The NBA will hold its 69th All-Star Game Sunday in Chicago and for the first time, its Most Valuable Player Trophy will carry the name of Kobe Bryant who tragically died three weeks ago.
The winner of the award in Sunday’s game will receive the Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP Trophy, NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced Saturday.
“We are renaming our All-Star MVP trophy the Kobe Bryant MVP award.”
Adam Silver announces the NBA’s decision to rename the All-Star Game MVP award to honor Kobe Bryant. pic.twitter.com/HuJgjopFbw
— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) February 16, 2020
“To all of us, it seemed like the appropriate way to bring honor to him,” Silver said, according to ESPN, at the annual state-of-the-league press conference the night before the game at Chicago’s United Center. It was fitting, he added because Bryant holds the record for consecutive All-Star appearances at 18 and is tied for the most MVP awards with four. In his first All-Star appearance in 1998, he was the youngest-ever player in the midseason showcase.
Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven other people were killed in a helicopter crash on January 26.
The naming of the MVP award in his honor is only one of several ways the NBA honored Bryant at its All-Star Weekend festivities. On Friday, he was one of eight nominees selected as finalists for the Basketball Hall of Fame, with the final vote coming in April. Bryant was a sure thing to be inducted in his first year of eligibility. Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett were also named finalists in their first year eligible.
Said Jerry Colangelo, chairman of the Hall of Fame, according to NBA.com: “Because of the enormity, even before Kobe’s death, we think Kobe and Duncan and Garnett bring to (this) … we’ve never had a class that strong at the top. And then with Kobe’s death, it added more focus.”
Also, in honor of both of Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, the league changed the All-Star jerseys this year so that Team LeBron is wearing No. 24 in honor of Bryant and Team Giannis is wearing No. 2 to honor Gianna.
And in Saturday night’s dunk contest, Dwight Howard — once a teammate of Bryant with the Lakers, once a competitor in the 2009 NBA Finals, and now a Lakers player — wore a Superman cape reminiscent of his previous dunk contest victory. The one difference was that his outfit had Bryant’s uniform number 24 on the front where the “S” would be.