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NBA to name All-Star game MVP award after Kobe Bryant

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver unveils the Kobe Bryant MVP Award, which will be given to the All-Star game's most valuable player.
(David Banks / Associated Press)

Kobe Bryant always has been a big part of the NBA’s All-Star weekend. No other player was chosen 18 consecutive times. Only one other player, Bob Pettit, won four most valuable player awards. And only one player, Kareem-Abdul Jabbar, appeared in more All-Star games.

So the NBA decided to tie Bryant to the game forever, renaming the top honor the All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP Award, Commissioner Adam Silver announced Saturday.

“Nobody embodied All-Star more than Kobe Bryant,” Silver said.

The trophy is the latest in a string of memorials and remembrances for Bryant by the NBA. Players on Sunday will honor Bryant and his daughter Gianna, with Team LeBron wearing No. 2 for her and Team Giannis wearing No. 24 for him. The end of the game also has been altered to honor Bryant.

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The game will end with an untimed final quarter, with the winner being the first team to reach a specific target score. The target score will be 24 points more than the leading team‘s total after three quarters — if the score is 125-120, the first team to 149 wins.

“His loss, together with his daughter and those other seven people on the helicopter, is unspeakable,” Silver said. “As the father of a child, I mean, that’s the unimaginable. ...

“This generation of players, so many of them grew up with Kobe as their role model as a player, as a competitor, and he loved the game, and he stayed close to these guys.”

Silver, who started in the NBA in 1994, four years before Bryant, compared the iconic Laker to his old boss, David Stern, who died on Jan. 1.

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“He and David, interestingly, had a lot in common. They were both determined to win. They could be difficult at times because they prioritized winning, and often, they didn’t have time for some of the niceties around personal relationships because it was about winning,” Silver said.

Here’s some of what went down during NBA All-Star 2020 media day at United Center in Chicago.

“But what I also saw in Kobe, and you saw a little bit of this in David in his post in the period after he was commissioner, that aspect of their personality was a bit contrived in that they push people because they wanted them to be their very best, and recognizing that it meant at times people might not like them, but that’s what it was about, that competition is about winning.”

Lakers postponement

Silver said the decision to postpone the Jan. 28 Lakers-Clippers game in the aftermath of the tragedy was in part to honor Bryant properly.

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“It was not the players necessarily saying they weren’t up to playing on Tuesday, and there were a lot of people who said, ‘Kobe would want you to play. Kobe was the greatest competitor,’” Silver said. “I think there was also a sense that the first time there was going to be a Laker game, that there was going to be a coming together, intense coming together of Laker fans, Kobe fans, and how was this going to be handled? So I think there was sort of the issue of the game itself, but then what was that experience going to be like in the arena?

“And I think given, when we looked at the schedule and saw that then the next home game was Friday night, we all collectively decided with the Lakers and the Clippers that that made the most sense.”

The game has not been rescheduled.

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Silver said the NBA considered canceling games on the day of the crash, but didn’t because no official announcement on Bryant’s death had been made. He also spoke with Chris Paul, the players’ union president, that day.

“Chris was one of the first people to call me, and he had trouble getting the words out on the phone, but he wanted to know what I knew,” Silver said. “We talked, too, about his sense of whether we should be canceling games Sunday, and we both agreed that, if anything, a sense that the people wanted to come together and be with each other.”

China tweet cost

The tweet by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morrey that supported protesters in Hong Kong and triggered an international controversy is expected to cost the NBA hundreds of millions of dollars.

“Certainly, probably less than $400 million, maybe even less than that. It’s substantial. I don’t want to run from that,” Silver said. “We were taken off the air in China for a period of time, and it caused our many business partners in China to feel it was, therefore, inappropriate to have ongoing relationships with us. But I don’t have any sense that there’s any permanent damage to our business there, and as I’ve said before, we accept the consequences of our system and our values.”

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Silver said USA Basketball could play in China this summer in the buildup to the Tokyo Olympics, in addition to returning to China for preseason games.

Silver said games still are not being broadcast on Chinese state television.

“My sense is they will at some point in the future,” Silver said. “We are not pressing them. It’s a decision that’s outside of certainly our control.”

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