The smallest All-Star stood tallest.
Allen Iverson, using blazing speed to weave his way through the NBA's giants, led a furious fourth-quarter rally that gave the Eastern Conference a 111-110 victory over the Western Conference in the 50th All-Star Game.
Barely six feet tall and 165 pounds, Iverson was a terror in the final period, when he scored 15 of his 25 points and made three steals as he led the East back from a 21-point deficit with just over nine minutes to play.
Iverson simply was too small and too quick for the bigger West, which featured six players 6-10 or taller. The Philadelphia 76ers superstar pushed the tempo to a breakneck pace that had the West -- which had dominated the entire game -- looking as if it was stuck in mud.
"It's not about the size on paper," Iverson said. "It's about the size of your heart."
"I've got tremendous admiration for him," said West coach Rick Adelman of Sacramento. "I thought the fourth quarter was typical of the way he plays. He's just fearless in the way he attacks the basket and takes it there."
A Virginia native who played collegiately at nearby Georgetown, Iverson completed his hero's homecoming by winning Most Valuable Player honors. He received the trophy from NBA commissioner David Stern, who earlier this season admonished Iverson for releasing a rap album with offensive lyrics.
"You showed that great play can be wrapped, if you'll pardon the expression, in very small packages," Stern said.
Iverson immediately sought out 76ers coach Larry Brown, who went to a four-guard lineup to trigger the comeback. It was a culmination of a relationship that often had been rocky over the past three years but this season has grown closer than ever before.
"There was so many lessons to be learned, from him in what he's accomplished, all of the things he's been through," Brown said.
Iverson's heroics would not have been possible without a little help from a big guy. Atlanta Hawks 7-2 center Dikembe Mutombo repeatedly challenged the West's fearsome frontcourt, blocking three shots and grabbing 22 rebounds.
"Dikembe was guarding everybody," Brown said.
"We were down by 21 at one time and nobody was laughing about it," Mutombo said. "Everybody was just keeping their composure and trying to find a way how we can win this game."
The East also got a huge lift from New Jersey Nets guard Stephon Marbury. Playing in his first All-Star Game, Marbury made a pair of 3-pointers in the final minute. The first tied it at 108-108 with 53 seconds remaining. The second came with 28 ticks left and set up the final possession.
"This is not something I fantasized about or thought about," Marbury said. "I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be playing in the All-Star Game."
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, who made three jumpers in the final 90 seconds, took the inbounds pass but was double-teamed. He passed to the left baseline to San Antonio Spurs 7-footer Tim Duncan, who had his shot partially blocked by Toronto Raptors 6-5 jumping jack Vince Carter.
"Stephon jumped up high on me," Bryant said. "I had an opportunity at a shot but I thought Tim had a better look."
Sacramento Kings forward Chris Webber tried to follow in the miss, but the ball bounced out and was ruled to have come after the buzzer. The East's bench sprinted onto the court in jubilation, and New York Knicks guard Latrell Sprewell playfully taunted his good friend Webber.
Carter scored 16 points, Milwaukee Bucks guard Ray Allen added 15 and Marbury 12 for the East, which has won four of the last five games and improved to 32-18 in the all-time series.
Bryant scored 19 points to lead the West, which managed just 21 points in the final period. The starting frontcourt of Webber, Duncan and Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett each scored 14 points. Duncan had 14 rebounds.
"It was a lot of fun," Duncan admitted in defeat. "I hope it was a lot of fun for the fans because it was a great show."
Although high on late-game excitement, it was the lowest-scoring All-Star Game in 26 years and the first decided by a single point since 1977, when Brown guided the West to a 125-124 win over the East.
"I had no idea we could come from behind," Brown said. "But in the timeouts, they remained positive and they wanted to do everything they could to make the game competitive."
The West scored the game's first 11 points and was in control throughout. A basket by Dallas Mavericks guard Michael Finley, who scored 12 points, gave the West its largest lead at 95-74 with 9:10 to play.
That's when Iverson started motoring. He had a three-point play off a fast break, fed Carter for a layup and took a pass from Carter for a layup.
Consecutive 3-pointers by Detroit Pistons guard Jerry Stackhouse and Carter and another three-point play by Iverson following a coast-to-coast dash made it 100-96 with 4:36 to go.
"There were times I thought we closed him out pretty good and he still got through," Adelman said.