LOS ANGELES // Kobe Bryant talks more about his past than his future these days. The guard, who has led the Los Angeles Lakers to five NBA championships, has said he can see the finish line of his career as younger stars emerge.
But he was happy to take the spotlight at the NBA All-Star game.
Bryant won his record-tying fourth All Star MVP award with 37 points and 14 rebounds in the West's 148-143 win over the East. His point total was just five points shy of the All Star scoring record.
Bryant clearly wanted the trophy, but until taking over the starring role on Sunday, he said he spent the weekend attempting to cede the spotlight. He imagines himself sliding into a background role behind LeBron James and his Miami Heat teammates, or the Boston Celtics' four All Stars, or Los Angeles Clippers' Blake Griffin.
"I've been there, you know what I mean?" Bryant said. "It's not about that for me at this point in my career. It's very important for the game to continue to have young stars emerge ... It's important for me to step aside. It's about me coming out and performing and staying healthy, and doing the right things after 15 years."
That did not stop Bryant from going after an MVP trophy and a West win with unusually ferocious play for an exhibition game.
And even though James racked up a triple-double, Kevin Durant dropped 34 points in 30 minutes, and Amare Stoudemire slammed his way to 29 points, the All Stars seemed pleased Bryant came away with one more trophy.
"Everyone wanted him to get the MVP," said Miami's Dwyane Wade. "He came out very aggressive, as aggressive as I've seen anybody in an All Star game."
Both teams seemingly deferred to Bryant, finding him on fast breaks and clearing a path for his dunks - a rarity these days for Bryant's aching knees. Bryant even threw down a slam against James's defence in the third quarter, following it up with a three-pointer.
"He deserved it," Durant said. "Thirty-seven and 14? That's unbelievable numbers. I wanted him to get 40, but the old fella kind of tired out a little bit."
* Associated Press