The National Basketball Association (NBA) lost a legend on Jan. 27 when basketball icon Kobe Bryant, along with his daughter Gianna and seven others, tragically passed in a helicopter crash. Fans and NBA players were shocked at the news and paid homage to Bryant both on and off the court. Many players chose to honor Bryant’s legacy during the NBA’s All-Star Game on Feb. 16, when the most talented players in the league participated in a charity game.
Captains Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James, along with their respective teams, wore the jersey numbers of Kobe Bryant, 24, and Gianna Bryant, 2. Each jersey also sported nine stars arranged in a circle to honor the nine victims in the crash.
24 to win:
In honor of Kobe and Gianna’s passing, the NBA has changed the format of the game. Instead of a traditional 12-minute fourth quarter, the teams played to meet a final target score. This score was calculated by adding 24 points to the leading team’s point total for the first three quarters.
This rule change led to one of the most entertaining and competitive All-Star games in recent years. Instead of the lackluster defense present in previous years, both teams were engaged and active on both ends of the floor. The game was incredibly close, with both teams within striking distance during much of the fourth quarter. Eventually, Team LeBron won by a narrow margin of 157-155.
The new rule change inspired the teams to play harder and faster than in years past. Bryant won the All-Star Game MVP four times, an all-time record, when he played due to his competitive drive and work ethic. This competitive All-Star Game is just what Bryant would have wanted to see.
Emotions were running high before the game, as Lakers legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson held an eight-second moment of silence to honor Bryant during an introductory speech. Many of the players had been close with Kobe, and looked up to him in their childhoods. During the moment of silence, players were seen holding hands in solidarity.
The emotional moment was amplified by acclaimed singer Jennifer Hudson’s powerful tribute to Bryant. As photos of Bryant and his daughter flashed behind her, Hudson delivered a touching performance of Donny Hathaway’s “For All We Know.”
The Kobe Bryant Award:
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver had announced that the All-Star MVP Award was to be renamed the Kobe Bryant MVP Award prior to the All-Star Game. This gave the award a special meaning to several players close to Bryant and encouraged the players to give their best effort.
As the game progressed, it was clear that two All-Stars were performing at a level above the rest — reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and current MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. Both these players were disciples of Bryant, and worked out tirelessly with him during the NBA off-season. Because of their personal connection to Bryant, both Leonard and Antetokoumpo began to compete with each other as the game went on. During the second quarter, Antetokounmpo brought his team back within striking distance by scoring 14 of his 25 points within the 12 minutes.
Leonard, however, continued to score down the stretch and finished with 30 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists en route to the trophy. After the game, Leonard dedicated his win to Bryant.
Before the game, Chicago native and rapper Common delivered a spoken word piece in which he mentioned Bryant’s impact on basketball and inspiring people across the world.
“Even in the darkest times, you’ll feel Kobe’s light,” he rapped.
Bryant was known for his relentless work ethic during his career; he put his body under immense physical strain and often played through injury to win critical games. Throughout his spoken word piece, Common emphasized this work ethic, which Bryant coined as his “Mamba Mentality.” NBA legend Dwyane Wade teared up as he was compared to Bryant and shown as an example of hard work.
During the halftime show, rapper Chance the Rapper paid tribute to Bryant with his song “I Was A Rock.”
“We pray for a day that will come where we will get to see a place where there is no sunrise and there is no sunset. And the prince of peace will say ‘job well done,’” he said.”