- The Washington Times - Monday, February 11, 2002

PHILADELPHIA Kobe Bryant played the type of spectacular game that is worthy of the adulation he is used to receiving. But in his hometown, sadly, that's just not good enough.
Bryant scored 31 points, dished out five assists and grabbed seven rebounds to lead the West to a 135-120 victory last night in the NBA All-Star Game at First Union Center.
Bryant, whose Los Angeles Lakers whipped the Philadelphia 76ers in five games last spring to win their second consecutive title, was booed every time he touched the basketball last night. And it was no different when league commissioner David Stern tried to award the MVP trophy to Bryant on the floor where he ended this city's quest for its first title in any major sport since the 76ers won the NBA championship in 1983.
"I was pretty hurt," Bryant said. "I just wanted to go out there and just play hard, but they booed. And you know, I still like playing in Philly nonetheless. It's still good to be home."
Former 76ers standout Julius Erving, who still makes his home in suburban Philadelphia, hugged Bryant in a quiet moment after the game. Erving said the fans meant no animosity toward Bryant, who skipped college and went straight to the NBA, and he felt that the booing dates back to last spring when the Lakers denied the 76ers the title. Erving was booed when he won the MVP at the 1977 game in Milwaukee.
"I just shook it off," Erving said. "That's what he did."
Erving then added: "They love him here. Don't be fooled by that. If he ever put that red, white and blue jersey on you'd see what I was talking about."
Chris Webber, who scored eight points as the West's starting center, said he longs for that type of treatment.
"I told him to enjoy the boos, because that is a sign of respect," said Webber, who started in place of injured Shaquille O'Neal. "I would love to have the whole city boo me because I knocked out them out of the playoffs."
Obviously they feel he is the reason why they did not get a championship.
Bryant, just 23, was competing in his fourth All-Star Game. Widely considered the most talented among a group of astronomically talented wing players in the league, his 31 points were the most scored in the NBA All-Star Game since his idol, Michael Jordan, hit for 40 in the 1998 game. Bryant had 23 points by halftime, leaving him just one point shy of Glen Rice's record 24 scored in the second half of the 1997 game at Cleveland.
And there were some performances worthy of mention. The West made 13 3-pointers to surpass the old record of 12 set by the East in 1997. The West attempted 30 3s, and combined the teams attempted an All-Star record 59. The East made nine of its 29 attempts.
The East leads the overall series 32-19.
Despite the booing, Bryant was the star in a game that more often than not lives up to its billing or its hype. Unlike last year in Washington, when the game won by the East was so competitive at the end it took on the air of a playoff game, the West was never seriously challenged
Orlando's Tracy McGrady led the East with 24 points off the bench. McGrady provided the most electrifying sequence of the night when, on the break, he bounced the ball off the backboard, caught it and hammered home a twisting dunk. Moments later, he threw down a reverse dunk that left jaws agape and generated oohs and aahs among the 19,581 in the soldout arena.
The Wizards' Jordan, who actually missed a breakaway slam in the first quarter, said some of the moves he saw from the budding superstars, especially McGrady's, were breathtaking.
"Some of the things these young guys are doing now is just amazing," Jordan said.
Jordan even found humor in his missed dunk. And for those keeping record, Jordan did make his other dunk attempt.
"I laugh at myself," Jordan said. "If I can't laugh at myself I can't laugh at anybody. It was one of those situations where you've got a wide-open dunk. Every athlete who loves to create loves that opportunity. It's been awhile since I've been in that circumstance and the wheels start turning.
"You start wondering 'Well what will you do?' At the last minute you just think, dunk it. You lose concentration. And as much as you want to be creative. But as you get old you don't have the same type confidence. So you start going through a checklist. I went through the checklist and by the time I was ready to dunk the ball it just wasn't there."
In his 12th All-Star appearance, Jordan played just 22 minutes. And his eight points bring his career All-Star total to 242, placing him third on the list behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (251) and Oscar Robertson (246).
But the highlight or perhaps more appropriately, the low-light of the night was Bryant's treatment, which will probably serve as another black eye for the "City of Brotherly Love."


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