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PHOENIX — Good times, bad times, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant had their share, but if Sunday night's All-Star Game was their last appearance together, they went out on a high note.
Bryant scored 27 points, O'Neal 17 and the former Lakers teammates, who played alongside each other much of the game, were named co-MVPs, leading the West to a 146-119 victory.
It was the third MVP award for each. "The Big Legendaries," said O'Neal afterward, putting his arm around Bryant.
O'Neal's highlights included a dance number in pregame introductions, as he donned a white mask and put on an Only-Shaquille-O'Neal performance with six other dancers in white masks, who looked like munchkins next to him.
"I wanted to do something a little different and unique," O'Neal said. "I realized that this may possibly be my last one, so I wanted to make it memorable for myself and the fans."
Assuredly, this event isn't for everyone.
The Lakers' Phil Jackson, coaching the West, endured it gracefully but made clear long ago how little he cares for this corporate bash.
Commissioner David Stern joked about it at Saturday's news conference when a Turkish writer said he felt "ashamed" that Hedo Turkoglu hasn't been an All-Star.
"Because he didn't make it here?" Stern said. "This is a tough league. They get unhappy they don't get elected, they get unhappy if I don't select them if there is an injury.
"Sometimes they get unhappy if I do select them—oh, no, that's Phil Jackson."
If Jackson had to be here, nothing was going to stop him from pairing O'Neal and Bryant. Amid misunderstandings, the three won three titles together.
In the first quarter, Jackson let Bryant, a starter, stay on the floor when he subbed the rest of the first unit out and brought in O'Neal.
The West then started a 19-0 run that took them from 12 points behind into the lead.
With the West up 92-83 in the third quarter, O'Neal came back in to play alongside Bryant. The West finished the period on an 18-8 run to open it up.
"We wanted to be aggressive," Bryant said. "We talked about it before going out there, we wanted to play. We lost last year and we wanted to make sure we came out here and played the game hard, come out here with a win."
If this was Stoudemire's last game as a Sun, it was a memorable one. He scored 19 points on 7-for-10 shooting in 24 minutes for the West.
He was cheered loudly by the crowd when he was announced as a starter.
When Stoudemire entered the game with 5:18 left in the second quarter, he quickly made a layup that put his team up 58-56. With 1:53 remaining in the half, he took a pass from Brandon Roy for a fastbreak dunk, then added a pair of free throws with 1:06 to play.
Jackson put Stoudemire back on the court for the final 21/2 minutes of the game. He got another layup, then got a double-pump fastbreak dunk with 40.1 seconds to go.
Associated Press contributed.
—Los Angeles Times