Kobe Bryant was as red hot as his Western Conference uniform to start the All-Star game, making six of his first seven shots (including two three-pointers), and when his two-handed slam went through the rim with 4:56 left in the third quarter he had surpassed Michael Jordan’s all-time record for points in the game of stars.
And oh, by the way, he did so with a broken nose for most of the second half.
The physicality started to increase early in the third quarter, with Bryant stealing the ball from East/Heat guard Dwyane Wade with 10:27 left, resulting in an alley-oop dunk for the West on the other end. About two minutes later, with 8:48 on the clock, Bryant spun around Wade to the baseline, creating a clear path to the hoop. Wade turned to swing both arms in No. 24′s direction, catching Bryant directly in the nose with his right arm. A 30-second official’s time out was called on the court to stop the bleeding.
Wade told reporters that he tried to take a foul but obviously not draw blood, and that Kobe had fouled him on two previous plays.
We wouldn’t learn that Bryant’s nose was broken until just after 10:30 Pacific time, 1:30 a.m. in Orlando, when physicians who treated Bryant communicated back to Lakers athletic trainer Gary Vitti and VP of Public Relations John Black, who subsequently informed Lakers.com.
Yet, as soon as the blood stopped running, Bryant hit both free throws to reach 18 points in the game, matching Jordan’s record of 262 All-Star points. Without saying a word to Thunder/All-Star coach Scott Brooks about coming out, Bryant continued to play through pain as he always does. About four minutes after the blow to his nose, he sprinted out in transition after Kevin Durant stole the ball from LeBron James, caught Durant’s pass with Wade a step behind him, got to the rim in one dribble, took off and passed Jordan before his feet touched the ground.
Bryant added two more free throws and a layup before the third quarter ended to reach 24 points, having made eight of his 13 shots (61.5 percent). He’d finish with 1-of-4 makes in the fourth quarter plus 1-of-2 free throws in the final minute to finish at 9-of-17 (52.9 percent), good for 27 points. The league’s leading scorer in the first half of the season (28.4 points per game) mixed in a typical motley crew of buckets, including a 17-foot pull up, a 19-foot fadeaway, some layups, turnaround jumpers, dunks and 7-of-8 free throws, in the process making the all-time scoring list look like this:
271 – Kobe Bryant
262 – Michael Jordan
251 – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
246 – Oscar Robertson
Bryant’s legs looked rather fresh after three days rest from four Lakers games in five nights before the break, and he’ll get two more to rest from the 35 minutes he played – second only to Durant’s 37 – before L.A.’s Wednesday evening game vs. Minnesota.
No. 24 returned to Los Angeles on Monday to get his nose re-evaluated by ear, nose and throat specialist Dr. John Rehm; perhaps the nose hurts just a little bit less now that he’s the most prolific scorer in the history of an All-Star game he’d been apart of since 1997-98, his second season in the NBA.