|West All Star Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers stands with East All Star LeBron James of the Miami Heat. (REUTERS/Gary Hershorn)
LOS ANGELES — There will be additional all-star games for Kobe Bryant to showcase his immense talents, but with Father Time slowly creeping into his game, Sunday was Bryant’s final all-star appearance in front of his home crowd.
Not one to get absorbed in sentiment or nostalgia, the game’s ultimate assassin used the mid-season classic to further cement a legacy that keeps growing.
For Bryant, the night would bring home his fourth all-star game MVP, which connects the five-time NBA champion with Bob Pettit as the only players to win the honour four times.
For a while, Bryant even flirted with Wilt Chamberlain’s all-star game record of 42 points, but had to settle for 37 on 14-of-26 shooting to complement a 14-rebound night.
As one might expect, Bryant received the loudest ovation and even served as a buffer when Carmelo Anthony was interviewed during the game about his uncertain future with Denver amid the swirling trade rumours.
Besides the numbers, Bryant provided a symbolic passing of the torch when he was subbed in for Blake Griffin midway through the opening period.
Griffin is far from being on the same playing field as Bryant, but the Clippers rookie has taken L.A. by storm, supplanting Bryant as the most entertaining athlete in the city.
Like Bryant, Griffin is highly competitive, an edge the Lakers star appreciates and endorses.
In leading the West to its 148-143 win over the East, Bryant did get plenty of support, especially from Kevin Durant, the NBA’s leading scorer from Oklahoma City who poured in 34 points.
LeBron James and Amare Stoudemire each poured in 29 points for the East.
Despite the presence of the game’s best, the teams combined to shoot 16-of-60 from three-point range.