Like every midseason showcase, the 1997 NBA All-Star Weekend in Cleveland was a marquee event, not only for its collection of active players —Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, et al — but also for the much-planned celebration of the league's storied history.
As a rookie with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1996-97, guard Reggie Geary witnessed that excitement, and he can vividly recall details of that weekend's activities.
"That was the year the NBA celebrated its 50th anniversary by naming the 50 greatest players team in league history," said Geary, the second-year Yokohama B-Corsairs head coach. "I got to meet or see everyone — Wilt (Chamberlain), (George) Mikan, (Bill) Russell, (Bob) Cousy, and (Magic) Johnson to name a few, which made for an unbelievable experience."
Geary had a brief NBA career, that first season with the Cavaliers, followed by one more with the San Antonio Spurs. After playing in the CBA and Europe, the former University of Arizona defensive stopper found his niche in coaching.
The 2011-12 bj-league Coach of the Year, Geary will serve as the Eastern Conference's assistant coach on Sunday at Ariake Colosseum. Tokyo Cinq Reves coach Motofumi Aoki was named the East's bench boss last month.
On Sunday, the bj-league's seventh annual All-Star Game, is slated to tip off at 5:10 p.m.
For Geary, the discussion of All-Star contests brings back memories of his playing days.
"I haven't participated in an All-Star Game since high school really," said Geary. "The closest I've been since then was almost getting in the 1997 NBA All-Star dunk contest my rookie year in Cleveland. We had a team dunk-off to see who would participate and represent the host team and we didn't have a big-time name who was considered a dunker.
"So we had a contest one day and the team voted I won, but the organization wanted a more recognizable face to represent the team, so they went with third-year pro (and Florida State product) Bob Sura. Funny thing was, Bob was so nervous he missed all his dunks."
Looking ahead to this weekend, Geary called being appointed as the East's All-Star assistant coach "a great honor."
A former NBA Development League coach, Geary was asked to put this weekend into context in terms of his coaching career to date.
He responded by saying, "Being a part and playing a part in this organization's success, as its very first head coach with a Final Four appearance and third-place finish last season, a Coach of the Year award, and a good start to this season are some of my proudest moments as a coach.
"(Sixth man) Draelon (Burns) and I are looking forward to All- Star Weekend and representing the B-Corsairs family and basketball in Kanagawa Prefecture."
After going 31-21 in 2011-12, winning nine straight games to close out the regular season and reaching the Final Four, the B-Corsairs continue to make big strides as an organization. They improved to 20-8 by completing a series sweep over the Akita Northern Happinets on Wednesday.
As the B-Corsairs continue their maturation as a second-year franchise, Geary observed they were able to "hit the ground running a little bit easier this year, even though we are playing almost entirely different offensively. But I just think guys are more familiar with me and my philosophy, and we were able to get some earlier wins.
"I think last year we threw away more games early in the season than we did this year," he added. Yokohama's Geary recalls getting to meet NBA legends | The Japan Times Online