On Sunday, basketball icon Kobe Bryant’s presence was definitely felt at the 2020 NBA All-Star Game.
Before the game, Lakers legend Magic Johnson took the stage at the United Center, telling the sold-old crowd, “We'll never see another basketball player quite like Kobe. Scoring 81 points in one game. Scoring 60 points in his last game. And then winning five NBA championships.”
“But what I'm really proud about when we think about Kobe Bryant, there's millions of people in Los Angeles that don't have a home. Kobe was fighting to get them homes and shelter every single day,” Magic continued. “He was passionate about that. He was also passionate about being a great father, husband, filmmaker. Young man won an Oscar. So we all are hurting. This is a tough time for the whole NBA family."
After the crowd chanted “Kobe! Kobe!” Magic honored the 18-time NBA All-Star with eight seconds of silence. It was a nod to Kobe’s #8 jersey, which he wore in the first half of his career.
Jennifer Hudson also performed an emotional rendition of “For All We Know (We May Never Meet Again)” while photos of Kobe flashed behind her.
After Jennifer’s performance, Common took the stage, performing a rap dedicated to Kobe and the greats of Chicago. In one part of the rap, Common said, “A king named Kobe Bryant. Even in the darkest times, you'll feel Kobe's light."
During the halftime show, Chance the Rapper also honored Kobe with his song “I Was a Rock.” Lil Wayne also joined the halftime show, wearing pants that were seemingly made from Kobe’s #8 jersey.
The NBA All-Star MVP award was also renamed the Kobe Bryant MVP Award. After the game, Clippers star Kawhi Leonard was honored with the award, saying, “It means a lot to me. Words can't even explain. I wanna thank Kobe for everything he's done for me. All the long talks and workouts, this one is for him."
During the game, the players wore #2 and #24 in honor of Kobe and his daughter Gianna. All the jerseys also featured nine stars, honoring the nine victims who perished in the helicopter crash.
The fourth quarter of the game featured no commercials. In a statement, Craig Barry, EVP and Chief Content Officer said, “Presenting the fourth quarter completely free of any commercial breaks creates a unique opportunity to showcase the new All-Star Game format, provide the best fan experience, and align with the league’s overarching plans to pay tribute to Kobe Bryant this weekend.”
The last quarter of the game also had no shot clock. Instead, a team would win by reaching a target score first. The target score was determined by adding the total cumulative scores through three quarters and adding 24 points. That was the number that Kobe wore in last 10 years of his career.
Next week, Kobe and Gianna will be honored at a public memorial at Staples Center on February 24.