Superstars from both teams played with utter competitiveness, hustle and tenacity—the perfect nod to the late great Kobe Bryant
By Nicole Ganglani | Photo from NBA.com

On a night where the late Kobe Bryant was honored throughout the 2020 NBA All-Star game, mamba mentality was in full display as the world’s greatest basketball players put on an outstanding show. What made this year’s All-Star Game (ASG) arguably the most entertaining one in history could perhaps be the format change along with having elite players in every position go at it.

The countless three point shots made (Kawhi Leonard converted a record-breaking eight three- pointers) and occasional slam dunk highlights added to the thrill of the event. The charity programs involved raised the stakes for Team LeBron and Team Giannis and at the same time gave every single player on the court a reason to compete today. And as mentioned above, the new format of the ASG changed the whole landscape of the game, and making it the perfect tribute to NBA legend Kobe Bryant.

The Amount of Kobe Bryant tributes

Besides the format change, Kobe was honored throughout the All-Star Weekend. The biggest one was when NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced that the ASG MVP trophy was going to be named after the 18-time All Star. Kobe was also honored with emotional performances by Jennifer Hudson, Chance The Rapper, Dr Dre, Damian Lillard and Lil Wayne. And of course in the ASG itself Team Giannis wore number 24 while Team LeBron wore number two in honor of Kobe and his daughter, Gianna.

Indeed, the main event was the perfect tribute for Kobe. The game ended with an Anthony Davis game-winning free throw—the same kind of shot that Kobe started and ended his career with. Not to mention that his career high of 81-points was also capped off with a free throw shot. The game was a nod to to Kobe because you could tell superstars from both teams played with utter competitiveness, hustle and tenacity—similar to how Kobe approached every basketball game.

Kawhi Becomes the First Kobe Bryant ASG MVP

“I wanna thank Kobe for everything he did for me. This one’s for him,” says Kawhi Leonard.

Kawhi displayed arguably one of the best all-around performances in NBA ASG history. The Klaw started the game knocking down four three-pointers and hitting seven out of 10 shots by halftime. The Clipper, who led all scorers with 30 points, has been criticized throughout the season for load managing and sitting down games. Despite this, the king of load management (who also happens to be one of Kobe’s biggest fans growing up) put a fitting ending to the ASG after he became the first ever player to win the Kobe Bryant ASG MVP award.

ASG Turned Into NBA Finals Match

This was the result of both teams playing to 157 points—24 points higher than Team Giannis’ score after the third quarter. Aside from the fourth quarter change, the fact that $400,000 was going to the winning team’s corresponding charity also played a huge role in making this year’s ASG the best one in years.

Both teams split the first two quarters, with the intensity picking up in the third quarter after Nikola Jokic knocked down a three-pointer that gave Team LeBron the advantage. Team Giannis turned the ball over in the next possession and fouled Russel Westrbook (a poor free throw shooter) right away. Westbrook made one out of two of his free throws which gave way for Team Giannis to tie the game with a sensational Trae Young to Rudy Gobert alley-oop play. Since the game was tied, both teams had to duel it out for the money in the fourth quarter instead.

The fourth quarter could not have been written any better. Every single superstar on the floor was hustling and playing actual defense in the ASG. Team LeBron, who needed 33 points to make it to 157 points, managed to come from behind with the late heroics of Anthony Davis, Chris Paul, LeBron James and of course MVP Kawhi Leonard. The chaotic and unique atmosphere that is normally only felt in the NBA Finals was especially felt in the fourth quarter of the ASG as players battled it out on every single possession and treated every whistle blown by the referees like it was gunshot from far away.

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Players arguing with the refs. This game is perfect.

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The last whistle though was in the advantage of Team LeBron who needed Davis to make one free throw to seal what was the best ASG game in years. Davis did not disappoint: Although missing the first free throw on purpose, the Brow ended the game by hitting the most crucial shot of the night. The same crucial shot that earned the Chicago Scholars Organization $300,000 dollars and sealed Team LeBron’s third straight consecutive ASG victory.

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