The 2016 All-Star game is a night where the NBA family came together to say goodbye to a living legend in Kobe Bryant.
After being selected for 18 All-Star games, the time had come for the Black Mamba’s final appearance at the showpiece event, and it was a night that did not disappoint as Kobe finished with 10 points off 4-of-11 from the field, along with seven assists and six rebounds.
The night began with Toronto native Drake introducing the starting fives and the biggest cheer of the evening was reserved for Bryant. ‘Kobe, Kobe, Kobe’ rang around the arena as he made his way to the hardwood.
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Five-time NBA champion and Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson led an emotional video tribute that included many highlights of Mamba’s career and video tributes from fellow All-Stars Chris Paul, Andre Drummond, Kevin Durant and LeBron James.
Kobe then took to centre court to deliver a speech to the crowd before adopting his usual competitive attitude and declaring: “It’s time to get this win.”
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He got his first point of the night from the free throw line before bringing the crowd in the Air Canada Center to their feet with a vintage spinning fadeaway on Kyle Lowry.
Kobe finished the first quarter with three assists, including a behind the back dish for Russell Westbrook, who finished it off with a dunk.
The 37-year-old departed for the bench with six minutes left in the first quarter and did not return to the action until the second quarter.
He appeared to have the rim on his side in Toronto. After his fadeaway jumper span in, he scored his first three-pointer after it bounced in off the metal.
LeBron James brought a cheer out of the crowd when he challenged Bryant as they faced off one on one. The Lakers legend tried another fadeaway from just inside the three-point line but could only locate the rim. Moments later, Kobe took his nightly tally to eight points with another fadeaway.
Bryant reached double figures with a layup after a pump fake at the perimeter and went into the half with 10 points, five rebounds and four assists.
Kobe Bryant re-entered the game for the final time with just over five minutes remaining in the fourth and drew a huge cheer from the crowd.
Old friends faced off moments later as Kobe went one on one with his former LA Lakers teammate Pau Gasol. The five-time NBA champion was unable to execute the fadeaway and both players laughed about the challenge together.
Kobe picked up his sixth assist of the night when he dished from under the basket to Westbrook who executed the three-point shot to perfection.
It was eight assists for Mamba as he set up Kevin Durant for the dunk and that was it for Bryant as he exited the All-Star stage for the final time.
With just over a minute remaining on the clock, Kobe was replaced by Anthony Davis and the Air Canada Center rose to its feet as the walking legend made his way to the bench. Chants of ‘Kobe, Kobe’ once again rang out as the 20-year veteran waved goodbye to the crowd.
There was no dream finish for Bryant as Westbrook was named MVP for the second consecutive year, but the 2016 All-Star game was the perfect way for fans from around the world to voice their appreciation for a departing legend.