OAKLAND, Calif. -- Those who were looking for the next Michael Jordan to break from the pack at the All-Star game will have to wait another year.
At least another year.
For now, there is only a diverse group of distinct talents, but no Air Apparent.
With Jordan watching from the eighth row in a suit, the Western Conference All-Stars defeated the East 137-126 Sunday, led by Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan and Jason Kidd.
In a way, it was a fitting first All-Star game for the start of the post-Jordan era. Nobody is sure who the next super-superstar is, and none burst forward in this game.
''You know what?'' Kevin Garnett said. ''I think what you're seeing in the NBA is not one dominant player.
''What you're seeing is a wide spread of talent throughout the league, everything from high-risers to (those) redefining positions. I see more positives as far as setting the standards for the next generation.''
O'Neal and Duncan were co-MVPs, Garnett scored 22, Kidd handed out 14 assists and the West used its superior size to break a three-game losing streak in this annual showcase event.
O'Neal had 22 points, nine rebounds and three blocks, while Duncan shot 12-for-14 for 24 points with 14 rebounds and four assists.
Kobe Bryant added 15 for the West, while Michael Finley and Kidd had 11 apiece.
The West started the fourth quarter with a 10-2 run, led by five points from Finley, to go ahead 109-99. The East never made a run the rest of the way.
As for the best move of the day, that award might have to be shared by O'Neal and Vince Carter for their 360-degree dunks -- although Carter's was infinitely more fluid.
The first basket for the East was an alley-oop dunk by Carter off a pass from Allen Iverson, while the second was a breakaway slam by Carter that closely resembled one of his best from the dunk contest Saturday night.
Carter did a 360-degree spin to his right -- rather than doing it the easy way by spinning left -- and dunked the ball with two hands.
''All everybody talked about coming into the game was how many lobs I was going to throw to Vince,'' Iverson said. ''And it was getting frustrating because they didn't want Vince to show off. Every time we got on the break, they took the lob away from him.''
In the third quarter, O'Neal did a 360-degree slam of his own, cheating on the first 180 degrees. NBC microphones caught him saying, ''it wasn't a 360, it was a 257.''
''It caught me off guard,'' Bryant said. ''I didn't know he had that.''
Bryant had an out-of-character shot, too, making a sky hook reminiscent of something out of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's repertoire.
After the breakneck start keyed by Carter's dunks, the pace slowed early in the second quarter as the reserves got their minutes.
Ray Allen and O'Neal injected some life back into the game -- Allen with a Carteresque drive and dunk; O'Neal by dribbling coast to coast for a layup and then following with a fast-break slam and an alley-oop dunk off a pass from Kidd complete with a chin-up on the rim.
''Any time you're in a game like this it's a free-for-all, so you let it all go,'' Allen said. ''It's that type of game.''
Carter, who won the slam dunk contest with a dominant performance Saturday night, had a pedestrian dunk for the final basket of the first half.
Carter had a chance to close the game with a flourish, but a full-court pass to him was thrown too far and he ended up trying to shoot the ball from behind the backboard.
''The weekend was exciting and strenuous, a lot of demands,'' Carter said. ''But this was what it's all about.''
This was the first All-Star game since 1998 because last year's was canceled by the lockout, but the players hadn't forgotten how to play one of these games. Heavy on the fancy stuff and short on fundamentals, the players put on as much of a show as they could.
The East tried to give Carter another spectacular dunk in the first minute of the game, but Grant Hill's alley-oop pass off the backboard was too hard. Later in the quarter when Eddie Jones tried to zip a pass to Carter and Iverson inadvertently deflected it out of bounds, Jones grimaced at Iverson as if to say ''It's him, not you.''
Iverson led the East with 26 points and nine assists, while Ray Allen had 14 and Carter 12.
Karl Malone, who wasn't happy that the NBA threatened him with a five-game suspension if he failed to show up, played just three minutes -- all in the first half -- and missed his only shot.
''I talked to the coach before the game and he said I could play as much or as little as I wanted to,'' Malone said. ''All I wanted to get was a little time to break a sweat, so the minutes I played were fine.''
O'Neal sat out the fourth quarter with a sore shoulder, and a similar injury limited David Robinson to seven minutes.
Notes: The East leads the series 31-18, but had its three-game winning streak snapped. ... Among the courtside spectators were Magic Johnson, Evander Holyfield and Bill Russell. Jordan sat three rows in front of commissioner David Stern ... Jerry Stackhouse was the last player to check in after sitting out the first 15:57. ... Hill sat out the second half after losing a contact lens. He did not bring a replacement.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.