'This one's for him': All-Star MVP's 'special' Kobe Bryant tribute

Riley Morgan
Sports Reporter

A thrilling NBA All-Star match began and ended with touching tributes to Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna.

LeBron James and his squad featuring Ben Simmons and Kawhi Leonard hung on to win the new exciting format to the NBA All-Star match.

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Team LeBron won 157-155 in Chicago on Sunday under new rules designed to prevent a repeat of past dull All-Star games.

The new format honoured late great Kobe Bryant, with its competitiveness aided by a winning final-quarter score target, set at 157, instead of playing to the clock.

Kawhi Leonard of Team LeBron celebrates with the trophy after being named the Kobe Bryant MVP. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

The game began on a sombre note with the 21,000 fans packed into the United Center joining hands to pay tribute to Bryant, who died with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash in LA on January 26.

The silence was broken when the crowd chanted "Kobe, Kobe, Kobe".

The players paid tribute to Bryant and Gianna by wearing No. 2 and No. 24 jerseys.

Team LeBron's Anthony Davis sank a free throw to clinch the game after an intense fourth quarter where the teams gave up the alley-oop dunks and non-existent defence of the first three quarters.

Jennifer Hudson performs a tribute to Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant before the 2020 NBA All Star Game at United Center. (Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

Leonard was then named the inaugural winner of the Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP Award, which he thanked the Lakers great for his influence on him.

"I want to thank Kobe for everything he's done for me,” he said post-match.

“All the long talks and workouts. Thank you. This one's for him."

At the press conference, Leonard elaborated on the award.

"It was very special. I had a relationship with him. Words can't describe how happy I am, how I am able to put that trophy in my trophy room and see that Kobe name,” he said.

“It just means a lot to me. He was a big inspiration for me. He did a lot for me."

Team LeBron began hot with Melbourne-born Simmons slamming four dunks and Leonard hitting his first four three-point shots to take a 53-41 at the end of the first quarter.

Simmons ended the game with 17 points.

Leonard had 30 points.

The 157 target score was set after Team Giannis led at the end of the third quarter 133-124.

The target was set by adding 24 points to Team Giannis' 133.

Team LeBron had to score 33 final-quarter points to win.

With AAP