CHICAGO — One more permanent honor went to Kobe Bryant on Saturday night. Starting with Sunday’s All-Star Game, the exhibition’s MVP trophy will forever be named after Kobe Bryant, commissioner Adam Silver announced at his annual press conference.
In recent years, the All-Star MVP trophy was sponsored by Kia. Bryant was an 18-time All-Star — four-time MVP.
“This one seems so appropriate at All-Star because nobody embodied All-Star more than Kobe,’’ Silver said.
During his opening remarks that lasted nearly 10 minutes, Silver paid tribute to commissioner David Stern and Bryant, who died within 26 days of each other.
“He and David, interestingly, had a lot in common,’’ Silver said. “They were both determined to win. They could be difficult at times because they prioritized winning and often didn’t have time for some of the niceties around personal relationships.”
Sunday’s All-Star event will be all about Bryant with the game’s new scoring system threatening to confuse viewers. All the uniform numbers will be either 24 (Bryant’s number his last 10 years) or 2 (his daughter Gianna).
“For us to be able to honor Kobe Bryant and his legacy, it’s a beautiful time,’’ team captain LeBron James said. “We know he’s watching over us. It’s our responsibility to just represent the purple and gold not only for him but for all the greats. I really don’t want to sit up here and talk about it too much. It’s a very, very sensitive subject, but he’s with us every day.”
Silver revealed there was strong consideration to cancel all the games on Jan. 26 as the league found out before the public. However, the deaths were not confirmed, and Silver said fans were already arriving to matinee contests. The Knicks hosted the Nets that night.
As for the way the All-Star Game will be scored, each of the first three quarters will start at 0-0. The winning team of each quarter gets to donate a $100,000 toward a Chicago-based charity of its choosing.
However, when the fourth quarter starts the cumulative score will be restored for an untimed fourth quarter. The league will add 24 points (Bryant’s jersey) to the highest cumulative score and that becomes the target score Team Giannis and Team LeBron will play to. For instance, if Team LeBron is up 100-93, the first team to 124 wins.
According to a source, if this works, the NBA would do it next year, too.
Knicks rookie RJ Barrett’s game-high 27-point, three-steal, five-assist performance that included getting under Zion Williamson’s skin was indeed a nice tribute to his idol Bryant, who always competed harder than the rest at the All-Star Game.
Barrett’s nickname at Duke was “The Maple Mamba.’’ After Bryant’s death, Barrett asked he not be called that any longer.
Williamson was angry Barrett held him to prevent him leaping for an alley-oop dunk.
“Guess it’s an All-Star Game, but I really only know how to play one way,’’ Barrett said. “But it was a lot of fun. I didn’t press too much. I went out there and had fun, took opportunities when I could, tried to make some nice passes too.’’