Team LeBron nips Team Giannis in All-Star Game honoring Kobe
MANILA, Philippines – Team LeBron trounced Team Giannis for the second straight year to rule the 2020 NBA All-Star Game, the format of which was tweaked to pay homage to the late basketball icon Kobe Bryant.
Team LeBron drew prolific performances from Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James to nip Team Giannis, 157-155, at the United Center in Chicago on Sunday, February 16 (Monday, February 17, Manila time).
Leonard delivered 30 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals, while James put up 23 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks as the All-Star Game turned ultra-competitive with the new setup.
Kawhi Leonard scores 30 PTS and hits 8 triples to lead #TeamLeBron to victory in the 2020 #NBAAllStar Game and win the Kia NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP Award! #KiaAllStarMVP pic.twitter.com/HNQtL17fHH
Kawhi Leonard scores 30 PTS and hits 8 triples to lead #TeamLeBron to victory in the 2020 #NBAAllStar Game and win the Kia NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP Award! #KiaAllStarMVP pic.twitter.com/HNQtL17fHH— NBA (@NBA) February 17, 2020
"The guys were taking charges and running back playing defense," said Leonard of the All-Star Game, which contrasted sharply with the benign Rising Stars Game that deteriorated into a slam dunk contest.
Unlike previous editions, the first 3 quarters of the All-Star Game this year were played like mini games, with the team winning every period getting $100,000 for its chosen charity in Chicago.
A target score was then set in the 4th quarter, where the clock was turned off and the total points scored by the leading team from the first 3 periods were added by 24, the number Bryant wore for half of his career.
Team Giannis led 133-124 after 3 quarters to set the target score at 157, but Team LeBron delivered when it mattered most to triumph with Anthony Davis securing the victory with a free throw.
Davis, a proud son of Chicago, put the fans in attendance on their seat when he missed the first of his two free throws before calmly sinking the second for the win.
"I told my teammates I was going to go to miss the first one and put more pressure on myself to knock down the second one," said Davis, who finished with 20 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 3 steals.
Leonard took home the All-Star MVP honors named after Bryant, who won the award a record 4 times in his 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers.
"I want to thank Kobe for everything he has done for me, all the long talks and workouts. Thank you," said Leonard, who grew up in Riverside, California and currently plays for the Los Angeles Clippers.
Before the game, Lakers legend Magic Johnson paid tribute to Bryant with an emotional speech before the mammoth crowd of 20,900.
"We'll never see another basketball player quite like Kobe," said Johnson, who also paid tribute to David Stern, the late NBA commissioner.
"Scoring 81 points in one game. Scoring 60 points in his last game. And then winning 5 NBA championships."
James of the Lakers, meanwhile, made his 16th All-Star start and broke a tie with Bryant for the most all-time.
"His legacy is living on every single day with us," said James of Bryant.
The league also honored Bryant by having Team Giannis wear his No. 24 and Team LeBron don No. 2, the jersey number Gianna Bryant – who was killed with his father in a helicopter crash – sported.
Aside from bragging rights, the 24 All-Stars played for much more, with a total of $500,000 to be donated to charity.
The two squads won $100,000 each in the first two quarters, while the prize money for the third quarter was carried over to the final frame after the period ended on a 41-41 deadlock.
As the dust settled, Team LeBron earned $400,000, which they donated to the Chicagoland youth charity Chicago Scholars.
Chris Paul came off the bench for Team LeBron and contributed 23 points and 6 assists, while Ben Simmons had 17 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists.
Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way for Team Giannis with 25 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 blocks, Kemba Walker had 23 points, while Joel Embiid pumped in 22 points and 10 rebounds in the loss.
– with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com