The 2016 NBA All-Star Game, and All-Star Weekend, will be remembered for many things… An entertaining Celebrity Game, an electrifying Rising Stars Challenge, a Slam Dunk Contest that was taken to new heights, a memorable Three-Point Shootout, and another scoreboard defying All-Star Game itself. Another thing that it will be remembered for is that Toronto, Ontario was another stop on the Kobe Bryant Farewell Tour. Sunday night -during the 65th annual All-Star Game- the Lakers guard made his final appearance at the star studded event.
Earlier this season “The Black Mamba” announced that he planned to retire at season’s end. The 37-year-old cited age and recent injuries as his reasons for retiring. And many have speculated that he’s also tired of the Lakers current rebuilding process (haven’t made the playoffs since 2013 and won’t make the playoffs this year). So all things considered, the All-Star Game was Kobe’s last chance for a big moment before hanging up his jersey.
Ever since announcing his impending retirement, Bryant has been saluted by every team before every game. When he was named to this year’s Western Conference All-Star team, Michael Jordan rewarded Kobe by giving him every pair of Air Jordan shoes that were ever made. And when Bryant was introduced at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre he was properly saluted. The game itself however left much to be desired.
As the Western Conference defeated the Eastern Conference 196-173, Bryant had very little to do with the outcome of the game. In 26 minutes of play Bryant scored a modest 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting. He also pitched in six rebounds, seven assists, and a steal. He may not have lit up the box score as many had hoped but he can still be celebrated as one of the most decorated All-Stars in NBA history.
Bryant’s first trip to All-Star Weekend was during his rookie season in 1997. He didn’t play in the game that year, but he did participate in the Rookie Challenge (now known as the Rising Stars Challenge) that year and won the Slam Dunk Contest. He became a first-time All-Star one year later where he had the daunting challenge of guarding Michael Jordan who scored 23 points and won the MVP award. There was no All-Star festivities in 1999 due to the worst lockout in league history, but everything returned to normal in 2000.
Since then Bryant has been named to 17 consecutive West All-Star teams, has won the All-Star Game Most Valuable Player award four times (2002, 2007, 2009 and 2011), has averaged close to 20 points for each All-Star appearance, and has been on the winning team 11 times including this year. In 2002, Bryant played in his home town of Philadelphia where he scored 31 points to get his first MVP award. Two years later Kobe played in front of his beloved Lakers fans were he scored 20 points. And in 2011, Los Angeles’ Staples Center hosted the All-Star game again where Kobe picked up his final MVP honors.
The 2016 game may have been a slow night for Kobe Bryant, but at the end of the day, he leaves a lasting legacy and he sets the tone for future generations of All-Stars to come.