And the NBA's younger stars still were thrilled when Kobe Bryant
took home one more MVP trophy from the All-Star Game Sunday night.
"Everyone wanted him to get the MVP," said Miami's Dwyane Wade, last season's MVP. "He came out very aggressive, as
aggressive as I've seen anybody in an All-Star Game."
Bryant won his record-tying fourth All-Star MVP award Sunday
night with 37 points and 14 rebounds in the West's 148-143 win over
the East. Bryant was well aware he had a chance to tie Bob Pettit's
mark -- and so were his fellow All-Stars.
"He deserved it," Durant said. "Thirty-seven and 14? That's
unbelievable numbers. I wanted him to get 40, but the old fella
kind of tired out a little bit."
Both All-Star teams seemingly deferred to Bryant for much of the
night, finding him on fast breaks and clearing a path for his dunks
-- a rarity these days for Bryant, who prefers to conserve the
bounce in his aching knees. Bryant even threw down a slam against
James' defense in the third quarter, following it up with a
So enjoy it, Kobe. Hidden in all the adulation and goodwill
around hometown All-Star weekend was another common theme: That's
the last prize that will come easily to the Los Angeles Lakers'
five-time champion guard this year.
LeBron's Miami Heat, K.D.'s rising Thunder and the archrival
Boston Celtics won't make it nearly as easy for Bryant to claim his
sixth championship ring. The Lakers are still title contenders, but
they went into the break with three straight losses and serious
questions about whether this veteran team can get motivated for a
Bryant plans to deal with all that Monday at practice in El
"We're looking forward to it," Bryant said of the stretch run.
"We're up for the challenge. Pau [Gasol] and I have been talking
this whole time about looking forward to it, and getting back at
it. We've been in communication with the rest of the fellas, and we
all can't wait to get started."
Until taking over the starring role on Sunday, Bryant said he
spent the weekend attempting to cede the spotlight to James and his
Heat teammates, or the four Celtics All-Stars, or even Clippers
rookie Blake Griffin.
"I've been there, you know what I mean?" Bryant said. "It's
not about that for me at this point in my career. It's very
important for the game to continue to have young stars emerge. ...
It's important for me to step aside. It's about me coming out and
performing and staying healthy, and doing the right things after 15
Although Bryant is just 32, the Philadelphia prep-to-pro star is
in his 15th NBA season, and several current All-Stars --
particularly young Los Angeles natives Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love -- grew up watching his partnership with Shaquille O'Neal
during the Lakers' first three-peat. That reverence is reflected
throughout the season, but was particularly obvious in this
Bryant fell short of Wilt Chamberlain's All-Star record 42
points in 1962, but not for lack of trying by his teammates. He
went scoreless in the final 6:48.
"I wish we could have," New Orleans guard Chris Paul said.
"But Kobe is one of those guys who has been in the league for 13
years, but it seems like he's getting younger, so he'll have