It's not a secret that the actual game is the least interesting part of All-Star weekend. Nobody plays defense and any resemblance of serious basketball happens in the last quarter of the game is close. Players may even have a drink or two the night before - remember Jimmy Butler a few years ago? Except when Kobe Bryant was on the court.
The year is 2007 and the All-Star game is in Las Vegas. NBA stars partying around Vegas for two days isn't a recipe for effort and peak athleticism. So when the players stepped out on the court, there was an understanding that this was going to be an easy-going game. Kobe didn't get the memo.
As Kobe said many times, he would go out partying with teammates and wake them up at 5 am te next morning to go work out. This weekend was the same. Kobe stepped on that court with Mamba's attitude and everyone was a bit surprised. 31 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists later, Kobe was the All-Star MVP.
The NBA's been tinkering with a new All-Star format. We will again have LeBron and Giannis as team captains drafting their teams from the players in the game. There is also a new wrinkle. Team Giannis and Team LeBron will compete to win each of the first three quarters, all of which will start with a score of 0-0 and will be 12 minutes long. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, the game clock will be turned off and a Final Target Score will be set.
The Final Target Score will be determined by taking the leading team’s total cumulative score through three quarters and adding 24 points – the 24 representing Kobe's jersey number. The teams will then play an untimed fourth quarter and the first team to reach the Final Target Score will win the NBA All-Star Game. Here's an explanation from NBA.com
“For instance, if the cumulative score of the first three quarters is 100-95, the Final Target Score would be set at 124 points. To win the NBA All-Star Game, the team with 100 points would need to score 24 points in the fourth quarter before the team with 95 points scores 29 points and vice versa.”
Another incentive for players to play hard is the charity element of the game. Giannis and LeBron will select Chicago-based charities. The community organization selected by the winner of each of the first three quarters will receive $100,000 – a total of $300,000 donated to charity for those three quarters. The winning team in the NBA All-Star Game (i.e., the team that reaches the Final Target Score first) will earn $200,000 for its community organization.
The best way both teams can honor Kobe is to channel the 2007 All-Star MVP, get out there and play Mamba mentality basketball.