When Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant was named to the 2002 NBA All-Star Game, it marked his third consecutive selection. This one in particular, though, had special meaning for Bryant, as the game would take place in his hometown of Philadelphia, Pa.
Before his rise to superstardom with the Lakers, Bryant starred at nearby Lower Merion High School, where he garnered national attention for his play as a teenager. On Feb. 10, 2002, the five-time NBA champion would once again have the opportunity to showcase his talents in the City of Brotherly Love.
Starting for the Western Conference alongside Bryant were San Antonio Spurs big man Tim Duncan, Minnesota Twins forward Kevin Garnett, the Sacramento Kings’ Chris Webber and Houston Rockets’ Steve Francis.
Rounding out the team off the bench featured the likes of Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, Gary Payton, Elton Brand, Peja Stojakovic and Wally Szczerbiak.
The Eastern Conference countered with a starting lineup that consisted of hometown 76ers point guard Allen Iverson and center Dikembe Mutombo, Michael Jordan, Jason Kidd and Antoine Walker.
Complementing the team as reserves were Ray Allen, Tracy McGrady, Paul Pierce, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Jermaine O’Neal, Alonzo Mourning and Baron Davis.
Bryant went on to score a game-high 31 points, adding five rebounds and five assists over 30 minutes of action. He shot 12-of-25 from the field, including four 3-pointers, and additionally sunk all seven of his free throws.
That effort earned Bryant MVP honors, as the Western Conference went on to win by a final score of 135-120. What’s more, Bryant became the first player to score at least 30 points in an All-Star Game since Michael Jordan achieved the feat in 1993.
One downside for Bryant was the showering of boos he received throughout the contest, as a result of 76ers fans still expressing disappointment over the Lakers’ 2001 NBA Championship victory.
The future Hall-of-Famer admitted afterwards that the boos upset him, but he ultimately used them as motivation to put on a show for his family, friends and fans in attendance.
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