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Kobe Enjoys Victory in Final All-Star Game
Known throughout his career for wearing looks of intensity, Kobe Bryant couldn’t stop beaming throughout his final All-Star Game in Toronto Sunday.
Surrounded by players who have looked up to him throughout his career, Bryant enjoyed the evening that served as a farewell for many.
“I had a blast playing with those guys, laughing and joking with them on the bench,” Bryant said. “And I got a chance to stop Pau (Gasol) in a post, redeem myself from what he did to me when Chicago came to town.
“But all those things are just fun. I had a great time. I had a great, great time.”
After being introduced alongside the other All-Stars by Grammy-winning artist Drake, Bryant received a speech from Magic Johnson before delivering one of his own to the 18,298 at sold-out Air Canada Centre.
Despite such a grand entrance, the night truly became special during the Western Conference’s 196-173 victory over the East.
Bryant collected 10 points (4-of-11), six rebounds and seven assists, doing the majority of his damage in a seven-point second quarter.
Midway through that frame, he also tied Ray Allen for the second-most 3-pointers in All-Star history (22) and surpassed Michael Jordan for the game’s most steals (37) with his lone swipe just before halftime.
He also hit a pair of his patented shots in the first half, knocking down turnaround jumpers over Kyle Lowry and Carmelo Anthony.
Other one-on-one matchups included against Gasol and LeBron James — the latter of whom expressed his eagerness in the moment by slapping the floor while guarding Bryant.
“It was just bittersweet being out on the floor with him, knowing the matches between us two are coming to an end soon,” James said. “We’ve got one more in March in L.A. But when you get that opportunity versus a great, you just have fun with it.”
Bryant missed all three of his second-half shots, though that didn’t stop his fellow All-Stars from embracing him when he was subbed out with a minute remaining, as the Toronto crowd rose for a standing ovation.
“To see him now, it’s like the passing of a generation,” said the West’s coach, Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs. “He’s been such an iconic figure for so long and he passes it on to that other group of guys that you saw out there tonight.”
Along with his marks on steals and 3-pointers, Bryant ended his All-Star career with the second-most points of any player (280). James scored 13 to edge Bryant for the all-time lead by just one.
Wild West Shootout
As the league’s top talent, most All-Star selections are well above average on both sides of the floor, but none seemed too interested in providing much resistance defensively.
Both sides shattered the previous record of 163 points scored in a single All-Star game, as Russell Westbrook erupted for 31 points, eight rebounds, five assists, five steals and seven 3-pointers to lead the West’s victory.
The Oklahoma City star also took home the same honor at last year’s All-Star Game in New York, becoming the first back-to-back MVP since Bob Pettit in 1959 and 1960.
“Any time you can be able to be in the history books, it means something to me,” Westbrook said.
Westbrook had only eight points at halftime and needed some assistance from the other Western All-Stars in order to outduel Indiana’s Paul George, who was brilliant in scoring 41 points on 16-of-26 shooting.
The Pacer knocked down an All-Star record nine 3-pointers and, like Westbrook last season, finished just a single point shy of Wilt Chamberlain’s all-time scoring total of 42 in the 1962 game.
Behind 14 points from George, the East led after one quarter, 43-40. However, the West managed to score more than 50 points in each of the three remaining periods to roll past its competition.
Bryant’s family sat behind his spot on the bench. … Bryant and James jumped for the opening tip-off. … The West received strong performances from several other players, including Stephen Curry (26 points, six 3-pointers), Anthony Davis (24 points, 12-of-13) and Chris Paul (14 points, 16 assists). … The West hit an All-Star record 31 3-pointers. … The East lost despite scoring 96 points in the paint.
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