Jordan said goodbye to the All-Star game with his eyes teary, his game a bit blemished but his flair for the dramatic very much intact as the West beat the East 155-145 in double overtime Sunday night.
A last-minute starter after Vince Carter relinquished his spot, Jordan had a poor start, a bad finish and then a good one. After clanging the potential winning shot off the iron at the end of regulation, Jordan made a high-arching 15-footer with 4.8 seconds left in overtime to give the East a two-point lead.
"I thought it was a game-winner, but obviously anything can happen in an NBA game, and that's exactly what happened," Jordan said.
Kobe Bryant tied it by making two foul shots with 1 second left, and Jordan's final shot of the first overtime was blocked just before the buzzer.
That sent the All-Star game into double overtime for the first time ever, and MVP Kevin Garnett then scored nine of his 37 points as Jordan watched the final five minutes from the bench.
In the end, it didn't really matter. Indeed, it was All-Star game, but on this night, there was only one star.
Although Jordan missed his first seven shots, had four others rejected and blew a dunk, he did score 20 points to move past Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for most total points in All-Star history. But he needed to take 27 shots from the field — making only nine — in order to do it in his 14th All-Star game.
"The important thing is I wanted it to be a competitive game. It was a fun ending either way you look at it," Jordan said.
While his most memorable moment came late in the first overtime, his most poignant one came at halftime.
Jordan joined singer Mariah Carey at center court, took the microphone after an extended ovation and bid a public farewell as Yao Ming, Kobe Bryant and basketball's future stood and watched.
"I leave the game in good hands," Jordan said. "So many great stars rising and playing the game. I have passed on the things that Dr. J and some of the great players — Magic Johnson, Larry Bird — have passed on to me, I pass on to these All-Stars here, as well as to the rest of the players in the NBA.
"I want to thank you all for your support. Now I can go home and feel at peace with the game of basketball."
The entire evening played out as though it was a Jordan tribute.
Allen Iverson arrived at the arena wearing a retro Bulls No. 23 jersey, Yao donned a pair of powder blue low-tops, a tribute to Jordan's alma mater, North Carolina, which clashed garishly with his bright red Western Conference uniform.
Carey wore a Bulls jersey and a Wizards uniform top during a halftime show dedicated to Jordan. Several of the players wore Air Jordan shoes, and all of them stood in a pack to applaud and hug Jordan after he gave his halftime speech.
"I'm somewhat embarrassed because I got a feeling it's going to turn into the Michael Jordan show, which I don't want it to be," he said before the game.
In the end, of course, it was.
Jordan's go-ahead shot late in the first overtime was a thing of beauty, a perfectly rotating, high-floating jumper that looked true from the moment it left his fingertips.
After hitting the shot, he drifted into a row of photographers and pumped his fist, getting a chest bump from Iverson as he went to the bench.
"I thought it was really scripted when he hit that shot. I thought it was over," West coach Rick Adelman said.
Things weren't over, though.
Referee Ted Bernhardt called Jermaine O'Neal for a foul when he blocked Bryant out of bounds as Bryant threw up a 3-point attempt from in front of the West's bench.
"Leave it to the refs to ruin it," East coach Isiah Thomas said in disgust.
Bryant made the first, missed the second and then had Jordan come over and say something to him.
"He was talking trash," Bryant said. "Part of me felt I had a job to do, but another part of me just didn't want to do it, to be honest with you."
He buried the final shot to tie the game, 138-138.
Jordan received the ensuing inbounds pass while being tightly defended by Shawn Marion, and the Phoenix star got a large piece of the ball as Jordan attempted a 21-foot turnaround.
Moments before tip-off, the public address announcer told the crowd that Jordan would be replacing Carter on the East's starting five.
"My decision was to start," Carter said. "After a while I sat back and thought about it and said, `Hey, this is his last one, he is the greatest player and I'm going to get this opportunity to come out here and play again.
"This is chance for me to tell all my fans thank you very much for voting for me, but he deserves it, he deserves it," Carter said.
Jordan reluctantly pounded fists with the stat crew as he went out for the opening tip, telling them he shouldn't be doing so because he doesn't like to alter his pregame routine.
He probably would have been better off keeping his hands to himself, because he proceeded to play 10 minutes and 45 seconds of first-quarter basketball that certainly wasn't his best.
Jordan missed his first seven shots, the crowd groaning after the third miss and then responding with stunned silence as the misses kept coming. His drought finally ended with 2:50 left in the first quarter when Jason Kidd fed him on a fast break for a wide-open layup that tied the game, 16-16.
The worst moment of all came shortly before he took his first rest.
Jordan got the ball on the baseline and went around Marion, rising for dunk attempt that clanged off the rim. Jordan, who also missed a dunk in last year's All-Star game, finished the quarter 2-for-10 from the field
The first basket of the game was scored by Yao, the 7-foot-6 center from China who supplanted Shaquille O'Neal as a starter in fan balloting. Yao took an alley-oop pass from Steve Francis and dunked it through for his only points of the game.
Jordan's first shot of the second quarter was blocked by Kevin Garnett as the West played a lineup that included four 7-footers — Yao, O'Neal, Garnett and Tim Duncan.
Jordan began the second half on the bench before checking in with 5:02 remaining in the third, promptly getting his first shot rejected by O'Neal when he took the ball to the hole. His next shot, however, was a turnaround over Gary Payton that swished through sweetly, and his two foul shots with 2:04 left in the quarter moved him past Abdul-Jabbar's 251 points on the career All-Star scoring list.
Jordan scored eight fourth-quarter points, his best move of the evening coming with 1:45 left when he backed in against Dirk Nowitzki and threw up a left-handed finger roll to give the East a 120-112 lead.
The West pulled to 120-119, and Jordan had his shot blocked by Marion with 15 seconds left. Jordan then fouled Bryant, who made one of two from the line to tie it.
The East called timeout to set up the final play of regulation, and it was no surprise when the ball went to No. 23. Jordan got off a turnaround from 15 feet, but the ball was a few inches off-target to the right and bounced harmlessly away.
Jordan attempted more shots than any other player.
Garnett shot 17-for-24 from the field, while Bryant added 22 for the West.
Iverson led the East with 35 points.