ORLANDO, Fla. — Kobe Bryant took Michael Jordan’s record, then nearly lost the game to LeBron James.
Bryant and the best of the West held off a furious East comeback, winning 152-149 in the NBA All-Star game on Sunday night.
Bryant scored 27 points, moving past Jordan as the career scoring leader in the game. MVP Kevin Durant had 36, and Thunder teammate Russell Westbrook finished with 21.
James and the East cut a 21-point deficit to one in the closing seconds, but weren’t able to move in front. James had 36 points and fellow Heat star Dwyane Wade finished with a triple-double.
Blake Griffin scored 22 points for the West, which rang up 89 points in the first half, setting an All-Star record. But he won the game with his defense, picking off James’ pass when the East had a chance to tie in the final seconds.
“I can’t turn the ball over like that,” James said. “I let my team down, but overall it was a great weekend.”
Griffin then hit one free throw with 1.1 seconds left, and Wade was off on a 3-point attempt from the corner. He finished with 24 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, joining Jordan and James as the only players with All-Star game triple-doubles.
Durant was the MVP, leaving Bryant tied for the All-Star record with his four. But he got a bigger mark in his 13th All-Star game.
He broke Jordan’s record of 262 points on a dunk with 4:57 left in the third quarter and now has 271 for his career. He entered with 244 and passed Oscar Robertson (246 points) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (251) earlier in the game.
It nearly wasn’t enough, as the East’s comeback had the crowd filled with entertainers and athletes chanting for defense — never a part of the All-Star game vocabulary — in the final seconds.
With Bryant covering him, James hit two long 3-pointers in the final period, and the East had a chance when Bryant, with the crowd loudly booing, missed a free throw with 18 seconds left and the West up 151-149.
“Just being a competitor,” James said. “They pretty much beat us up all game so we just wanted to make a game of it.”
But New Jersey’s Deron Williams was short on a 3-pointer, and after the East came up with it, James fired a pass into a crowd that Griffin intercepted.
IN UNIFORM FOR UNITY: Twenty years after playing in the NBA All-Star game here, Chris Mullin and Clyde Drexler were back on the court in Orlando. So how did it feel to be out there again? “It hurts,” Mullin said. The two Hall of Famers played in the first NBA Cares Special Olympics Unity Sports basketball game. Dikembe Mutombo and Sam Perkins also took part, along with WNBA players Lindsey Harding, Ruth Riley, Marie Ferdinand-Harris and Sophia Young, and 12 Special Olympics athletes. Mullin was more screener than shooter, and Drexler isn’t quite as much “The Glide” anymore. “A little bit,” he said. “There’s not a lot of glide left.” The format followed the Special Olympics’ unified sports program, which combines athletes with and without intellectual disabilities as teammates. The 12 players who were chosen to play Sunday on center court at the All-Star Jam Session were nominated by chapters throughout the country, and the NBA alums were impressed with their skills. Jesse Burnett of Colorado even lofted a layup high over Mutombo’s attempt at a blocked shot. “I’ll tell you what, these guys are really good athletes,” Drexler said. “You saw just how skillful they are. They really love the game.” NBA rookies Kemba Walker and Derrick Williams served as the coaches. Walker’s East team rallied from eight points down in the final minutes to tie the game at 57 with a half-minute left, and it ended in a tie. Mullin hopes the game will continue. “I think it’s a great idea, this unity game, and I think it will go even further as this thing takes off,” he said. “When you integrate people helping each other, that’s what it’s all about.”
POWER OF YOUTH: First-time All-Star Andre Iguodala welcomed his three-day respite in Orlando, but said the 76ers are poised to get back to work after ending the first half on a five-game losing streak. Philadelphia is in fourth place in the East and boasts one of the younger rosters in the conference, with rookie LaVoy Allen getting some starts and guards Jodie Meeks, Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner — all in their third NBA seasons — all big contributors as well.
Though it might seem that would give the Sixers at least a small edge over a few of the older teams in the East like Boston down the stretch dealing with the compact schedule, Iguodala said it is actually the opposite. That’s why he thinks it will be incumbent on veterans like himself and leading scorer Louis Williams to keep the Sixers on track if they want to be a factor in the postseason. “I think it’s helped us, but for us it’s still mostly being tired and being drained mentally — like any other team,” Iguodala said. “And that can hurt the younger guys. The older guys are used to the schedule. So mentally they know how to prepare themselves, where the younger guys can get out of tune or can kind of lose focus. “They haven’t seen anything like this before. So, I’m just trying to keep the guys on track and just trying to continue with our success.”