NBA changes All-Star Game format, with a nod to Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant is introduced before his 18th and final All-Star Game on Feb. 14, 2016.
(Mark Blinch / Associated Press)

Kobe Bryant‘s final jersey number will be something this year’s NBA All-Stars play to reach.

The NBA announced major changes to the All-Star Game format on Thursday, turning every quarter into a mini-game for charity before an untimed final quarter with a target score that will decide which team wins. Scores will be reset — back to 0-0 — at the start of the second and third quarters, then restored to begin the fourth quarter.

That’s where the tribute to Bryant and the No. 24 jersey he wore for the last decade of his NBA career comes into play. The team that wins the All-Star Game will be the first to reach a target score, to be determined by the total points the team in the lead scored in the first three quarters combined — plus 24, the obvious nod to Bryant.

The NBA said there will be multiple tributes to Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and the seven others who lost their lives in Sunday’s helicopter crash throughout All-Star weekend, including the showcase game on Feb. 16 in Chicago. The target score is just one of them.

In her first public statement since Kobe Bryant’s death, Lakers controlling owner Jeanie Buss expresses what the NBA legend meant to her and her family.


“We spent a lot of time considering the right target number to use for the fourth quarter,” said Byron Spruell, the NBA’s president for league operations. “Through the events of this week it became clear to us that the only appropriate number for this season’s All-Star game is 24.”

The target score is the latest addition to the NBA’s quest to make the game more competitive, something that players have wanted for some time.

This is the third year in which the NBA will have a format where captains — it’ll be the Lakers’ LeBron James and the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo in those roles this year, just like last year — get to draft their teams, something that will take place next week.

Kobe Bryant, the NBA MVP who had a 20-year career with the Lakers, was killed Sunday when the helicopter he was traveling in crashed and burst into flames in the hills above Calabasas. His daughter Gianna, 13, was also on board and died along with seven others.

“For this year’s game, we really focused on what new things we could do to make it a really competitive game where each quarter mattered in this case,” Spurell said.

It’ll matter to Chicago-area charities, which will benefit from however many quarters Team LeBron, chosen by the Lakers’ LeBron James, and Team Giannis, chosen by the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, win that night.

The team that has the most points after the first quarter will win $100,000 for its charity. The same will apply to the second and third quarters. The scores get added for the fourth to set the target score — for example, if the score is 100-95 at that point, then the team that wins the All-Star Game will be the first to reach 124.

The final score is worth another $200,000. If one team sweeps all four quarters, the other team will receive $100,000 for its charity regardless.

Kobe Bryant desperately wanted, and despaired over not winning, that sixth championship ring. To honor his memory, the Lakers need to win it for Kobe.

The three-day All-Star weekend is expected to generate more than $1 million for Chicago neighborhood nonprofit organizations, through the game itself and other events held under the NBA Cares umbrella.

For now, this is a one-year change, though the NBA is hopeful that the quarter-score for charity element and the target-score ending become part of the All-Star Game on a long-term basis.

“If successful, I would imagine we keep it moving,” Spruell said.