Bryant draws a hot hand
They managed to fit in the NBA All-Star game between parties here, and it came at the right time for Kobe Bryant.
The Lakers guard joined the league’s biggest stars in having a great Las Vegas experience, but Bryant was the best of the best again, scoring a game-high 31 points and being selected the most valuable player for the second time after the West’s 153-132 victory over the East on Sunday in front of a sellout crowd of 15,694 at the Thomas & Mack Center.
“You take the greatest show in the world [the NBA], you put it in the entertainment capital of the world and you multiply a normal All-Star game by 10,” Bryant said. “It’s really special here. A lot of energy and a lot of excitement ... you could feel it. Hopefully, it will be here again, just because we had so much fun here.”
Bryant made 13 of 24 shots from the field and also contributed six assists and six steals as the West took a 20-point halftime lead en route to its first victory in three seasons but fourth in the last seven All-Star games.
“Kobe had a fabulous night ... fabulous game,” said Miami center Shaquille O’Neal, who teamed with Bryant to lead the Lakers to three NBA championships.
“He shot the ball real well. He went to the hole strong a couple of times; he deserved it.”
The nine-time All-Star added another MVP trophy to go with the one he received after also scoring 31 points for the West in the 2002 game at Philadelphia, though Sunday’s award ceremony was more upbeat for him.
Essentially, Bryant was booed by fans in his hometown (he attended high school in Lower Merion, Pa.) when he accepted his previous trophy, but fans here applauded when Commissioner David Stern made the presentation.
It was a great way for Bryant to cap the festivities in Las Vegas, and the rest of the All-Stars had fun too.
As the slogan goes, what happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas, but players say that doesn’t apply this time.
The city delivered in its bid to show the NBA a good time, and the word is out.
“This was my best weekend yet at an All-Star game,” said Miami guard Dwyane Wade. “They know how to put on a show here. They know how to do it ... just a fabulous weekend everywhere you went.
“Every party was just amazing. The people out here were very excited about bringing basketball to Las Vegas, as well they should be. Hopefully, we can work it out and it could be a common stop. I would love to make this a common stop.”
Other players would vote in favor of that too.
“The game was the normal game itself, the same feel and everything, that goes on, but everything that took place outside the game was so unimaginable,” Seattle guard Ray Allen said. “We’ve never played the All-Star game here before, so you didn’t know what to expect coming into this weekend, but everybody knows what Las Vegas has to offer.
“Everybody was here and had a great time. We did so much in a four-day period. The parties, hanging out in the casinos, just so much.”
The East was out of it by halftime, trailing, 79-59. There weren’t as many highlight-tape moves as in previous games, but Phoenix center Amare Stoudemire had many dunks among 29 points and Denver forward Carmelo Anthony had 20 points in his first All-Star appearance.
Cleveland forward LeBron James led the East with 28 points. Orlando center Dwight Howard had 20 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
But again, Bryant was the center of attention.
“I’ve seen it before,” Allen said. “He’ll come out and shoot the ball, and if his shot starts falling for him, that’s when he says, ‘OK, this is doable.’ That was the case tonight. He took over.”