CHICAGO — This was less a game than a fashion show, and would have played just as well on a models' runway in Milan as it did on a basketball court in Chicago Stadium.
Instead of Yves St. Laurent or Giorgio Armani, the designers showing off their latest creations Sunday afternoon were named Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins. Everyone else--even such famous labels as Magic Johnson and Larry Bird--might as well have been dressed in hand-me-downs.
Nothing wears better in Chicago, however, than Jordan, who scored 40 points on his home court and was a unanimous choice as Most Valuable Player in the National Basketball Assn.'s 38th annual All-Star game here. The game was won by the East, 138-133, but that was only incidental to the duel between Jordan of the Bulls and Wilkins of the Atlanta Hawks, who were teammates on the East. Wilkins finished with 29 points.
About the only person in the building who wasn't upstaged by Jordan--who scored a stunning 16 points in the last 5:51 to fall just two points short of Wilt Chamberlain's single-game All-Star record--was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The 40-year-old Laker claimed another piece of history when he tossed in a sky hook with 44 seconds left for his 9th and 10th points of the game and 247th as an All-Star, making him No. 1 on the all-time list.
Abdul-Jabbar was making his record 17th appearance, but had been lolling on the bench for the entire fourth quarter when a "We Want Jabbar" chant arose among the sellout crowd of 18,403. Pat Riley of the Lakers, who was coaching the West team, was listening.
"It was a blowout," said Riley, noting that the East had the game well in hand, "and I don't think Kareem has ever been put back in when it's a garbage-time situation. But I raised my eyebrows and he nodded back. The crowd nudged me."
The crowd did more than nudge Jordan, who elevated his game to some previously seen ethereal dimension while everyone else--save Wilkins--stepped back to enjoy.
At the half, for example, Magic Johnson and Bird had combined to score two points. Johnson, 0 for 5 before intermission, finished strong, scoring 17 second-half points and handing out 19 assists to give the game a semblance of competition, but it was almost predetermined that this day was Jordan's.
"Somebody had to sacrifice . . . (but) I think it was great," Bird said. "We had to try to get him into the game and see what he did early. He was hitting his shots, so we had to keep going to him.
"I know if I was playing in Boston, I would have played great. You feel comfortable on your home court, you just go out and perform."
Jordan and Wilkins rendered such Eastern reserves as Kevin McHale of the Boston Celtics and Charles Barkley of the Philadelphia 76ers to the role of spectators for most of the game.
"We were sitting on the bench and at one point we decided that it was going to be a battle between Dominique and Michael for MVP," McHale said. "We were waiting for one guy to pass it to the other guy first, but that didn't materialize."
Foul trouble--he picked up his fourth with 6:43 to go in the third quarter--kept Jordan on the bench for nearly nine minutes. The man who subbed for him, Boston guard Danny Ainge, hit three three-pointers, the last of which gave the East a 108-94 lead with 9:52 to play.
Jordan--who scored 22 points in the fourth quarter against the Lakers last Tuesday--started off slowly upon his return. He had a shot blocked by Dallas Maverick center James Donaldson, had the ball taken away from him by the Portland Trail Blazers' Clyde Drexler, then lost control of the ball on an attempted jam. But he then proceeded to run off eight straight points, including one drive in which he blew past Magic Johnson.
"What impressed me most was that he did what he did within a team frame," Johnson said. "He took very few shots (Jordan made 17 of 23) to get 40 points.
"Man, he was hitting everything. A lot of his shots from outside were just falling, and at the end of the fourth quarter, they just cleared out for him and he hit some spectacular shots. It was nice for him, it was nice for the fans of the Bulls, and it was nice for the league."
It certainly was a lot nicer than Jordan's first All-Star appearance, in 1985, when it appeared that some of his teammates--most notably, Detroit's Isiah Thomas--tried to freeze him out of the action. Sunday, Thomas had 15 assists and fed Jordan for a half-dozen of his baskets.
"I had heard rumors about my first All-Star game, about players denying me the ball," Jordan said. "Hopefully we've eliminated all that stuff and put it all behind us. I never knew if those comments were true to begin with.
"I think that players feeding me the ball is a display of great gratitude from your peers, but they weren't overlooking others. This was a big thrill for me, to win the MVP. It's something to remember."