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NBA renames All-Star MVP award to honor Kobe Bryant

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 16: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives against the New York Knicks on December 16, 2008 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers won 116-114. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

The MVP award in the All-Star Game will be renamed in honour of Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant.

Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others died in a helicopter crash in January, sending reverberations through the sporting world.

And now one of basketball’s most prestigious individual honours is to be renamed in his memory.

“While (the trophy) has existed for a long time, it never had that particular player association; for example, in the way the Finals MVP is the Bill Russell Trophy,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.

NBA renames All-Star MVP award to honor Kobe Bryant

“To all of us, it seemed like the appropriate way to bring honor to him.”

Bryant won the MVP award in the All-Star Game four times – a joint record – and became the youngest player to ever feature in the glamorous fixture when aged 19 in the 1998 match.

The All-Star match showcases 24 of the National Basketball Association’s star players; with this year’s edition pitting Team Giannis against Team LeBron in Chicago on Sunday evening – or early on Monday morning for UK viewers.

LeBron James moved to the Lakers in 2018, joining the team Bryant spent his entire 20-year playing career with before retiring in 2016.

“We know that he’s watching over us,” James said on Saturday. “It’s our responsibility to just represent the purple and gold not only for him but for all the greats, everybody that’s ever come through the Lake Show.

“I really don’t want to sit up here and talk about it too much. It’s a very, very sensitive subject; but he’s with us every day.”

NBA renames All-Star MVP award to honor Kobe Bryant

Team LeBron and Team Giannis – named for Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo – will wear the numbers 24 and 2, which were the numbers of Bryant and his daughter.

Growing up he was my idol, not just my idol but probably the whole generation’s,” Antetokounmpo said.

“For us, [Bryant] was the Michael Jordan of our generation. He was one of those guys that gave back to the game so much, gave back to the players. A lot of people when they’re so great, they don’t do that.

“There was a quote that said that talent is worthless if you’re not willing to share it, right? And he was one of those guys that was sharing his talent with us. He’s going to be definitely missed.”

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