ARLINGTON, Texas - The largest crowd to watch a basketball game saw an all too familiar sight.
Dwyane Wade did it again in north Texas.
Wade had 28 points and won MVP honors, and the Eastern Conference edged the West, 141-139, on Sunday night in the NBA All-Star Game.
The crowd of 108,713 at Cowboys Stadium watched Dallas native Chris Bosh make the winning free throws with 5 seconds left. The West had a chance to win it, but Carmelo Anthony’s 3-point attempt came up short.
The largest cheer of the night came earlier, when Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones came onto the court to announce the record crowd, which was also the largest in the $1.2 billion building’s short history.
They were booing at the end when Wade went to the line and made two free throws with 12.7 seconds left. Dirk Nowitzki of the hometown Mavericks tied it with two of his own five seconds later before Bosh put the East on top for the final time.
Wade, the MVP of the 2006 NBA Finals when Miami won the title in Dallas, added 11 assists and six rebounds. LeBron James had 25 points, and Bosh finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds.
Anthony scored 27 and Nowitzki — who Kobe Bryant had predicted would win MVP honors — had 22.
But just like four years ago, Wade found a way to top Nowitzki’s best. He shot 12-for-16 from the field and had five steals.
The star in this one, though, was the building. The NBA brought its midseason showcase to a football stadium, and the arrangement worked perfectly. The league was predicting about 90,000 but ended up blowing past Jones’ and Cuban’s hopes to reach 100,000.
It easily shattered the previous record for the largest crowd to watch a basketball game of 78,129, set for a college matchup between Kentucky and Michigan State at Detroit’s Ford Field on Dec. 13, 2003.
And the thrilling finish more than salvaged an occasionally rough All-Star weekend for the league. Injuries knocked out fan favorites such as Bryant and Chris Paul. Commissioner David Stern and players association executive director Billy Hunter indicated the sides are far apart on a new labor agreement that would prevent a work stoppage in the summer of 2011, and the slam dunk contest wasn’t pretty even with the presence of the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders.
But the highlight all along was going to be the stadium, and it didn’t disappoint.
Players came out to the court — which appeared much smaller than 94 feet from the highest levels of the venue — more than an hour before the game to check out the scene and the challenges it could create. Having hundreds of feet behind the baskets had some All-Stars wondering if their depth perception could be thrown off while shooting.
Not to worry. Everyone was sharp early, with even Dwight Howard making a 3-pointer, before staring at his palm and drawing a laugh from Orlando assistant Patrick Ewing.
There’s probably never been a better time to be on the sideline. The seats on the benches were leather theater seats with arm rests and drink holders. James seemed to particularly enjoy his, reclining his back and putting his feet up on the court above him while resting to start the second quarter.