Los Angeles Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard, left, drives past Philadelphia 76ers’ Ben Simmons during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

VIDEO: Kawhi Leonard wins first Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP award

Leonard scored 30 points and hit eight 3-pointers to lead Team LeBron to a 157-155 victory

Kawhi Leonard made it look effortless, nailing one 3-pointer after another and nearly matching an All-Star Game record.

The tough part came afterward. Finding the right words to express how he felt after becoming the first Kobe Bryant MVP award winner wasn’t so easy.

Leonard scored 30 points and hit eight 3-pointers to lead Team LeBron to a 157-155 victory over Team Giannis on Sunday night.

He was presented the MVP trophy that the league renamed after Bryant on Saturday, three weeks after the Lakers great and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among the nine people killed when their helicopter crashed near Los Angeles.

“It’s very special,” Leonard said. “Like I said, I had a relationship with him. Words can’t explain how happy I am for it. Able to put that trophy in my room, in my trophy room, and just be able to see Kobe’s name on there, it just means a lot to me. He’s a big inspiration in my life. He did a lot for me.”

Bryant had a huge presence over the first All-Star festivities in Chicago since 1988, when Michael Jordan delighted the home crowd by beating Dominique Wilkins in a classic slam dunk contest and scoring 40 points to take MVP honours in the game.

There were all sorts of tributes to Bryant, his daughter and late NBA Commissioner Emeritus David Stern. But once the game started, it didn’t take long for Leonard to make his presence felt.

The Los Angeles Clippers star has two NBA finals MVP trophies after helping San Antonio and Toronto win championships.

He was picked for his fourth All-Star team and put on quite a display from the perimeter, knocking down 8 of 14 3-pointers.

Had he made one more, he would have matched Paul George’s All-Star record set in 2016. And he appeared to be well on his way to breaking it after a scorching start.

Leonard hit one just seconds into the game. He made all four 3s in the first quarter — the only shots he took while scoring 12 points.

Leonard was 7 of 10 in the first half, only to cool off a bit after that. He missed a step-back 3 that could have won it with his team up 154-153, but was the runaway winner for the game’s MVP honours with seven votes. LeBron James got three and Chicago product Anthony Davis and Chris Paul received one apiece.

All that’s missing for Leonard now is the league’s regular season MVP award.

“My mindset is always just to try to make my team the best team at the end of the regular season,” Leonard said. “And if I’m fortunate enough to win a regular season MVP, then I’ll be happy with it. I always just want to win championships. I’m not really concerned with the personal goal. So I always want to play to win championships.”

Leonard could have signed with the Lakers and teamed with LeBron James and Anthony Davis with Frank Vogel coaching them after leading Toronto to the championship last season. Instead, it was a one-night-only affair, with Vogel on the sideline for Team LeBron.

The Clippers are third in the Western Conference behind the Lakers and Denver, five games off the lead. They could cross paths in the playoffs with the team that shares their arena. But for one night, anyway, Leonard enjoyed being on the same side.

“It was fun,” he said. “I played with ‘Bron and A.D. last year, and I think the year before that or so. But it’s always fun just to get around guys that are very competitive, see what they do on an everyday basis.

“Just talking, just being their teammate. We go at each other all year round. And just like I said, it’s great to be able to pick their brain and just be around them and joke and laugh.”

READ MORE: Kobe Bryant, daughter killed in California helicopter crash

READ MORE: BC Place lights up in purple and yellow to honour Kobe Bryant

___

Andrew Seligman, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

NBA

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Advance polling saw nearly 10,000 votes cast in Vernon-Monashee. Pictured: Schubert Centre. (Jennifer Smith - Vernon Morning Star)
BC VOTES 2020: Live results roll in for Vernon-Monashee race

That’s a wrap on voting in the provincial 2020 election

Predator Ridge Resort has announced plans to add a new outdoor skating rink this winter. The facility is expected to open Dec. 7, 2020. (Contributed)
Outdoor skating rink coming to Vernon’s Predator Ridge

The facility is touted as the first private refrigerated skating rink in the Okanagan

West Kelowna Warriors goaltender Roman Basran stood tall in a 4-3 shootout victory over the Vernon Vipers Friday, Oct. 23, 2020. (Lisa Mazurek Photography)
Vernon Vipers fall to West Kelowna Warriors in shootout

Kelowna Rockets goalie Roman Basran helped the warriors to a 4-3 SO win Friday night.

Navi Mann casts his vote at Mission Hill Elementary School’s mock election Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
PHOTOS: Vernon students cast mock election ballots

At Mission Hill Elementary, the election is a chance to learn about the democratic process

Construction will close 25th Street Oct. 28-Nov. 3 in the 4100-4200 block. (Google map)
Construction closes Vernon street

Work underway on 25th Street Oct. 28-Nov. 3

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Voters are saying they felt safe voting in person despite the current pandemic. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Central Okanagan voters talk about their pandemic election experience

Despite an election taking place during COVID-19, residents said they felt safe voting in person

Efforts to replace the aging Rutland Middle School have been put off by another year by the ministry of education. (File photo)
Education ministry won’t replace Central Okanagan school anytime soon

New Westside Secondary top priority for ministry of education

Thanks to efforts by a Kelowna shelter and Elections BC, anyone who wishes to can vote in the 2020 BC Provincial Election, even if they don’t have a fixed address. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Kelowna group ensures people experiencing homelessness can vote

Shelter supervisor says voting ‘a fundamental right’ even for those without a fixed address

(Big White Ski Resort photo)
Big White receives 21 cm of snow in 24 hours

Resort’s snow base 41 cm deep, one month until opening day

The deer were allegedly shot within Princeton town limits, late at night. Black Press File Photo.
Armed man, in full camouflage, allegedly shoots deer in downtown Princeton

‘The list of charges goes on and on,’ said RCMP Sgt. Rob Hughes

Most Read