Kawhi Leonard saluted Kobe Bryant after he won the NBA All-Star Game MVP Award, an honor the league named after Bryant before Sunday's game.
With Team LeBron beating Team Giannis 157-155 in Chicago, the Los Angeles Clippers star was the logical candidate. During his acceptance speech, he credited Bryant with helping him reach this point.
He discussed some more of experiences with Bryant:
Ben Golliver @BenGolliver
Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard on winning the first Kobe Bryant All-Star Game MVP trophy: “It’s very special. I had a relationship with him. Words can’t explain how happy I am for it. I’m able to put that trophy in my trophy room and see Kobe’s name on there.” https://t.co/qfiGYLamPs
Leonard had a game-high 30 points, seven rebounds and four assists. The bulk of his scoring came from beyond the arc, as he was 8-of-14 on three-pointers.
Leonard and Bryant enjoyed a friendship away from the court.
Kawhi told reporters in January he spoke with Kobe after the former guided the Toronto Raptors to the NBA title last summer. Bryant also recounted in February 2016 a conversation he had with San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich in which Popovich told him to shadow Leonard a bit to aid in his development.
Following his death in a Jan. 26 helicopter crash, the NBA lined up a number of tributes to Bryant during All-Star Weekend.
In addition to the MVP award dedication, the teams wore No. 2 and 24 jerseys in reference to Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, who also died in the crash. The "final target score" in this year's new format was set at 24 for the fourth quarter as well.