The Best And Most Competitive All-Star Game In Recent Memory And A Fitting MVP

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - FEBRUARY 16: Kawhi Leonard #2 of Team LeBron handles the ball during the 69th NBA All-Star Game at United Center on February 16, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Ivan Shum - Clicks Images/Getty Images)

The Best And Most Competitive All-Star Game In Recent Memory And A Fitting MVP

The first Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP trophy was awarded Sunday night.

Published 1 week ago

Written by Jarod Hector

Team LeBron defeated Team Giannis 157-155 in one of the most competitive All-Star games in recent memory, and Kawhi Leonard won the newly named Kia NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP.

He finished with 30 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists.

The game began with a touching tribute to the late Kobe Bryant. Magic Johnson asked for eight seconds of silence, an homage to the Lakers legend's initial jersey number, followed by a song tribute from Chicago's own Jennifer Hudson.

The game also marked the debut of the new rule changes. Each team was playing the game for a specific charity, with the winning score for each quarter earning $100,000 for a local Chicago based charity. 

Team LeBron played for the Chicago Scholars and Team Giannis for After School Matters.

The new format and the spirit of Bryant amped up the competition level, the likes we don't normally see in an All-Star Game. 

Team LeBron won the first quarter 53-41 and $100,000 for his team's charity, and Team Giannis followed up with a 51-30 second quarter win and $100,000 for his team's charity. 

The third quarter went back and forth and ended in a 41-41 tie, meaning that $100,00 carried over into the final quarter and $200,000 was on the line. 

The final quarter saw charges taken, blocked shots, complaining to the referees about foul calls, aggressive defense, and set plays on offense. 

Team Giannis head coach Nick Nurse was impressed with the format and the energy both teams played with. 

"The end was amazing," said Nurse. "I think everybody in the whole place was on their feet watching each possession, and they were really going at it...offensively it was hard to get anything started."

157 was the target winning score, as Team Giannis had the lead 133-124. The target score is another way the league chose to honor Bryant. Whichever team was leading headed into the fourth, that score plus 24 (Bryant's other jersey number) would be the score needed to win the game. 

It was a back and forth battle and in the end, Lakers star Anthony Davis (Chicago born) drew a foul and made one of two free throws to secure the win. 

Following the game, players talked about the "spirit of Kobe"

Ben Simmons 

James Harden

Leonard had a special relationship with Bryant, and winning the newly named award meant a lot to him. 

"I had a special relationship with him," Leonard said. "Words can't explain how happy I am for it...He did a lot for me."

The 2021 NBA All-Star game will take place in Indianapolis, Indiana. That's a wrap from Chicago!

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State Farm All-Star Saturday Night has long been considered the "highlight" of a weekend full of unbelievable moments. It features the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, The MTN DEW 3-Point Contest, and AT&T Slam Dunk.

This year did not disappoint. 

The Miami Heat's Bam Adebayo showed off his skills defeating Indiana Pacers' big man Domontas Sabonis in the final. 

Adebayo's development is a huge reason the Heat are serious contenders in the east and his win is notable because this competition tends to be dominated by guards and wings. Big men like Adebayo and Sabonis are representative of the evolution of the game. 

According to Las Vegas odds makers, Adebayo was a long shot to win and he talked about it in his media availability. 

"I just want to say something. I read a tweet that I was [picked] last to win in Vegas," he said. So whoever bet, I hope you got your money. I hope you go buy yourself a Ruth's Chris, Cheesecake Factory, something in that fashion." 

Sacramento Kings sharpshooter Buddy Hield held off the Phoenix Suns' Devin Booker

Hield, nailed four of the five money balls on his final rack, to edge Booker by one. 

"I felt great," the Sacramento Kings guard said. "Like I said earlier, as a shooter, this is on your bucket list. You have to come in, and you want to win a 3-point shootout. With a stacked field like that, it makes it even better.

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242 to Da 🇧🇸🌎

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The slam dunk contest, capped off a crazy night on the floor. 

The Miami Heat's Derrick Jones Jr., and Orlando Magic's Aaron Gordon advanced to the finals and the contest had to go to a dunk-off!

Both players received perfect scores of 50 on their last few attempts and the judges intended for it to end in a tie, but Gordon was robbed, even after dunking over Boston Celtics' 7'6" rookie Tacko Fall. He was only awarded 47 points, which gave the title to Jones Jr. who scored a 48 on his final dunk. 

Candace Parker and Common each awarded Gordon a 10 for the dunk, with the other three judges -- Dwyane Wade, Scottie Pippen and Chadwick Boseman -- each giving him a 9.

"No, I don't even know who gave me the 9s. I'm going to find them (laughter). Trust me, I'm going to find them tonight," said Gordon. "But really, we're here to do four dunks. So out of four dunks, it should be the best out of four dunks. I did four straight 50s -- five straight 50s. That's over. It's a wrap. Let's go home. Four 50s in a row in an NBA Dunk Contest, it's over. But I don't know. Who's running the show?"

Jones Jr. didn't see any controversy and believed the right man one.

"When I got that 48, it was tough because that was a dunk that I was doing that since high school, and I know that's 50 worthy," Jones said. "There's no way I should have got a 48. He clipped Tacko's head when he did that dunk, so I knew they couldn't have gave him a 50 for that one. I would have respected it if they gave him another 48, so we can go again."

Jones Jr. didn't see any controversy and believed the right man one.

"When I got that 48, it was tough because that was a dunk that I was doing that since high school, and I know that's 50 worthy," Jones said. "There's no way I should have got a 48. He clipped Tacko's head when he did that dunk, so I knew they couldn't have gave him a 50 for that one. I would have respected it if they gave him another 48, so we can go again."

Finally, what's All-Star Weekend without some after parties...

In connection with PUMA’s newest collaboration with Fashion Geek, which dropped exclusively in Chicago this weekend, PUMA held a launch party to celebrate. Kenny Burns hosted and Yo Gotti and Gunna took the stage.

Remembering Kobe And All-Star Media Day 

Saturday 1:00 pm - Chicago Illinois 

NBA All-Star weekend is in full swing! Team Giannis and Team LeBron took turns with their individual media sessions.

But before they did Hall of Famer and NBA legend George "Iceman" Gervin talked about Kobe Bryant

The NBA is a close knit fraternity and Gervin felt the loss along with everyone else. 

Ben Simmons (Team LeBron) also shared his thoughts and reflected on the person who influenced him the most from a basketball perspective. 

The teams will get in a little "practice" for the fans and then shut it down before Sunday evening's (February 16) game.--Jarod Hector 

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PUMA Debuts New "Sky Dreamer" Shoe In Private Gift Lounge

Friday 9:00 pm - Chicago, Illinois

The Rising Stars are center stage right now at the United Center, but before they took the court BET took in some more sights and sounds from Chicago. 

PUMA, who has been a resurgent brand in the basketball category, collaborated with LeagueFits to create a private gift lounge for VIPs and influencers. PUMA debuted new merchandise, including the "Sky Dreamer" basketball shoe.

Jordan Brand presented the Chicago Public Schools Boys’ Final Four through its UNITE campaign at HUB23. 

Powerhouse Simeon defeated defending city champs Curie, and Morgan Park defeated Bogan setting up Sunday's championship. 

Jordan Brand President Craig Williams was on hand and touted the importance of youth basketball, calling it the "essence of the game."

Meanwhile in the Rising Stars game, Zion Williamson of Team USA bent the rim.

All Star Weekend Gets Underway; Memphis Grizzlies prep to rep "Grind City"

Friday 2:00 pm - Chicago, Illinois 

The NBA has taken over the Windy City on this Valentine's and President's Day weekend. The 69th edition of one of the league's signature events is here. Yes, it's cold. Freezing actually. But the action in and around this spectacular weekend is hot!

The Jordan Brand welcomed guests to Chicago Thursday evening (February 13) with a soft opening of its All-Star Weekend hub, HUB23, to preview the entire Chicago Collaborators Collection. BET toured the brand space in the General Richard L. Jones Armory that highlighted Jumpman’s history in Chicago and the Brand’s UNITE through basketball campaign. 

The "hypebeasts" were out in full force decked out in all their Jumpman swag. 

A young woman who identified herself as “Michelle” told BET, "All-Star weekend is the best. I try and attend every year and I'm glad I was able to get into this Jordan event. There are some kicks I got my eyes on."

The attendees were also able to purchase the exclusive drops, and it didn't matter how long the lines were, people were hyped at the opportunity to score anything they could. 

Moving to the court...

The NBA Rising Stars Challenge is set for tonight at The United Center (home of the Chicago Bulls). Team World, led by Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic will take on Team USA, led by Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young. The two second year pros will also be participating in their first All-Star game on Sunday (February 16), continuing the connection that started when they were traded for each other on draft night in 2019. 

But Luka and Trae aren't the only big names taking part in the Rising Stars Challenge. 

Rookies Ja Morant, Zion Williamson, Jaren Jackson Jr., RJ Barrett are just a few of the other names rocking the court. 

Morant, Jackson, and Brandon Clarke are all Memphis Grizzlies teammates, and want to represent "Grind City" to everyone who doesn’t know what’s been going down.

"Our team has a bunch of winners," said Clarke. "Just a bunch of guys that really want to win and play hard. We have really great chemistry, and Ja is a big part of that."

When Jackson, took to the podium, his natural gregariousness came out. Calling his teammate Morant playfully, who was conducting his media session on the neighboring podium. 

"There are so many great duos. You think of Kobe and Shaq which is something totally different. Our favorite players are KD (Kevin Durant) and Russell Westbrook," said Jackson, when asked about other NBA duos he and Morant admire. "Our team chemistry is good, we're all together, we care about playing defense. At the end of the day we are competitive and have a lot of confidence. We just go out there and do what we gotta do."

The young Grizzlies are one of the many great stories in and around All-Star weekend. 

Stay tuned...

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JHud Set To Perform Kobe Bryant Tribute At All-Star Game

Jennifer Hudson is set to perform a special tribute at the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday, Feb. 16  to honor the late Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and the seven others who were killed in the tragic helicopter crash last month. 

The National Basketball Association announced Thursday that the Grammy-winning singer will perform prior to player introductions at the 69th annual game, which will be held in Chicago. 

Along with Hudson, additional Chicago natives will be making special appearances. Ten-time Grammy winner Chaka Khan will sing the national anthem after an opening welcome given by Common who will talk about what the sport of basketball has meant to the city. 

At half time, Chance the Rapper will perform a medley of chart-topping hits alongside Lil Wayne, DJ Khaled and Quavo

On Saturday, February 15, Queen Latifah will be joined by Chicago youth for a special performance of Stevie Wonder’s classic song “Love’s in Need of Love Today.”

While there are no details on Hudson’s special tribute to Bryant, players participating in the game will honor Kobe and Gianna by wearing their respective jersey numbers. Team LeBron James will wear Gianna’s No. 2 and Team Giannis Antetokounmpo will wear Kobe’s No. 24. Both teams will also wear a patch on their jersey displaying nine stars, representing those that lost their lives in the crash, CNBC reports.

The 69th NBA All-Star Game will take place Sunday at Chicago’s United Center at 8 p.m.—Vanessa Etienne

Photo: Ivan Shum - Clicks Images / Contributor

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