We’re about a month away from this year’s NBA All-Star Game, which is on February 19 in New Orleans, and I recently sat down with one of the greats, someone who appeared in nine of those games.
Hall of Famer George Gervin played with some of the best in basketball history. He earned his nickname, the Iceman, for his cool personality and the fact that he never broke a sweat, even in the most competitive games.
Gervin was inducted to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1996, and his number 44 jersey has been retired by the San Antonio Spurs, for whom he played 11 seasons. He was named one of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players in 2009.
In Gervin’s last NBA All-Star Game, in 1985, the Western Conference starting lineup included Gervin, Ralph Sampson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, and Adrian Dantley against the Eastern Conference lineup of Dr. J, Larry Bird, Moses Malone, Isiah Thomas, and Michael Jordan. Gervin’s team won 140–129, and he came away with 23 points. That’s not just an All-Star game, that’s a legends game!
All-Star voting for this year’s game is open until Monday, January 16, on NBA.com/vote and on the NBA app. Fans can also vote on Twitter and Facebook by using #NBAVOTE.
Gervin was recently in New York City at NBA headquarters to talk about the upcoming All-Star Game, and he revealed what his ballot looks like.
What was your favorite part of playing in an All-Star Game?
I think when you get elected as an All-Star, it’s something that you really should be proud of. When you play that first part of the year, and you have the fans voting you in to be an All-Star, I think that's special. It’s an entertaining game. You got that fan base behind you, and they appreciate you, know your ability and how you play basketball.
What was the best All-Star Game you played in during your career?
Probably 1980, when I got MVP when I played in Washington. I think I got 30-some points and 10 rebounds. A lot of times when I went to All-Star Games, I didn’t try to show off. In 1980, I felt that I was going to show off, and I ended up being MVP. A lot of guys take it for granted and, you know, just come to play. I think the fans deserve to see you play at the top of your game, and that’s what I hope to continue to see these guys that make the All-Star Game in this time do—just come out and entertain these fans and let them know that you appreciate them.
How would the All-Stars of years past match up with those of today?
In the ’70s and ’80s, we had a different mindset. The game wasn’t as big as it is today. It was all about winning and losing, and we didn’t really want to lose. It was more competitive. I think now it’s a show. It’s an All-Star Weekend, and you are giving the fans what they want to see: the dunks and the three-point shots. It’s a great atmosphere and a great weekend.
Who would you like to play against in today’s class of athletes?
I’d like to play against any of the guys who are supposed to be great defensive guys. Kawhi Leonard or Draymond Green, to name two…probably the top defenders in the league today. I'd like to see if I can get 30 on Kawhi or 40 on Draymond. You know, it’d be kind of exciting, but I know I could. Ha ha!
Who are the four players you would want to start alongside you in an All-Star Game, regardless of era?
At the center I would have Kareem Abdul-Jabaar. At the forward, I have Moses Malone. At the 3, I have Dr. J. At the point guard, I’d have Magic Johnson. At the 2-guard I'd have George Gervin.
How do you feel about how the All-Star voting has changed? Do you think it makes sense to give the players and media more of a say? To lessen the fans’ impact?
I like how the fans’ participation is still there, and this year we also have the media and the players contribute. I think it’s good. I always like the players to be a part of voting. I am looking forward to the end to see how it works out.
In the fan vote results so far for the Western Conference, Zaza Pachulia, the starting center for the Warriors, is second for the front court, only behind Kevin Durant. He's ahead of DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis. Do you think that the fan votes count too much?
That’s how the system is designed. Is he the best? I don't think so, but how the system is designed for fans to vote in, right now, he’s there. He’s from [the country] Georgia. Just think: We have a fan base over there, and they are voting him in. I think that’s good for the game because it’s global.
Who are you voting for?
On the East? Easy. Kyrie Irving, one guard; Isaiah Thomas, the other guard; [Kevin] Love at center. All right: Lebron James.
Three Cavaliers. Giannis [Antetokounmpo]—he can play. The West? KD, I got [Russell] Westbrook, [James] Harden, DeMarcus, and no one other than my man, Kawhi Leonard. So, I got mine already, which I think will make a good All-Star Game, but that’s just my picks.
Photographs by (from top) Max Bonnstetter; NBA Photos/NBAE/Getty Images