TORONTO — Kobe Bryant was showered with love on Valentine’s night as the NBA had a going away party for one of its biggest stars.
Bryant, who announced his retirement earlier this season, played in his final NBA All-Star Game. But Bryant couldn’t win a record fifth MVP Award in his finale.
As he has been for most of his 20th NBA season, Bryant wasn’t sharp but he went out on top. The West team trounced the East, 196-173, Sunday night at the Air Canada Centre in the highest-scoring All-Star Game in NBA history.
An 18-time All-Star, Bryant attempted some of his trademark turnaround jumpers and even threw up a skyhook that wasn’t close. But it made Bryant smile.
Bryant scored 10 points, and had seven assists and six rebounds. He shot 4-for-11, and passed up an easy shot in the fourth quarter to register an assist. Bryant was scoreless in the second half and left to a standing ovation with 1:06 left.
Russell Westbrook, who scored 41 points last year, repeated as MVP after scoring 31 to lead the West. Steph Curry had 26 points. Pelicans big man Anthony Davis shot 12-for-13 and scored 24, James Harden had 23. Chris Paul added 14 points and 16 assists.
Pacers forward Paul George was brilliant, scoring 41 points for the East. He finished one point shy of tying Wilt Chamberlain for most points in the All-Star Game. Washington’s John Wall had 22 points for the East and Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan 18.
Carmelo Anthony ended up with 13 points and five rebounds in 23 minutes. Anthony, who has been slowed by soreness in his surgically repaired left knee, looked like he was taking it easy in the first half. He didn’t play in the fourth quarter.
It was a one-point game late in the third quarter, but the West ran away with the game after that.
This weekend has been all about Bryant, a surefire first ballot Hall of Famer.
During Saturday’s Western Conference practice, a montage of Bryant’s career played on the video board above the court and the fans chanted “Ko-be! Ko-be!” He was the last player introduced before the All-Star Game Sunday night, and received the loudest ovation. All the players and coaches cheered Bryant also.
A video tribute was played for Bryant and then another Laker legend, Magic Johnson, spoke. Another video tribute aired after followed by Bryant taking the microphone to address the crowd while all the All-Stars stood behind him and “Ko-be” chants filled the arena.
“I just want to thank you guys for all your support all these years,” Bryant said. “I’m fortunate to be able to play the game I love and to be in the NBA more than half my life.”
Bryant ended up saying, “Now I got to go get loose.”
The fast and furious pace wasn’t conducive to Bryant getting off to a good start. He was a spectator at first and missed his first jumper — a three-pointer. Bryant was fouled by Anthony attempting his next shot, and made one free throw. He scored on his next shot — a turnaround fadeaway that went around the rim a few times before dropping through the net.
In the second quarter, Bryant connected on a three-pointer that also needed a little help. It hit the front of the rim, bounced off the backboard and fell in. Later in the quarter, Bryant hit one of his patented turnaround jumpers over Anthony from the baseline.
Bryant finished with 10 points and five assists in the first half with the West leading 92-90. It was the highest-scoring half in All-Star Game history.
A dizzying start to the second half turned Bryant into a spectator. He didn’t attempt his first shot until midway through the quarter, after the West team already scored 31 points. Bryant over-shot a sky hook.
The West pulled ahead by 17 points in the third. Behind George’s 16 third-quarter points, the East cut it to one. But the West started distancing itself again and extended their lead to 12 in the final minute.