TORONTO – Kobe Bryant exited the All-Star Game for the final time to watch Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry wrap things up with 3-pointers.
Bryant’s gone, and these young guys are good.
Bryant said his All-Star Game goodbye and the next generation of the West’s best sent him off a winner, rolling to a record-setting 196-173 victory over the East on Sunday night.
“It was fun,” Bryant said. “I had a blast playing with those guys, laughing and joking with them on the bench.”
The first All-Star Game outside the U.S. was the highest-scoring ever. 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,” West 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 10 points, so few that he lost his career lead in All-Star scoring to LeBron James.
But Westbrook scored 31 points in his second straight All-Star MVP performance and Curry added 26 — the final three on a 42-footer. Anthony Davis had 24 on 12-for-13 shooting and Kevin Durant chipped in 23.
Paul George finished with 41 for the East, tying Westbrook’s total from last year in New York that was one off Wilt Chamberlain’s record. John Wall added 22 points.
James finished with 13 points, just enough to move ahead of Bryant for most ever in the All-Star Game. James has 291, while Bryant, who is retiring after this season, leaves with 290.
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 4-for-11 in a game where there isn’t really much defense and had never been less. The 369 combined points were 48 more than last year’s record, and both clubs blew away the previous individual team record of 163.
But people just wanted to see Bryant play, not necessarily play well.
“We all at one point in our life wanted to be Kobe in our driveways somewhere,” the East’s Dwyane Wade said. “We watched him growing up and we wanted to pay respect to him.”
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. Canadian 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 his millions of fans as the other All-Stars lined up in the background to salute him.
“I know it’s been overwhelming for him over this year, but our fans across the world and here in the States and here in Toronto, as well, has just been paying so much respect,” James said. “It’s all well-deserved.”