Over a month later, the international basketball fandom and the NBA community still have Black Mamba on their collective minds. The late retired basketball superstar Kobe Bryant certainly left a gigantic mark on his former team the LA Lakers, the league, and the sport as a whole. This footprint has thus been encapsulated in the recent 2020 NBA All-Stars weekend. A particular player award in that spectacle now bears his name, and the All-Star Game itself followed a special format that also paid tribute to Bryant via his jersey number. It comes across as only the beginning of the Kobe Bryant legacy, but it is also a very good start.
CBS Sports reports that on the 2020 NBA All-Star Game played this Sunday, February 16 between the teams led by LeBron James (Lakers) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks), it was Kawhi Leonard of the LA Clippers who would be honored by being the first All-Star competitor to be given the new most valuable player award. That is because the MVP trophy now carries the name of the Black Mamba (and the corporate sponsor), in the form of the Kia NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP Award.
Leonard certainly deserves the accolade for his spirited play on behalf of Team LeBron, to ace their 157-point win over Team Giannis’ 155, with Kawhi giving 30 points and leading all scorers. The closeness of the final score was due to the special rule, with the fourth quarter being played in The Basketball Tournament’s “Elam Ending” where the game clock is shut off at the last four minutes (shot clock still active) and the teams play to terminate the game by reaching a target score, in this case 24 after Bryant’s second Lakers number. In the 12-vote MVP selection, Leonard got seven to LeBron’s 3, with Anthony Davis and Chris Paul each getting a vote.
The renaming of the All-Star MVP Award in memory of Kobe Bryant was first revealed Saturday, February 15 by NBA commissioner Adam Silver. Interestingly, Black Mamba tied in winning the All-Star MVP with Bob Pettit. Other highlights of All-Star Weekend include the Celebrity Game between Team Stephen A. Smith and Team Michael Wilbon, both sports program hosts, featuring players like rappers Common and Chance the Rapper. Team Wilbon won. For the Rising Stars Challenge (USA vs. World) the American-born players beat the international ones 151-131. Bam Adebayo of the Miami Heat won the Skills Challenge, Buddy Hield of the Sacramento Kings the Three-Point Contest, and the Heats’ Derek Jones Jr. aced the Slam Dunk Contest.
Image from Bleacher Report