The 2020 NBA All-Star Game was always going to be about Kobe Bryant. This is exactly how it should be after one of the premier players of any sport, anywhere, tragically passes away weeks before the biggest talents of the game gather for a showdown.
However, the 2020 NBA All-Star Game was also a show of the power of basketball and the power of sports in general. This was a real game down the stretch – more on that in a moment – and not the free scoring shotfest that the All-Star game has sometimes been in recent years.
There was no more fitting a tribute to Bryant – a man who thought winning the exhibition All-Star Game was as important as a playoff win – than the fact this game was played (in the fourth quarter at least) like it really mattered. It was a game that raised $500,000 and counting for local charities based on which team won each quarter, and it was the first game where the NBA has used a novel scoring system down the stretch that its premier players seemed to all embrace instantaneously as the fourth quarter went on.
This scoring system – known as the Elam system – set the final quarter to be a race to 157. The score was calculated by adding 24 (Kobe’s number) to the score that the leading team had entering the fourth quarter. It is a scoring system that literally anyone who has ever played a team sport, where points are counted, can endorse. How many games of flag football between friends have been drifting along until the magic call of “first to five wins” is made. At that point, everyone playing becomes ultra-competitive and the game matters.
That is what happened in this NBA All-Star Game as the teams ramped up down the stretch to the point that coaches were challenging replays and players were caring about every foul. Kobe would have LOVED this environment and he would have thrived in the pressure of such a game. It helped that the Chicago crowd were into the contest from the minute the tributes to the great Laker ended, finishing by barely sitting down from the middle of the third quarter onwards.
Sometimes we forget how sports – and certain athletes – can bring people together on a local, national, and global scale. Sunday night in Chicago was all the proof we needed to remind us of that.
Article by Premier Players