Kawhi Leonard Calls It ‘Very Special’ To Win First Kobe Bryant NBA All-Star Game MVP Award
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The 2020 NBA All-Star Game featured an intriguing matchup between Team LeBron and Team Giannis, as well as a new format that was well received from both the players and fans.

But the biggest theme of NBA All-Star Weekend was remembering the life and career of Kobe Bryant. His presence loomed large during the three-day period, being the recipient of many honors and tributes.

Dwight Howard paid his respects to Bryant in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, wearing the No. 24 over his Superman jersey. Prior to that, Bryant was named one of eight finalists for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2020.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver additionally renamed the NBA All-Star Game Most Valuable Player award after Bryant, which was presented to Kawhi Leonard at the conclusion of Team LeBron’s 157-155 win over Team Giannis in Chicago.

“It’s very special,” Leonard said of the honor.

“Like I said, I had a relationship with him. Words can’t explain how happy I am for it. Able to put that trophy in my room, in my trophy room, and just be able to see Kobe’s name on there, it just means a lot to me. He’s a big inspiration in my life. He did a lot for me.”

Leonard scored 25 points in the first half and converted seven of his 10 attempts from behind the arc. He finished his night with 30 points, making eight of his 14 three-point attempts.

Leonard fell one basket short of matching Paul George‘s record of nine set during the 2016 NBA All-Star Game.

Like many players in the NBA, Leonard considered Bryant a mentor and friend. The Southern California native grew up idolizing Bryant and models his game after him.

Leonard also embraces the Mamba Mentality, which he brings with him every time he steps on the court.

“I pretty much carry that every year, you know what I mean,” Leonard said.

“I’m going to play hard. That’s what I do. I want to go in and win every game. Whatever happens, happens from there. I would dedicate anything to him.​”