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'Flight 23' takes off in the 1990 Magic's Midsummer Game


Remember August 5th, 1990? That was the day before the United Nations Security Council ordered a global trade embargo against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion of the neighboring country - Kuwait.

In Inglewood, California, it was the time for the fifth annual Magic Johnson's Charity Midsummer All-Star Game.
With refreshing MTV rap hits 'Can't touch this' and 'Ice Ice Baby' during the warm-up, over and over again...

A sellout crowd of 17.505 (tickets for 124 courtside seats were sold for $1,000) in the Great Western Forum enjoyed, as expected, the spectacular basketball show. With the defensive focus of both teams totally switched off, usual 'showtime suspects' like Magic, Zeke, MJ and Nique had the ideal opportunity to express their basketball artistry.

Even though just before the game local hero Magic Johnson was shaken by the departures of his teammates Orlando Woolridge (to Denver Nuggets) and Michael Cooper (to Il Messaggero, Italy) L.A. Lakers showman again provided solid leadership for the Red team dishing off 10 assists to go along with 11 points.

Magic, the MVP of 1990 NBA All-Star Game, once again, exclusively for this special occasion, teamed up with his only true rival at the time - Michael Jordan, who scored the game-high 38 points. The team coached by the celebrity TV host Arsenio Hall also featured a future Sonics superstar forward Shawn Kemp, who scored 26 points.

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'Flight 23' took off from almost anywhere in the Great Western Forum and amazed all the spectators with his wide repertoire of dunks. But once again, MJ, after working on his game and stamina the complete summer of 1990, with the 'Bad Boys' on his mind, proved not to be a one-dimensional superstar who relies solely on power dunks.

On one occasion he stole the inbound pass by the White team and throw a perfect behind the back pass to the trailing Blazers forward Jerome Kersey for an easy lay-up. At the very end of the game, he would score his 38th point by hitting his second free-throw with his eyes closed! Something that he will also soon present in the NBA.

But, in the end, it was the White team, led by Indiana Pacers forward Wayman Tisdale (30 points), which prevailed by 167-162. Representatives of the 1990 World Champions Detroit Pistons didn't disappoint in this offensive fiesta - Mark Aguirre scored 28 and Isiah Thomas added 24 points to go along with 12 assists.

Even though annual Midsummer charity games were even less competitive then the NBA All-Star games, with opposing players moving out of the way if somebody would go for a dunk, the relevance of those events in 1989, 1990 and 1991 is still significant. It provided an early frame for what is today known as - the original Dream Team.

Murray A. a.k.a. Marjan Crnogaj is BN contributor and the author of the book ‘Drazen – The Years of the Dragon’ which can be found here.

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