By Evan Brooks
The much-anticipated debut of the new NBA All-Star game format was a hit, as Team LeBron beat Team Giannis, 157-155, in what turned out to be a very competitive and highly skilled basketball game.
All-Star games are typically high-scoring affairs with little stakes, but with the new format — in which each of the first three quarters was a separate contest to win six-figure checks for charity and the final period was an untimed race to a designated target score — the ending felt like a playoff game. Team Giannas led Team LeBron 133-124 heading into the final period. The target score to win the 69th All-Star game was set at 157, by adding 24 points to the leading team’s score in honor of the jersey number the late Kobe Bryant wore in the second half of his career. The fourth period quickly turned from friendly to fierce.
From both teams playing lockdown defense, to trading leads, to arguing calls with the referees, the competitiveness gave fans all you could ask for in a playoff like atmosphere.
“None of us knew what to expect,” LeBron James said. “But throughout the whole fourth quarter and at the end of the game, everybody was like, ‘That was pretty damn fun.'”
With a win on the line, Team LeBron/ Lakers forward Anthony Davis was fouled needing one free throw to end it. The Chicago native missed the first but sink the second to seal the win in his hometown. For some, ending the game with a free throw seemed anticlimactic.
To James, “It’s all part of the game, and it was a hell of a way to win a game, just from an All-Star perspective.”
In a weekend centered around Bryant, known as a fierce competitor before he and his daughter, Gina, died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, he surely would have been proud of the effort. After a moving pregame song by Jennifer Hudson and a rap tribute by Common, there was a a hard-fought game right down to the wire to honor Bryant’s greatness.
“It was tough early, especially early,” LeBron’s All-star teammate Chris Paul said. ” For a lot of us, it’s still surreal. It’s not real until you start
showing pictures and talking about it. But I think the
best way we could honor Kobe, Gigi, and everyone
involved was to play like we played.”
“We all compete at the highest level, try to put our respective teams in position to win every night,” James said. “So guys definitely just had that sense of pride, that sense of competitiveness throughout the season, throughout the All-Star Game, which we had tonight.”
Overall, the new wrinkle paid dividends as fans got to truly see the greatness and worthiness of each player in the game. With the new format being such a treat it will be hard to see the NBA changing back to the regular 48-minute game style.