As the NBA All-Star Game returned to Chicago this weekend for the first time in more than 30 years, Commissioner Adam Silver announced Saturday that the game’s MVP award would be renamed for late Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant.
“While (the trophy) has existed for a long time, it never had that particular player association, for example, in the way the Finals MVP is the Bill Russell Trophy,” Silver said. “To all of us, it seemed like the appropriate way to bring honor to him.”
Bryant more than made his mark in the last couple of decades of All-Star Games, from winning the Slam Dunk contest in 1997, to becoming the youngest player to ever play in an All-Star Game when he made his debut in 1998 at age 19, to winning the MVP award a record-tying four times. During his 20-year career, he also played on five NBA championship teams.
“We know that he's watching over us," Lakers player LeBron James said on media day Saturday. "It's our responsibility to just represent the purple and gold not only for him but for all the greats, everybody that's ever come through the Lake Show. I really don't want to sit up here and talk about it too much. It's a very, very sensitive subject, but he's with us every day.”
It hasn’t yet been three weeks since Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gigi and seven others were killed when a helicopter the basketball star had chartered crashed into a Los Angeles County hillside in thick fog.
Bryant was also announced Friday as one of eight Hall of Fame finalists.
When Team LeBron and Team Giannis (for Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo) square off Sunday, the players will wear numbers 24 and 2, which were the uniform numbers of Bryant and his daughter.
“Growing up he was my idol — not just my idol but probably the whole generation’s,” Antetokounmpo said. “For us, [Kobe] was the Michael Jordan of our generation. He was one of those guys that gave back to the game so much, gave back to the players. A lot of people when they're so great, they don't do that. There was a quote that said that talent is worthless if you're not willing to share it, right? And he was one of those guys that was sharing his talent with us. He's going to be definitely missed.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.