaps ... Atlanta Hawk guard Joe Johnson, appearing in his fourth All-Star Game, got the start at guard for Allen Iverson. Dirk Nowitzki replaced injured Kobe Bryant in the West's starting lineup and promptly hit the game's first two shots ... Some of the celebrities in the house were boxer Floyd Mayweather, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, actor/director Spike Lee, musicians Diddy and Ludacris.