The 2018 NBA All-Star Game emphasized how a competitive environment can exponentially increase the excitement, with the fans at Staples Center and all around the world watching Team LeBron defeat Team Stephen.
However, it also marked the first time that a Los Angeles Lakers player didn’t represent their team during All-Star Weekend at Staples Center. After having now hosted the event three times, it presented the surreal situation regarding the Lakers lack of an All-Star caliber player.
Such was not the case on Feb. 20, 2011, when the stage was set for a spectacular night in which Kobe Bryant shined brightest. Staples Center hosted their second All-Star Game, with the elite players in the NBA matching up in the traditional Eastern Conference-Western Conference game.
Bryant wasn’t the only player to represent the Lakers, as Pau Gasol received his third consecutive All-Star bid with the team.
The Western Conference starting lineup of Bryant, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, and Tim Duncan faced off against LeBron James, Derrick Rose, Amar’e Stoudemire, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard, and the Eastern Conference All-Star reserves.
The contest proved to be yet another high-scoring affair, with the West ahead, 76-64, at halftime. The two Lakers were heavily involved in front of their home fans, with the crowd chanting on Gasol and Bryant with each and every shot.
Bryant, who entered with three All-Star Game MVPs already under his belt, seemed fired up to get a chance to play alongside the Spaniard. In 24 minutes of action, Gasol finished with 17 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two blocks, while shooting 8-for-13 from the field.
The East also had some interesting angles regarding the roster, with Boston Celtics Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett all checking in together at one point just as the Detroit Pistons did less than a decade prior.
However, it would be Bryant and Durant that had the final say in the outcome. The pair created matchup problems across the board, even against the elite players in the world.
Bryant had a series of exhilarating dunks, including a remake of his famous baseline reverse jam against the Minnesota Timberwolves that sucked the gravity out of the Target Center. He also had one of the more notable dunks of his career, averting James’ block attempt for the two-handed slam, followed by a gentleman’s slap to his rear.
After extending their lead to 17 points in the third, the West saw a final resurgence from the East quickly bring the game back to single-digits. James was able to cap off their run by shrinking the deficit down to just two points, with an athletic drive and finish around Gasol.
However, the West was able to compose themselves in the final minutes and hold on for the 148-143 victory. Bryant was awarded his fourth All-Star Game MVP trophy, concluding the contest with 37 points on 14-for-26 shooting, to go along with 14 rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Bryant is tied with Bob Pettit for most all-time with four All-Star Game MVPs, while James, Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal each have three.
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