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 (his 20th in the NBA), couldn’t win a record fifth MVP award in his final NBA All-Star Game.
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Bryant wasn’t sharp but went out on top. In the highest-scoring All-Star Game in NBA history, the Western Conference trounced the Eastern Conference, 196-173, at the Air Canada Centre.
“It was fun,” Bryant said. “I had a blast, playing with those guys, laughing and joking with them on the bench. I had a great, great time.”
Bryant had 10 points, seven assists and six rebounds. The 18-time All-Star attempted some of his trademark turnaround jumpers and even threw up a sky hook that wasn’t close but made Bryant smile.
Bryant shot 4-for-11 and passed up an easy shot in the fourth quarter to register an assist. He was scoreless in the second half and left to a standing ovation with 1:06 left.
“It’s like the passing of a generation,” West coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s been an iconic figure for so long and he passes it on to that other group of young players that you saw out there.”
The West’s Russell Westbrook, who had 41 points last year, scored 31 on Sunday night and repeated as MVP. Stephen Curry had 26 points. Anthony Davis (12-for-13 shooting) scored 24 points and James Harden had 23. Chris Paul added 14 points and 16 assists.
Paul George was brilliant, scoring 41 points for the East. He finished one point shy of tying Wilt Chamberlain for most points in an All-Star Game. John Wall had 22 and DeMar DeRozan of the host Raptors added 18.
The Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony had 13 points and five rebounds in 23 minutes. Anthony, who has been slowed by soreness in his surgically repaired left knee, appeared to be taking it easy in the first half and didn’t play in the fourth quarter. He said his knee felt fine and that his goal is to play in all of the Knicks’ remaining 27 games.
This weekend was all about Bryant, a sure first-ballot Hall of Famer. He was the last player introduced before the All-Star Game and received the loudest ovation. All of the players and coaches also cheered him.
“It was a great way to send him off,” Anthony said. “This is the biggest stage that’s out there for us as players, for the NBA as a whole, and for him to be that centerpiece of that, I’m pretty sure that meant a lot to him.”
A video tribute was played for Bryant and then another Lakers legend, Magic Johnson, spoke. Another video tribute aired, followed by Bryant taking the microphone to address the crowd while all of 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 while 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 had 10 points and five assists as the West took a 92-90 lead in the highest-scoring half in All-Star Game history.
The West pulled ahead by 17 points in the third quarter. Behind George’s 16 third-quarter points, the East cut it to one before the West extended its lead to 12 in the final minute of the quarter.