Randy Smith, the contest's most valuable player, put yesterday's 28th NBA All-Star Game into perspective.
"We didn't have any plays, but basketball is a basic game," the Buffalo guard said. "You pick and roll, you play defense, you shoot and you run. I think it made for a good show for the spectators."
The 22 All-Stars showed how basic basketball can also be senstional basketball. The East Just happened to play a little more spectacularly in defeating the West, 133-125.
Although the sellout crowd in the Omni was delighted that its team won - the Atlanta Hawks are in the Eastern Conference - the real pleasure of the contest came from watching the amazing talents of the players.
The game had a little of everything, from one of those floating one-handed dunks by Philadelphia's Julius Erving to a gravity-defying, spinning reverse layup by New York's Bob McAdoo to two at-the-buzzer, 40-foot jumpers by Smith.
Even a little defense was mixed in, just to keep it a well-rounded exhibition.
"I think this gave everyone a nice view of what professional basketball is all about," said East center Dave Cowens of Boston. "It was a showcase of what this game is.
"Everyone talks about the fact we get paid so much. But we all played a lot of basketball before we got paid for it. You definitely want to show you can play the game on an individual basis when you come here. You use street-ball fundamentals to show it."
It was almost as if the players were involved in some kind of tag-team match. First one player would take over the show, then another would grab the spotlight.
The West's Paul Westphal, from Phoenix, got things going with a 16-point, four-assist, one-steal first half when his team dominated with its running game and the inside defense of Portland's Bill Walton.
The only reason the East was just nine points back at intermission was the play of Doug Collins, the 76er guard who was trying to fulfill the role of playmaker. He shot enough to have 12 points and had three assists, offsetting Erving's one for 10 misfiring from the floor.
The fans oohed and ashed when Erving blocked a dunk attempt by Denver's David Thompson and Portland's Maurice Lucas smashed home a dunk so hard the ball bounced to the top of the backboard. But the best was yet to come.
The third period belonged to Thompson, the 6-foot-4 swing man with springs for legs. He loosened up with three straight 18-foot jumpers that hit nothing but net and finished his segment of the show with a baseline drive and one-handed slam-dunk that ended with him sprawled on the floor.
It was not until the final quarter that Smith and the other East players began asserting themselves. San Antonio's Larry Kenon made two quick baskets to narrow a 12-point deficit to eight then Smith took over.
He received a long pass from Cowens, who had been plagued by early fouls, and swished an 18-footer from the key. Another Cowens pass led to a Smith fast-break layup. After three West points, Smith countered with a medium-range jumper, a 20-footer, a layup off yet another Cowens pass, and finally, a 12-foot jump shot.
That pulled the East to 113-112 and it was time for the Doctor. His three-point play gave the East its first lead since the opening minutes and his three foul shots moments later, after baskets by Smith and Cowens, expanded the margin to 10 points.
West Coach Jack Ramsays called a timeout but the West was finished. The East had ripped off 15 straight points during a 23-2 burst in which Smith had produced 12 points.
Smith finished with 27 points, making all of 14 shots, and six assists while demonstrating why he is considered the fastest guard in a league of fast backcourt players.
"My job was to run and fill the middle." said Smith, a seventh-round draft choice in 1971 who high jumped 6-10 3/4, tripled jumped 52 feet and was an All-America soccer player at Buffalo State.
"When I came in, I wanted to use my speed and penetrate and create offensive situations."
That is just what he did. He more than made up for the East's lack of playmaking guards, although he had plenty of help from Cowens' second half of nine rebounds, 12 points and Erving's commanding presence at the end.
Smith said he even practices his last-second long jumpers. "I take them all the time in Buffalo." he said. "They usually don't go in, but I practice them a lot.
"I just had a good feeling about this game. My wife thought I'd win the most valuable player and I got plenty of rest last night.
"Hey, this this fun. It was showtime."