Keion Cage | Staff Writer
The NBA’s All-Star Game on Feb. 16 in Chicago celebrated some of the league’s best athletes. The association also changed the rules of the game to honor basketball legend Kobe Bryant, who died Jan. 26.
A frenetic fourth quarter featured fierce competitiveness worthy of Bryant. Several fouls, challenges and heated disputes occurred between players and referees – rarely seen in past All-Star games.
“This fourth quarter of [the NBA All-Star Game] is an absolutely phenomenal look for the game of basketball,” ESPN journalist Stephen A. Smith wrote on Twitter. “This is what fans crave and the players delivered.”
Team LeBron was able to complete the comeback victory and beat Team Giannis, 157-155, with a free throw made by the Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis sealing the deal.
The NBA changed the All-Star MVP Award name to the Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP Award. The Los Angeles Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard earned the honor with 30 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
“It’s very special,” Leonard said in an interview with ESPN. “Words can’t explain how happy I am to be able to put that trophy in my room and just be able to see Kobe’s name on there.”
The All-Star Game captains were the Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James and the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo. Team LeBron players wore No. 2 to honor Bryant’s daughter, Gianna “Gigi” Bryant, who died in the helicopter accident with her father. Team Antetokounmpo wore No. 24 to honor Kobe Bryant.
“It’s a big honor,” Antetokounmpo said in an interview with NBA.com. “I wouldn’t want it any other way representing Kobe and Gigi in [Sunday] night’s game.”
Singers, rappers and speakers shared words about Bryant before the game.
“Kobe Bryant is synonymous with NBA All-Star and embodies the spirit of this global celebration of our game,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced before the game. “He always relished the opportunity to compete with the best of the best and perform at the highest level for millions of fans around the world.”
In the first three quarters, the two teams competed in 12-minute periods, with the winner of each receiving $100,000 toward their team’s Chicago-based charities. In the final quarter, the scores from the first three quarters were added up, and the game clock was turned off. The fourth quarter was played until a team reached the final target score. The final target score was determined by the leading team’s total score in the first three quarters plus 24 to honor Bryant again. The winning team would get an additional $200,000 toward its charity.
Team LeBron took the first quarter with a score of 53-41. Team Giannis countered and won the second quarter, 51-30. The third quarter ended 41-41, causing the $100,000 in charity money to be carried over to the winner of the final quarter. Team Giannis led Team LeBron entering the fourth quarter, 133-124, making the final target score 157.
Team LeBron earned $400,000 for the Chicago Scholars Foundation, and Team Giannis made $100,000 for After School Matters.