They were walking toward their respective locker rooms at halftime Sunday afternoon when Magic Johnson stopped Isiah Thomas.
"If we both get in the game at the same time," Johnson told his close friend, "that's the time to turn the heat up, OK?"
That moment finally came in the fourth quarter, and when point guard West and point guard East crossed wires, it nearly blew out the circuitry of the Kingdome scoreboard, which registered the highest score in NBA All-Star history: West 154, East 149, in overtime before a crowd of 34,275.
Dallas guard Rolando Blackman, who scored 29 points, made two free throws with no time remaining in regulation, tying the score at 140 and wiping out the last of a 12-point lead the East held, 128-116, with 5:42 to play.
Blackman then scored the first basket of overtime, making a layup after Laker James Worthy spotted him alone under the basket. Worthy, who scored 22 points, followed with a jam off a pass from Magic and the West was never headed in winning for only the second time in the last eight All-Star Games.
"They've been dominating us, but there's no domination anymore," said Johnson, who celebrated the win by standing at center court, arms upraised, and choreographed a standing ovation as well as he had choreographed an MVP performance by hometown star Tom Chambers, who scored 34 points--14 in the fourth quarter.
"I played better than I ever thought I would," said Chambers, an ex-Clipper who was on the West team only because Houston's Ralph Sampson hurt his knee, and was still embarrassed about his performance in Saturday's slam-dunk contest, when he missed two jams in the first round.
"Magic makes it all possible and makes it all happen," said Chambers, whose man frequently dropped off to double-team Magic, leaving him free to shoot jumpers from the corner or drive the baseline.
But while Magic may have transformed Chambers into a star of stars for a day, he and Thomas also transformed what had been a rather desultory affair into a high-voltage happening.
Thomas (16 points, 9 assists) was already on the floor when Magic (9 points, 13 assists) returned, replacing Golden State's Sleepy Floyd with the West trailing by nine, 122-113. Shortly thereafter, the West caught up with a 13-4 spurt. But what really jazzed everyone, players and fans alike, was an incredible staccato burst, in which the teams combined to score 15 points in 83 seconds.
Even as his team's lead was slipping away, Thomas couldn't restrain himself, exchanging high-fives with Johnson when there was a break in the racehorse pace.
"I thought it was kind of a boring game in the first half simply because he (Magic) and I weren't in there at the same time," Thomas said.
"We knew we had to create some excitement, bring it to a level, a high pitch that an All-Star game is supposed to be.
"We gave it some energy, and then the fans got involved, they were giving the energy to us, we were giving it back, and the whole place got electric.
"That's when the game transcends the guy (Magic) being an opponent. I was strictly playing the game, getting into it.
"Understand what I'm saying?"
Blackman tried to ignore what Thomas was saying after drawing a foul from the Detroit guard on a beat-the-clock baseline drive. The East had taken a 140-138 lead just three seconds earlier when Washington center Moses Malone, who had a monster game--27 points and 18 rebounds--tipped in a missed shot by Boston's Kevin McHale.
Thomas, even as Magic pulled him away, kept up a nonstop rap at Blackman before his free-throw attempts.
"I called him a sissy punk, a chump, and said 'Ro, you're going to choke,' " Thomas said. "I guess I was wrong."
So was Boston's Larry Bird, who had turned to Chicago's Michael Jordan and made a wager.
"I didn't think he was going to make it," Bird said. "He is standing at the line, no time on the clock and a chance to tie an All-Star Game. I didn't think he could do it. I lost $20."
Blackman, the best free-throw shooter on the West team this season (88.8%) had missed the second of two free throws with 24 seconds left, which left the score tied, 138-138.
The stage was then set for a storybook ending--Julius Erving, making his final All-Star appearance, hitting the game-winning shot as time ran out.
Instead, Thomas drove the lane, passing up the chance to pass to an open Dr. J on the left wing, about 20 feet away, for a shot that was blocked by Houston's Akeem Olajuwon. McHale got the rebound, missed a follow-up 12-footer, but Malone tipped it in.
"I wanted to throw the ball to Doc but I had tried the same play earlier in the game and threw the ball out of bounds," Thomas said. "I didn't want to make a turnover then.
"I looked at him, but I wasn't sure. Maybe I should have passed it to him."
Erving scored 22 points, including an 18-foot jumper over Magic seven seconds after coming into the game to give the East a 138-137 lead with 38 seconds left.
"You can't bitch about a play that got you the lead," said Bird, who scored 18 points but had an off-day shooting (7 for 18). "But it was all set up for Doc. Seconds left, tie game, he hits the shot and goes out the same way he came into this league."
Instead, it was Blackman, making the first free throw with a roll over the front rim, then swishing the second.
"Whatever English I put on it, I got it," said Blackman of the first free throw. "It might have been Alex English (a West teammate), but I got it."
And in the end, so did the West.
"I had so much fun it's unbelievable," Magic Johnson said. "This was the greatest All-Star Game I've ever played in--so far."
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar scored a direct hit on Moses Malone's midsection with an elbow during a rebounding battle in overtime, moments after Abdul-Jabbar's goggles were knocked askew by Dominique Wilkins. Wilkins was called for a foul, nothing was called against Abdul-Jabbar, even though Malone wound up on the seat of his pants. "The refs think I can take the pain," said Malone, adding that Abdul-Jabbar had apologized. Said Abdul-Jabbar, who scored 10 points and had 8 rebounds: "I should have brought boxing gloves. The refs let that (rough play) happen in a game like this, so what can you do? But the game was fun." Malone and the Washington Bullets will be in Los Angeles a week from Tuesday to play the Lakers.
Denver's Alex English, the NBA's second-leading scorer with an average of 28.2 points a game, was the only player who went scoreless Sunday. He missed all six of his shots in 13 minutes. . . . Philadelphia's flamboyant Charles Barkley had a quiet All-Star debut (7 points, 4 rebounds, no jams), prompting teammate Julius Erving to ask him early in the game: "Are you sick, man?" Barkley: "No, I'm nervous." . . . Seattle's Tom Chambers became the first MVP from a host city since Jerry West of the Lakers won it in 1972 in Los Angeles. The 34 points scored by the 6-10, 230-pound Sonic forward tied the third highest-scoring game in All-Star history. Wilt Chamberlain scored 42 in 1962, Rick Barry had 38 in 1967. Erving had 34 in '84, George Gervin the same number in 1980.
Pat Riley's record in All-Star games is now 2-3. His Laker players--Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Abdul-Jabbar, combined to score the West's last 14 points of the second quarter. Worthy made 10 of his 14 shots, including the most spectacular dunks of the day. "It was the best All-Star Game I've ever seen or played in," Worthy said.