MONTREAL: The 65th NBA All-Star Game was a Valentine’s Day love-fest for Kobe Bryant, who teamed with the Western Conference’s best in a record-shattering 196-173 victory over the Eastern Conference in the annual mid-season exhibition in Toronto.
In a free-wheeling offensive showcase, Los Angeles Lakers superstar Bryant scored a modest 10 points in his 18th and final turn as an All-Star before he retires at the end of the season.
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook led the West with 31 points, adding eight rebounds, five assists and five steals as he earned Most Valuable Player honors for the second straight year.
Golden State star Stephen Curry added 26 points for the West, who overcame a 41-point performance from Indianapolis Pacers forward Paul George on behalf of the East.
George just missed the All-Star single-game record of 42 points set by Wilt Chamberlain in 1962 — although Westbrook insisted the slight uptick in the West’s defense in the waning seconds wasn’t aimed at preventing George from surpassing the mark.
“We were just playing lockup defense at the end,” said Russell, although for the most part defense wasn’t part of the program at the Air Canada Center, where the annual exhibition was being held outside US borders for the first time.
Instead it was a night of soaring dunks and long-range bombs all adding up to unprecedented numbers.
The 369 total points was an All-Star Game record, as was the West’s 196 total and their 104 points in the second half.
The Western Conference made a record 31 three-pointers—including seven apiece from Westbrook and James Harden and six from Curry.
At the center of the dazzling display was Bryant, feted before the game with a ceremony em-ceed by Lakers great Magic Johnson.
“I just want to thank you guys for all your support all these years,” Bryant told the “Ko-be!” chanting crowd.
“I’ve just been extremely fortunate to play the game I love and be in the NBA for over half my life.”
The pre-game ovation for Bryant extended to fellow players and coaches.
“He’s the Michael Jordan of our era,” said Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry, an Eastern All-Star who like Bryant hails from Philadelphia.
“He’s the most competitive a lot of us have played against. And the things he’s done throughout his career and the things he’s done to change the game and motivate other players is unbelievable.”
George said he was just happy to have played in Bryant’s “last showing” as an All-Star.
“That 41 was in honor of him,” George said.