The NBA All-Star Game provided an opportunity for the NBA community to honour the late Kobe Bryant, with a host of touching tributes pre-game and throughout.
With the respective All-Star squads wearing No. 24 and No. 2 in honour of Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, who were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash last month - Kobe's presence was felt throughout, especially for the players on court.
"You could definitely feel Bean's presence," LeBron James said post-game.
"Just from the start, from every moment, from the fans chanting his name to seeing the numbers every time Giannis' team run on the floor you seen the 24. He was definitely here."
"You could definitely feel Bean's presence from the start. ... He was definitely here." - @KingJames pic.twitter.com/WZqm5h3DIk- Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) February 17, 2020
The fourth quarter of the game went untimed in the revised All-Star Game format, with a target score, adding 24 points to the leading team's total after three quarters, setting up a thrilling finish at the United Center and one of the most competitive All-Star games in recent history.
"We wouldn't be All-Stars if we weren't competitors," James added.
"We all compete at the highest level, try to put our respective teams in a position to win every night so guys definitely just had that sense of pride, that sense of competitiveness throughout the season, throughout the All-Star Game, which we had tonight."
The league also awarded the first-ever 'NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP Award' to Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard, who reflected on the Los Angeles Lakers legend's impact and influence.
"It means a lot to me," Leonard said post-game. "You know, words can't even explain, making this the first Kobe Bryant MVP trophy. I want to thank Kobe for everything he's done for me. All the long talks and workouts. Thank you. This one's for him."
"Thank you. This one's for him." 💜💛- NBA (@NBA) February 17, 2020
Kawhi Leonard thanks the late Kobe Bryant upon winning the first-ever Kia NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP Award. pic.twitter.com/o8YS1jLRy9
Leonard led Team LeBron to a 157-155 win over Team Giannis, recording a game-high 30 points, seven rebounds, four assists, and two steals, shooting 11-of-18 from the field and 8-of-14 from the three-point line.
Meanwhile, James finished with 23 points, six assists, and five rebounds, making it 3-0 since the NBA implemented the captain's draft format in 2018.
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