- Associated Press - Monday, February 21, 2011

LOS ANGELES (AP) - LeBron James racked up a silky-smooth triple-double. Kevin Durant dropped 34 points in 30 minutes. Amare Stoudemire slammed and jammed his way through Staples Center for 29 points.

And the NBA’s younger stars still were thrilled when Kobe Bryant took home one more MVP trophy from the All-Star game Sunday night.

“Everyone wanted him to get the MVP,” said Miami’s Dwyane Wade, last season’s MVP. “He came out very aggressive, as aggressive as I’ve seen anybody in an All-Star game.”

Bryant won his record-tying fourth All-Star MVP award Sunday night with 37 points and 14 rebounds in the West’s 148-143 win over the East. Bryant was well aware he had a chance to tie Bob Pettit’s mark _ and so were his fellow All-Stars.

“He deserved it,” Durant said. “Thirty-seven and 14? That’s unbelievable numbers. I wanted him to get 40, but the old fella kind of tired out a little bit.”

Both All-Star teams seemingly deferred to Bryant for much of the night, finding him on fast breaks and clearing a path for his dunks _ a rarity these days for Bryant, who prefers to conserve the bounce in his aching knees. Bryant even threw down a slam against James‘ defense in the third quarter, following it up with a 3-pointer.

So enjoy it, Kobe. Hidden in all the adulation and goodwill around hometown All-Star weekend was another common theme: That’s the last prize that will come easily to the Los Angeles Lakers’ five-time champion guard this year.

LeBron’s Miami Heat, K.D.’s rising Thunder and the archrival Boston Celtics won’t make it nearly as easy for Bryant to claim his sixth championship ring. The Lakers are still title contenders, but they went into the break with three straight losses and serious questions about whether this veteran team can get motivated for a three-peat run.

Bryant plans to deal with all that Monday at practice in El Segundo.

“We’re looking forward to it,” Bryant said of the stretch run. “We’re up for the challenge. Pau (Gasol) and I have been talking this whole time about looking forward to it, and getting back at it. We’ve been in communication with the rest of the fellas, and we all can’t wait to get started.”

Until taking over the starring role on Sunday, Bryant said he spent the weekend attempting to cede the spotlight to James and his Heat teammates, or the four Celtics All-Stars, or even Clippers rookie Blake Griffin.

“I’ve been there, you know what I mean?” Bryant said. “It’s not about that for me at this point in my career. It’s very important for the game to continue to have young stars emerge. … It’s important for me to step aside. It’s about me coming out and performing and staying healthy, and doing the right things after 15 years.”

Although Bryant is just 32, the Philadelphia prep-to-pro star is in his 15th NBA season, and several current All-Stars _ particularly young Los Angeles natives Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love _ grew up watching his partnership with Shaquille O’Neal during the Lakers’ first three-peat. That reverence is reflected throughout the season, but was particularly obvious in this exhibition.

Bryant fell short of Wilt Chamberlain’s All-Star record 42 points in 1962, but not for lack of trying by his teammates. He went scoreless in the final 6:48.

“I wish we could have,” New Orleans guard Chris Paul said. “But Kobe is one of those guys who has been in the league for 13 years, but it seems like he’s getting younger, so he’ll have another opportunity.”

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