Kobe Bryant committed his life to being the best—the best on the basketball court, the best in business and entertainment, and the best father. Simply… the best.
It was fitting, then, that as today’s best NBA players gathered in Chicago for the 2020 All-Star Weekend, the festivities were saturated with moving tributes to the great 2-guard, and that this All-Star Weekend was perhaps the best we’ve ever had.
Kobe redefined hard work. There will only ever be one Mamba. And his one-of-a-kind impact was omnipresent in Chicago this past weekend.
Prior to the All-Star Game, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced that the game’s MVP award had been renamed for Kobe. In Sunday night’s showdown between the All-Star teams helmed by this year’s two top vote-getters, Team Giannis wore Kobe’s No. 24 while Team LeBron sported No. 2 in honor of Kobe's daughter, Gianna Bryant. The structure of the game was even altered, with Bryant’s signature 24 playing a key role in the scoring system.
To kick off Sunday’s game, hometown favorite Jennifer Hudson offered a rousing tribute to the Mamba and Kawhi Leonard dedicated his All-Star Game MVP to the former Lower Merion guard. Kobe was the focus during Friday’s entertaining activities and Saturday’s exhilarating slate. He was the center of everything.
Plenty happened off-court at All-Star Weekend, too. At the Metro All-Access Purple Couch event on Saturday, Khris Middleton, Tyler Herro, and Jason Terry dished on the behind-the-scenes realities of NBA life and shared insights on their experiences in the league.
Below, you can find a roundup of the premium highlights from this NBA All-Star Weekend 2020. Read on, to get all access to everything you need to know.
Friday, February 14
NBA All-Star Friday night always includes two events that never disappoint: the Celebrity Game and the Rising Stars showdown. This year’s celeb game featured strong notes of hip-hop and host city Chicago, with Common captaining one team and Chance the Rapper leading the other. Common’s squad, coached by ESPN’s Michael Wilbon, was victorious, besting Chance and coach Stephen A. Smith 62-47. In the subsequent Rising Stars Game, the US team—powered by Miles Bridges, Zion Williamson & co.—clawed back in the second half to defeat Team World 151-131. Here are a few standout moments from Friday’s festivities.
Silent Tribute to Three Fallen Stars
The Celebrity Game began with a 24.2-second moment of silence to honor the memories of Kobe, Gianna, and former commissioner David Stern.
24.2 seconds of silence was held before the All-Star Celebrity Game to honor Kobe Bryant and David Stern. pic.twitter.com/MlgJkjD9Mr— ESPN (@espn) February 15, 2020
Common Leads Team Wilbon to Celeb Game Win
Quavo, the 2018 Celeb Game MVP, did his best for Team Smith, at one point emphatically swatting a shot by Common, but Team Wilbon had too much firepower, coming away with the win. Social media influencer Famous Los amassed 23 points and Common, a two-way hero, claimed MVP with an impressive stat line of 10 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 4 steals.
Team World Goes Up Early In Rising Stars Game...
In the Rising Stars Game, Team World jumped out to a 10-point lead at the half thanks to the efforts of Rui Hachimura, Mortiz Wagner, and of course Dallas’ dazzling Luka Doncic.
...But Team USA Still Won In The End
Ultimately, Team US had more depth, with numerous players eclipsing the 20-point mark, and pulled off the comeback. Fans even got the pleasure of witnessing Ja Morant throw ’oops to Zion—pure beauty from the former AAU teammates.
The Hornets’ Miles Bridges Claims Rising Stars MVP
And when it was all over, Hornets forward Bridges (the No. 12 pick in 2018) earned the Rising Stars Game MVP award.
Saturday, February 15
Saturday featured some of the most buzzworthy events of the All-Star Weekend, including the 3-Point Shootout, Slam Dunk Contest, and Metro All-Access Purple Couch, featuring a star-studded Q&A between host Jason “Jet” Terry, Khris Middleton of the Milwaukee Bucks, and Tyler Herro of the Miami Heat. Later that night, Bam Adebayo of the Miami Heat surprised doubters, grinding out a win in the Skills Challenge, while Buddy Hield of the Sacramento Kings hustled hard enough to win the 3-Point Shootout. At the Slam Dunk Contest, Derrick Jones Jr. of the Miami Heat took home the crown in the night’s premier event, a showdown that was not without controversy from judges Dwyane Wade, Scottie Pippen, Candace Parker, Common, and Chadwick Boseman.
The Metro All-Access Purple Couch Event Ruled the Day
Saturday afternoon, Metro by T-Mobile set the day’s festivities off with its Metro All-Access Purple Couch event at the University of Illinois Chicago arena. For the sit-down, Metro by T-Mobile filled UIC’s court with purple Rule Your Day™ swag, providing in-person attendees and fans watching from home with exclusive access to two standout guards: Khris Middleton of the Milwaukee Bucks and Tyler Herro of the Miami Heat. Nineteen-year NBA vet Jason “Jet” Terry hosted, getting Middleton and Herro to open up about playing with 2019 league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the impact that Kobe Bryant had on their generation of basketball players.
Middleton Explains Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Evolution
At the Metro All-Access Purple Couch, host Terry asked Middleton, who’s making his second straight All-Star appearance, what it’s like to play with the Greek Freak. The two have been teammates since 2013, when Giannis entered the league. “He’s always been a hard worker, I think everybody knows that about him, but you could tell that his mindset has changed… his mindset every night is to go out and dominate,” Middleton shared, adding that Giannis is driven to prove he’s the best in the game.
Herro Illuminates Kobe’s Impact
Later during the Metro All-Access Purple Couch, rookie Herro, who is averaging 13.1 PPG for Miami, shared that Kobe was one of his idols growing up. He had an opportunity to meet the Black Mamba as a senior in high school. “He changed the way I viewed my life: the Mamba Mentality, just attacking everything,” Herro explained.
Middleton Dropped His All-Time Starting Five
Before the event wrapped, Terry asked Middleton, his former teammate, to name his all-time basketball starting five. Middleton said he’d draft Michael Jordan, Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell, LeBron, and Kobe for his squad, explaining, “We’re going to have a scoring team.”
Bam Adebayo Shocks Skeptics to Win the Skills Challenge
In the first event of the night, Miami big man Bam Adebayo showed his versatility, winning the Skills Challenge and silencing doubters like former teammate Dwyane Wade.
Bam Adebayo shut up D Wade 😂🔥 pic.twitter.com/IY6PQeoZcW— Ball Realm (@TheBallRealm) February 16, 2020
In the final round, Bam barely knocked down a three to win before Domantas Sabonis’ shot fell through.
The 3-Point Shootout Goes Down to the Wire
This year’s 3-Point Shootout went down to the wire, with Sacramento’s Buddy Hield catching fire to sink his final moneyball and claim the win.
Back-to-back 27s for Buddy Hield!@buddyhield of the @SacramentoKings scores 27 points in both rounds of the #MtnDew3PT contest, winning on his final money ball! #SacramentoProud #StateFarmSaturday pic.twitter.com/SkIa7KGDpD— NBA (@NBA) February 16, 2020
Hield got 27 in the final round, just eclipsing Devin Booker’s 26. Close competition was a frequent theme throughout the night.
Slam Dunk Contest Goes Into Overtime...
In the final event of the evening, Aaron Gordon and Derrick Jones Jr. put on an absolute show during the Slam Dunk Contest.
DERRICK JONES JR. SNAPPED. 😳😳 pic.twitter.com/noYwn9lbV5— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) February 16, 2020
Aaron Gordon. UNREAL. pic.twitter.com/MMDdFqZRPN— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) February 16, 2020
Eventually, Jones Jr. edged Gordon by the narrowest of margins following two dunk-offs. Despite Gordon’s memorable final dunk over 7’5” Celtics rookie Tacko Fall, Jones’ final dunk score of 48 bested Gordon’s 47.
...But Jones Jr.’s Win Came With Controversy
Many accused the Dunk Contest judges of bias, believing they should have pushed for a third dunk-off round to really decide the winner. Wade, a Chicago native, and a prominent part of All-Star Saturday, was one of the judges who caught flack for giving Gordon a 9.
Even Wade’s good buddy LeBron James seemed miffed at the low score.
2 🏆 should have been rewarded tonight that’s for damn sure!! Keep it a buck y’all. 🤦🏾♂️!! Them boys both put on a show! Professional DUNKERS— LeBron James (@KingJames) February 16, 2020
Ultimately, though, fans had to admit that judges couldn’t have gone wrong with either guy. The real winner was the NBA, which provided an engaging and controversial battle that had everyone talking.
Sunday, February 16
This weekend, the biggest event might have been the most thrilling of all. In Sunday night’s All-Star Game, Team Giannis jumped ahead early, but Team LeBron pulled off a thrilling comeback in the fourth quarter, winning 157-155. With Team LeBron only needing one point to win the game, Anthony Davis was hit with a hard foul that sent him to the line to clinch the win after missing his first free throw attempt. Although the game came down to a single bucket at the line, it was clear these all-stars really wanted to win and witnessing every player’s competitive spirit come to the fore was truly captivating.
Kawhi Leonard Wins the First Kobe Bryant MVP Award
Kawhi Leonard of Team LeBron was red hot at the start of the game. The man couldn’t miss, hitting eight 3-pointers en route to a 30-point performance.
Leonard played a huge role in Team LeBron’s victory and was a shoe-in for being becoming the inaugural recepient of the newly christened Kobe Bryant MVP Award. The reigning Finals MVP, Clippers swingman, and California native was clearly proud to be associated with the L.A. icon.
"I want to thank Kobe for everything he's done for me. All the long talks and workouts. Thank you. This one's for him."— ESPN (@espn) February 17, 2020
Kawhi Leonard thanked The Mamba after winning the first-ever Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP Award. #NBAAllStar pic.twitter.com/oMWjbQeAEj
Trae Young Ends the Half In Epic Fashion
Trae Young gave Team Giannis the last laugh of the first half, draining a half-court J. Seems about right for the second-year Hawks guard and his notorious range.
Making his first All-Star appearance, the electrifying Young finished with 10 points.
Anthony Davis Has Ice in His Veins
Anthony Davis was the first pick of the All-Star Draft. Hey, LeBron knows a thing or two about locker room culture, right? And the Lakers' forward didn’t disappoint. He had 20 points and nine boards, and sunk the game-winning free throw for Team LeBron, taking his team to the target score of 157, capping off what will go down as one of the most enjoyable All-Star Games in recent memory.
“I told my team i was gonna miss the first FT to put more pressure on myself” - Anthony Davis 😂😂 pic.twitter.com/nJKVGp0PrB— Ball Realm (@TheBallRealm) February 17, 2020
Top Stars Honor Kobe With Competitive Battle
In addition to Leonard and Davis, team captains Giannis and LeBron, along with Chris Paul, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Rudy Gobert, and Kemba Walker were among the night’s top performers. Giannis had 25 points and 11 boards while LeBron went off with 23 points, six assists, and five rebounds. Both team captains were at their best. LeBron even noting that Kobe’s “presence was felt” throughout the game and weekend. Hey, that much was clear as everyone exuded that Mamba Mentality.
All-Star Weekend Lived Up to the Hype
All-Star Weekend was a huge success for the NBA and sponsors like Metro T-Mobile who helped put on the show. It was a fitting tribute to Kobe Bryant, who loved basketball as much as anyone who has ever graced the court.
This year, all the players who took center stage at All-Star Weekend clearly brought it. The final showdown in Sunday night’s All-Star Game was one of the most intense, thrilling competitions in recent memory. Other events, like the fan-favorite Slam Dunk Contest, provided plenty of did-that-really-just-happen moments that will keep fans talking for a long time.
Overall, NBA All-Star Weekend 2020 was an incredible showcase for hoops that’s sure to go down as an enduring classic. Emotion, hard work, competition, entertainment, love of the game. Those are traits that defined Kobe Bryant and they were on full display in Chicago all weekend long.