The header of the NBA All-Star Weekend is, of course, the NBA All-Star Game, where the season’s most-performing 12 players from the Eastern and Western Conferences respectively going up against each other to become the best of the best. The current edition is the sixth contest that shifted from the old East vs West narrative, to have the highest vote-getters of each conference picking up their teams. Last weekend’s NBA All-Star Game saw NBA’s all-time leading scorer and Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James leading his team for the sixth time in a row, to face Giannis Antetokounmpo’s side. On the other hand, the Greek Freak notched his hat-trick of captaincies in Salt Lake City, Utah.
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First Loss for Team LeBron
In the new format, Team LeBron had yet to taste any defeat prior to this game, having won all five previous NBA All-Star Games, but the record was soon to be changed in this match. The 72nd edition of this contest welcomed another twist of rule, where both sets of captains pick their men right before the tip-off, as compared to selecting players days before the match. The end draft result saw Team LeBron pick starters namely Luka Dončić (Dallas Mavericks), Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers), Kyrie Irving (Dallas Mavericks) and Nikola Jokić (Denver Nuggets), whereas Giannis choose Lauri Markkanen (Utah Jazz), Donovan Mitchell (Cleveland Cavaliers), Ja Morant (Memphis Grizzlies) and Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics) in his starting lineup.
The game was tied in the first 12 minutes, before Team Giannis pulled away in the second and third quarters, enjoying a resounding 17-point lead going into the final quarter. The large deficit was notably due to LeBron James’ absence in the second half, after the 38-year-old four-time NBA Finals MVP injured himself before half time. This meant that LeBron’s team would have to score 41 points in the fourth quarter in order to win the game, according to the new rule where the target score of the match comes from the total of the winning team in the first three quarter plus 24 points to honour the tragic passing of former NBA megastar Kobe Bryant.
Team LeBron did try to make a comeback in the final 12 minutes, but to no avail, as the firepower within the Greek Freak’s team was too much, with Damian Lillard scoring the final basket to win the game 184-175 and hand Team LeBron its first ever loss in the history of NBA All-Star Games.
Tatum Broke Scoring Record on His Way of Winning the MVP
There were only five players who were on double figures for the winning Team Giannis, but despite Lillard putting on a show by scoring 40 points and giving away 10 assists, he was outshone by Jayson Tatum, who scored 55 points in addition to his 10 rebounds and six assists. Tatum’s performance allowed him to break the all-time scoring record by a player in a single NBA All-Star Game, surpassing Antony Davis’ 52-point performance in 2017. This also made him the rightful NBA All-Star Game MVP in Utah, and was awarded the new Kobe Bryant trophy.
The 24-year-old Boston Celtics forward Tatum is of course a huge fan of Kobe Bryant, having worn his Lakers jersey back when he was a kid. The former Duke player had a chance to join Lakers during the 2017 NBA Draft, but the Purple and Gold went on to draft Lonzo Ball instead. Hence, Tatum mentioned that winning the Kobe Bryant trophy is truly an honour in his playing career, stating that “It means the world to him” and “Kobe is the reason why he fell in love with the game”. He also acknowledged the fact that he broke the scoring record for a player in a single NBA All-Star Game, in which the response read “I was in the first All-Star Game when they named the MVP after him (Kobe) and ever since I had my eyes on wining it one day. I’m finally glad I got one”.
Is LeBron’s Injury Serious?
As for LeBron James, he insisted that he will be fine after the injury suffered during the NBA All-Star Game. He said: “I told him (Coach Michael Malone) I’d get one stop for him and I tried one little chase-down block and got my finger caught in the rim. But I’ll be fine, I’ll be fine. I don’t think it’s too much to worry about but for precautionary reasons I had to just take the rest of the night off.” The NBA All-Stars will now dive back to their league endeavours for the second half of the season to earn spots in the season-ending playoffs.