TORONTO — Kobe Bryant said his NBA All-Star Game goodbye and the next generation of the Western Conference’s best sent him off a winner, rolling to a record-setting 196-173 victory over the Eastern Conference on Sunday night.
The first All-Star Game outside the United States was the highest-scoring ever played, with both teams scoring more than any team had ever managed. Bryant didn’t provide much of the offense but many of the memories.
“To see him now, it’s like the passing of a generation,” Western Conference coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s been such an iconic figure for so long, and he passes it on to that other group of young guys that you saw out there tonight.”
Bryant finished with just 10 points, so few that he lost his career lead in All-Star Game scoring to LeBron James.
Russell Westbrook scored 31 points in his second consecutive MVP performance. Stephen Curry added 26 points, Anthony Davis scored 24 points and Kevin Durant had 23 points.
Paul George finished with 41 points for the Eastern Conference, tying Westbrook’s total from last year in New York that was one point shy of Wilt Chamberlain’s record. John Wall added 22 points.
James finished with 13 points, just enough to move ahead of Bryant for most in the All-Star Game. He has 291 points, while Bryant, who is retiring after this season, will leave having scored 290 points in the All-Star Game.
He checked out with 1:06 left to cheers and hugs from his fellow all-stars, who now put up points in bunches the way Bryant did for so long.
Bryant had seven assists and six rebounds, but shot just 4-for-11 in a game where defense hasn’t often been played. The 369 combined points were 48 more than last year’s record, and both clubs blew away the previous individual team record of 163.
People just wanted to see Bryant play, not necessarily play well.
The pregame was a celebration first of Canada, then of Bryant.
A video message from Dr. James Naismith, the Canadian who invented basketball in the early 1890s, was followed by player introductions by two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash and Grammy winner Drake. Nelly Furtado sang her country’s national anthem.
Then it was time for two video tributes for Bryant, whose 18 all-star selections are second only to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Bryant thanked fans who have given him more than 30 million votes in his career, and as he finished speaking all the all-stars lined up in the background to salute him.
He took the opening jump ball against James — neither team had a true center voted to the starting lineup — and each Eastern Conference starter took a turn early covering Bryant.
Toronto hosted the very first NBA game on Nov. 1, 1946. Neither Naismith nor anyone who saw that game would recognize the way it looked on Sunday.
Curry and Durant launched shots from spots where only buzzer-beating heaves were once attempted, and Westbrook put together another combination of speed and force that turned it into a rare all-star blowout in the second half.
The Western Conference has won five of the last six games without longtime mainstay Bryant, who hadn’t played since 2013 because of injuries.
At 37, Bryant has trouble keeping up with the youngsters — especially the real young ones. Chris Paul’s son stole the ball from him as Bryant warmed up for the second half.
He was the star without playing a starring a role. He had said he didn’t want players forcing him the ball in an effort to make him the MVP — he had already won four of them — but he was never far from the center of attention.
James crouched in his defensive stance and pounded the floor when he found himself covering Bryant out on the wing in the second quarter.
The Western Conference led, 92-90, at the break, both teams surpassing the previous record of 89 points in a half.
The game will be held in Charlotte next year and for the first time since 1997 won’t have Bryant. He made his all-star debut in New York in 1998, a game also remembered for Michael Jordan’s last with the Chicago Bulls.
Jordan, now chairman of the Charlotte Hornets, was on hand Sunday for a ceremonial passing of the all-star torch from Toronto to Charlotte.
Paul finished with 14 points and 16 assists and is the leader in all-star assists per game. DeMar DeRozan scored 18 points for the Eastern Conference and Kyle Lowry had 14 points and 10 assists as both Raptors players played well in front of their home crowd.
“I think everybody got the feel of the energy that we witness every single night when we play as Raptors players,” DeRozan said. “I think all the guys really got insight on how in tune the city of Toronto and all of Canada is to basketball.”
Westbrook became the first player to win consecutive MVP awards outright. Bob Pettit won the 1958 award and shared it the next year with Elgin Baylor.
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