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Broadway lives up to billing as stars ogle hoops All-Stars

Big, gaudy affair was place to be in the Big Apple.Basketball and Broadway came together, and the stars showed up, big-time.

Madonna and Muhammad Ali. The Artist Formerly Known as Prince. The filmmaker known as Spike Lee.Did anyone expect an All-Star game in New York to be anything but big and gaudy and loaded with celebrities?

Even Jack Nicholson, a regular at Los Angeles Lakers games on the other coast, made the trip to Madison Square Garden Sunday night.

There were supermodels Elle MacPherson and Tyra Banks; actors Leonardo DiCaprio of "Titanic," husband and wife Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker and Bill Murray; baseball players Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees and Ken Griffey Jr. of the Seattle Mariners; basketball greats Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Julius Erving.

Tennis great and Queens native John McEnroe was behind the East bench. Ali was behind the West, with Donald Trump in between. The Artist strolled in moments before tipoff with a sparkling suit, his customary scepter and a gold covering on his left ear (a Mike Tyson protector?).

Tyson and his entourage made an appearance at halftime. The boxer, who lives in Ohio, also attended last year's game in Cleveland.

That game featured the unprecedented gathering of the NBA's 50 greatest players, one of the most impressive collections of athletic talent in history.

New York played its favorite old game of "Can you top this?" and just might have.

SPIKE'S SEAT: The best seats in the house were anywhere near Spike Lee. The Madison Square Garden regular had quite a give-and-take going with some of the All-Stars.

It was funny to see Lee, a rabid Knicks fan, rooting for Michael Jordan. When His Airness got the ball in position to score, Lee shouted, "Take him, Mike! Back him in."

Another Knicks nemesis, Reggie Miller of Indiana, stared right at Lee after drilling a 3-pointer. It was reminiscent of the 1995 playoffs, when Miller mocked Lee by making trash-talking sign language for "choke" during a Pacers victory.

Maybe Miller didn't hear Lee yelling, "Take him Reg, take him," a few minutes earlier.

When Miami's Tim Hardaway hit two straight 3-pointers in the first quarter, Lee said, "Don't get too happy, Tim."

"Shhhhh," Hardaway responded.

MICHAEL'S PREDICTION: Michael Jordan was way off on his prediction for All-Star MVP.

He should have guessed himself.

As he dressed for what might be his last All-Star game, Jordan was asked who would win the award.

"If the East wins, hmmm, that's tough," Jordan said, taking a long pause. "I guess I'd like one of the older guys, maybe Reggie Miller."

And if the West?

"David Robinson," Jordan said, without hesitation.

BIRD'S BAD MEMORIES: The source of East coach Larry Bird's disdain for All-Star games goes back almost a quarter-century, when he was selected for the Indiana high school All-Star series against Kentucky.

A relatively unknown player from Springs Valley High School, Bird was left on the bench for most of the second half of a 110-95 Indiana victory in 1974 and then refused coach Kirby Overman's offer to go into the game for the final few meaningless minutes.

The story was recounted in the Indianapolis Star on Sunday.

Some say Overman simply forgot about Bird. Don Bates, the All-Star game's director, recalls reminding Overman late in the game that Bird hadn't played in a while. He said Overman cursed, jumped up and asked Bird to report.

"I think Kirby just spaced out in the heat of battle," Bates said.

Overman, however, said he asked Bird to go into the game on two separate occasions but was turned down both times.

Whatever the case, Bird was crushed.

In a story headlined "Sweep Not Without Gripes," The Indianapolis News reported that Bird wiped tears from his eyes in the locker room and was inconsolable after the game.

"I don't like the coach," he said when asked what was wrong.

"I don't blame Larry," Overman was quoted in the story.

Did Overman unwittingly inspire Bird to his great career?

"If that's what lights a fire under someone, that's great," Overman said. "I ought to ask to see his agent, so I can get a piece of the money he's made."

MITCH & EDDIE: Sacramento's Mitch Richmond, who had eight points, said he and coach Eddie Jordan have made up.

"We sat down and talked because one thing we couldn't do is lose our friendship," said Richmond, who now blames Kings management for trying to cause a rift between the All-Star and his coach.

"What happened was, he was put in the middle of a situation," Richmond said.

Trade rumors still follow Richmond wherever he goes.

"Right now I'm not thinking about it," Richmond said.