The 2014 NBA All Star game played in New Orleans was host to some of the world’s biggest athletes and celebrities. With all the attention being spread so many places you’d think it be hard to say one player stole the spotlight. Not the case this year as Kobe Bryant clear stole the show.
Kobe did not play in this year’s game due to his injury but did participate in some of the activities prior to the game. Bryant garnered more than 988,000 votes anyway, the fifth-highest total in the league. No player in NBA history has collected more All-Star MVP awards than he has.
“It’s coming slowly,” Bryant said during a pregame press conference that was better attended than all of the weekend’s other press conferences combined.
It was standing-room only in the press area for Bryant’s league-mandated appearance. He did not disappoint. Over 15 minutes, Bryant was candid, thoughtful and funny, and even spoke in two languages. (He answered an entire question in Spanish.)
The years have slowed Kobe Bryant down, but they have also emboldened him. No current NBA star is as consistently, brutally forthright, or seems to enjoy the back-and-forth as much as he does.
He surely did Sunday night, maybe even more now because he realizes there might not be many more of these. This was Bryant’s 16th All-Star appearance. There are no guarantees he will be here again, given his age, his health and the sorry state of the Los Angeles Lakers.Even Bryant, who generally scoffs at any suggestion of his mortality, gave a measured response when asked if he thinks he will play in another All-Star Game.
“I hope so,” he said twice. “When you play in an All-Star Game, that means you’re one of the best players in the world. So it’s obviously a big goal of mine to be there.”
Even if his game falters, Bryant’s immense global popularity could carry him to a 17th All-Star selection. But he probably wouldn’t want it that way. After playing just six games this season—returning from Achilles surgery only to be felled again by a knee injury—Bryant practically begged fans not to vote him into this game.
“I’d much rather see the young guys go out there and play in the game,” Bryant said in early January.
So there he was Sunday night, in a crisp shirt and sports coat, peering into a thick crowd of reporters and cameras and quipping at one point, “Half the game is like finding where the question’s coming from.”
Bryant offered no new information about his recovery, saying only that he was “optimistic coming out of the break that I will have some improvements.” He still seems determined to play this season, although the Lakers, at 18-35, have virtually no shot at making the playoffs.