Kobe Bryant, Even Injured, Center of Attention at 2014 NBA All-Star Game

NEW ORLEANS — The All-Star stage is meant to be a shared space, a broad platform designed to support the NBA’s greatest talents and egos all at once. Kobe Bryant has never been much for sharing, though.

Sixteen years ago, at age 19, Bryant made his All-Star debut by waving off Karl Malone’s screen and shooting every time he touched the ball.

In 2002, with the game staged in his hometown of Philadelphia, Bryant seized the moment and claimed the Most Valuable Player Award.

Five years later, he took the MVP award again, outshining LeBron James.

Two years after that, Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal—his former tag-team partner and frenemy—shared the MVP award in a poetic All-Star reunion.

And in 2011, with the game played in his home arena in Los Angeles, Bryant dropped 37 points and grabbed MVP honors again.

No player in NBA history has collected more All-Star MVP awards. (Bob Pettit also won four.)

So did anyone really expect Kobe to cede the spotlight here Sunday night? Even injured, even in street clothes, even at 35, he was probably the most compelling figure in the arena. Indeed, the still-balky left knee only made him more compelling.

“It’s coming slowly,” Bryant said during a pregame press conference that was better attended than all of the weekend’s other press conferences combined.

It was standing-room only in the press area for Bryant’s (league-mandated) appearance. He did not disappoint. Over 15 minutes, Bryant was candid, self-effacing, thoughtful and funny—in two languages. (He answered an entire question in Spanish.)

The years have slowed Bryant, but they have also emboldened him. No current NBA star is as consistently, brutally forthright, or seems to enjoy the back-and-forth as much as he does.

He surely did Sunday night, maybe moreso becau...

About the Author