Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers and the Western Conference blocks the shot of LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat and the Eastern Conference during the 2013 NBA All-Star game at the Toyota Center on February 17, 2013 in Houston, Texas.
The West won the 2013 NBA All-Star Game 143-138, and Chris Paul won the MVP trophy after scoring 20 points and recording 15 assists. However, the last seven minutes of a close game featured Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, the two biggest stars in the NBA, going head-to-head on both ends of the floor. Paul may have earned the All-Star Game MVP trophy, but Bryant’s late game defense earned the highlight of the night.
Most would expect James to get the better of Bryant in a one-on-one situation, as the Miami Heat forward is significantly taller and stronger than the Lakers guard. Those people would be wrong, as Bryant pressured James and recorded two blocks when the game was still in the balance.
Beyond just playing James hard on defense, Bryant was also trash talking to the league’s reigning MVP before and after blocking his shots. Few would argue James got the better of Bryant down the stretch, and those blocks helped the West win the game.
Although all the post-game focus was on Paul’s performance and the Kobe versus LeBron showdown, the Lakers’ superstar performed at a high level throughout.
In the first half, Bryant was neck-and-neck with Paul. CP3 had five points, nine assists, two steals, no rebounds, and three turnovers in the opening 24 minutes. Bryant’s first half stat-line was arguably better than Paul’s as the Lakers’ star had five points, seven assists, one steal, two rebounds, and no turnovers.
By the end of the game, Paul’s 4-5 shooting from three-point combined with continued distribution resulted in the Clippers’ point guard deservedly earning the MVP trophy. Bryant finished with nine points, eight assists, four rebounds, two steals, two blocks, and one turnover.
The other representative for the Los Angeles Lakers in the All-Star Game was Dwight Howard, but the Lakers’ center only played 14 minutes. Howard’s recurring shoulder injury was offered as the primary reason for the cameo appearance. However, Howard did hit a 3-pointer while on the floor, and that appeared to be his goal in the exhibition game.
Incidentally, Howard’s three-pointer served to highlight Bryant’s recent struggles from distance. Bryant shot 0-3 in Sunday’s All-Star Game, and the career 33.6 percent three-point shooter had only made one of his last 30 shots from distance prior to Sunday's exhibition game.
At the moment, even Dwight Howard seems to be a better three-point shooting option than Kobe Bryant for the Lakers.