The first-ever Kobe Bryant NBA All-Star Game MVP award was given out in Chicago on Sunday night, and while most Lakers fans were hoping the hometown kid, Anthony Davis, would be the one lifting it at the end of the night, it was Kawhi Leonard that made history. Surely Lakers fans didn’t want to see someone that plays for their inner-city rivals, the Clippers, hoisting the award — let alone the first-ever one — but Leonard is a special case.
Leonard, 28, grew up in Los Angeles during the height of Bryant’s career. He’s been adamant about the fact that he didn’t grow up a Lakers fan, but he did grow up in a Lakers family and, at the very least, we know that he was a fan of Bryant’s. Additionally, Leonard had worked out with Bryant in the last two summers. They had a relationship, but personal and professional.
But Leonard didn’t win the All-Star game MVP because of how close he was to Bryant — he won because he led all scorers with 30 points on 11-18 shooting from the field, including 8-14 from behind the arc, to go along with 7 rebounds and 4 assists. That being said, Leonard did take time after the game to acknowledge Bryant and the impact that he had on his love for basketball (via TNT):
“Words can’t even explain ... just making this the first Kobe Bryant MVP trophy. I want to thank Kobe for everything he’s done for me: All the long talks, workouts. Thank you. This one’s for him.”
Leonard also shared arguably the most on-brand Kobe story of all time:
Whenever the Lakers and Clippers meet this season, Leonard will undoubtedly be the enemy, but it’s pretty cool to see someone from Los Angeles win the first-ever Kobe Bryant All-Star game MVP.