ANGELES, United States
Kawhi Leonard stole the show on the floor and Hall of Famer
Magic Johnson took centre stage in an emotional pre-game ceremony on a night
the NBA paid tribute to the late Kobe Bryant.

Chicago’s favourite son Anthony Davis sank one of two free
throws to cap a thrilling fourth quarter and lift Team LeBron to a 157-155 win
over Team Giannis in Sunday’s 2020 NBA All-Star Game.

Leonard finished with 30 points and seven rebounds and was
awarded the new Kobe Bryant MVP award. The trophy was named after the former
Los Angeles Laker, who perished along with his daughter Gigi and seven others
in a horrific helicopter crash three weeks ago. 

“I want to thank Kobe for everything he has done for
me, all the long talks and workouts. Thank you,” said Leonard, who grew up
in Riverside, California east of Los Angeles.

Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 25 points and 11
rebounds to lead Team Giannis who kept the game close right up until the
nail-biting finish.

“The guys were taking charges and running back playing
defence,” said Leonard of the highly competitive All-Star Game which
contrasted sharply with Friday’s benign Rising Stars game that deteriorated
into a slam-dunking contest.

With the score 156-155, and new format dictating that the
winner needed to be the first to get to 157 points, Davis went to the line for
two shots after being fouled by Team Giannis’ Kyle Lowry.

“I told my teammates I was going to go to miss the
first one and put more pressure on myself to knock down the second one,”
said Davis, who grew up in Chicago.

That’s exactly what he did to put a perfect ending on the
night which began with another Laker icon Johnson making an emotional speech
honouring Bryant in front of a crowd of 20,900 at the United Center in Chicago.

“We’ll never see another basketball player quite like
Kobe,” said Johnson, who also paid tribute on Sunday to David Stern, the
late NBA commissioner. “Scoring 81 points in one game. Scoring 60 points
in his last game. And then winning five NBA championships.”

James made his 16th all-star start breaking a tie with
Bryant for the most all-time. Bryant holds the record for most all-star MVP
awards with four.

“His legacy is living on every single day with
us,” said James of Bryant.

The league also honoured Bryant by having Team Giannis wear
his No. 24 and Team LeBron wear his basketball-playing daughter’s No. 2.

Team LeBron earned $400,000 in prize money which they
donated to the Chicagoland youth charity Chicago Scholars.


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