A number that cannot be counted.
The number of tears since the death of Kobe Bryant. The NBA showed a tribute to him in an immeasurable way in this year’s NBA All-Star Game.
Team Giannis scored 108 points in the paint. Owned the largest lead in the game with 17 points and put up the most shots in the game with 123. But three points is more than two. Team LeBron shot 34.3 percent from three-point land to edge team Giannis 157-155 in a historic NBA All-Star Game.
That’s the overall picture.
The final quarter of the All-Star Game transformed into playoff intensity.
And in the end, “the unibrow” Anthony Davis made it enjoyable at the free-throw line, missing the first free throw but was a hometown hero by making the second to seal the win.
“I told my team I was going to miss the first one and put a little more pressure on myself here at home,” Davis said. “I made the miss look good back rim. I went to the line, the crowd going crazy. Team Giannis booing me, Trae Young coming on the floor touching my hand, I just wanted to make sure I put a little extra pressure on myself.”
Davis’ free throw gave Team LeBron their second straight All-Star Game win over Team Giannis in the remodeled All-Star Game on Sunday night, the format overhauled included elements for charity.
“When you buckle down, and you start playing defense, it gets a little tougher,” Davis said. “Everyone likes this format because it brings defense back to the game. It was a fun game.”
The Chicago native finished with 20 points. The game went down as the closest All-Star Game since the Eastern Conference topped the Western Conference 141-139 in 2010.
Kawhi Leonard, the game’s MVP, scored 30 points for Team LeBron, while James — his team’s captain — and Chris Paul each scored 23. The MVP trophy was named after Kobe Bryant for the first time.
Bryant died at age 41, along with his daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash in late January.
“It is very special. I had a relationship with him. Words can’t explain how happy I am for it,” Leonard said. “To be able to put that trophy in my trophy room and being able to see Kobe’s name on there means a lot to me. He is a big inspiration in my life. He did a lot for me.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo, who captained his team, led his squad with 25 points, Kemba Walker had 23 for Team Giannis, Joel Embiid scored 22, and Rudy Gobert added 21.
In the first three quarters, there were 14 fouls, in the fourth 21 fouls alone. In the first three quarters, there were 13 free throw attempts; in the fourth, there were 26 alone. In the first three quarters, there were 50 fast breakpoints. In the fourth, there were zero. In the first three quarters there were 48 dunks, in the fourth there were three.
“We did not know what to expect. It was the first year so we were trying something out,” James said. “I think Adam Silver all the way down to the fans will say that is a great start to that new format. The guys had an unbelievable time just competing, and it brought the competitive spirit in all of us.”
James’ team wore blue jerseys, all with the No. 2 for Gianna Bryant. Antetokounmpo’s team wore red, every player wearing No. 24 on the back for Kobe Bryant. And on their right shoulders was a black circular patch with nine stars, one for each victim of the helicopter crash that took the lives of Bryant, his daughter and their seven friends on Jan. 26.
It was the first All-Star Game with a new format: The teams played a mini-game in each of the first three quarters, the scores starting at 0-0 in each of those periods and the winning team in each one earning $100,000 for their Chicago-area children’s charity.
Team LeBron played for Chicago Scholars. Team Giannis played for After School Matters. James’ team won the first quarter 53-41, Antetokoumpo’s team won the second quarter 51-30.
“We tried to set the tone, play hard, especially in the fourth quarter, the defense got tighter,” Antetokoumpo said. “It had a little bit of playoff intensity out there. I loved it. I hope they keep the same format.”
The third quarter had down-to-the-wire, big-money drama. Nikola Jokic hit a 3-pointer with 22.2 seconds left to give Team LeBron a 40-39 lead, prompting Team Giannis coach Nick Nurse of the NBA champion Toronto Raptors to call time — with the quarter win and $100,000 on the line.
But Team Giannis turned the ball over, and Russell Westbrook made one of two free throws to push the Team LeBron lead to two. Trae Young then found Rudy Gobert for a dunk for Team Giannis with 2.2 seconds left, knotting the quarter score at 41-41. Westbrook missed a runner at the buzzer, and that $100,000 carried over to the fourth — putting $300,000 in all at stake in the final period.
The cumulative score at that point was Team Giannis 133, Team LeBron 124 going into the untimed fourth quarter — with another new twist. The NBA decided, as part of the series of Bryant tributes, that the winner of the All-Star Game would be the team that added 24 points, a nod to his jersey number, to whatever the leading total score was after three quarters.
That meant the target score was set: 157. The game clock was off. The shot clock stayed on. And the stage for drama was perfectly set.
Bryant — ever the competitor — would have simply loved the way this night went.
“His presence was felt,” James said.
The beat goes on.
The 70th NBA All-Star Game is Feb. 14, 2021, in Indianapolis. That’ll be followed by the 2022 game in Cleveland and the 2023 game in Salt Lake City.
The Associated Press contributed to this column