Kawhi Leonard wins first-ever Kobe Bryant MVP Award in All-Star Game victory
L.A. Clippers star Kawhi Leonard made history in the 2020 All-Star Game, becoming the first-ever recipient of the Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP Award.
The award, which is given to the All-Star Game's top performer, was renamed this weekend in honor of Bryant, who passed away last month in a helicopter accident.
Leonard was phenomenal in his fourth All-Star appearance, going for a game-high 30 points along with seven rebounds, four assists and two steals in Team LeBron's 157-155 win over Team Giannis.
Leonard was brilliant in the first half, scoring 25 points and connecting on seven three-point attempts, which tied the All-Star Game record for three-pointers made in a half. He finished the game shooting 11-of-18 from the field and 8-of-14 from beyond the arc.
"It means a lot to me," Leonard said after the game. "You know, words can't even explain, making this the first Kobe Bryant MVP trophy. 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."
The new All-Star format allowed Leonard to show off his skills on both ends of the floor. Rather than playing a regular, four-quarter game, the NBA debuted the Elam Ending in the fourth quarter along with some other new rules to make things more competitive.
Each quarter counted like an individual game, with the winner of each quarter being awarded $100,000 to a charity of the team captain's choice. Team LeBron won the first quarter, while Team Giannis won the second. Both teams tied with 41 points apiece in the third, so the donation money carried over to the final frame.
In the fourth, teams would have to reach a target score to win the game, which was the leading team's cumulative score with 24 added on — another decision made to honor Bryant. Because Team Giannis had 133, the target score was 157.
The intensity was clear down the stretch. Fouls were being called and challenged and players were taking charges, while a total of 39 free throws were attempted in the game. Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis scored the last point at the stripe to end the game.
Whether it's an exhibition game or the NBA Finals, Leonard proved tonight that he shows up to play no matter what.