In the new All-Star format dedicated to former Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant, Team LeBron edged out Team Giannis in a thrilling fashion on Sunday night. That saw LA Clippers star forward Kawhi Leonard walking away with the inaugural MVP award that was renamed after Bryant. Following the game, Leonard had nothing but praise for his former colleague and mentor in how he impacted his career. He also divulged the best advice he received from the future first-ballot Hall of Famer that came in the most Kobe-like manner.
Kawhi Leonard’ MVP All-Star Game performance
In the new format for the All-Star Game, it brought out a new level of intensity to the game. The competitive nature of the game was taken to a greater degree while that put forth a more entertaining product on the floor.
That saw Leonard emerge as a huge offensive factor throughout the game as his production was key in fueling the comeback for Team LeBron. He was highly efficient scoring a game-high 30 points behind 11-of-18 shooting from the floor while going 8-of-14 from beyond the arc along with seven rebounds, four assists, and two steals. He fell just one made 3-pointer shy of tying the all-time mark set by his teammate Paul George.
Leonard deservingly became the first recipient of the Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP Award. Interestingly enough, he also joined Michael Jordan as the only players to earn an NBA Finals MVP, All-Star Game MVP, and Defensive Player of the Year award.
Kobe Bryant’s advice to Kawhi Leonard
Throughout the last several years, Leonard had developed a strong relationship with Bryant on and off the court. The Clippers star had stepped that up a notch since the 18-time All-Star’s retirement as he worked out with him on various occasions.
Following earning the 2020 All-Star Game MVP award, Leonard shared the best piece of advice Bryant gave him that came in the most Kobe-like fashion.
“Just stay in it. Enjoy the challenge. Don’t get done and just compete. I think my first All-Star Game we were talking and he was competitive. He was like ‘how many shots have you shot in a game?’ I was like ‘Whatcha mean?’ He was like “how many shot attempts have you shot?” I was like ‘My highest? I probably shot like 19 times.’ He was like “Guess how many times I shot it? I shot it 47 times.” I was like ‘Alright.'”
Bryant’s competitive drive was one that never dwindled even at a lighthearted event such as the All-Star Game. He had a strong personal desire to one-up his peers, which he made it quite clear to Leonard.
Those comments were extremely telling of the type of player that Bryant was throughout his illustrious career. That is something that many other players such as Leonard, Kyrie Irving, and Paul George each worked into their craft.
Kobe Bryant’s impact on Kawhi Leonard
In their time together in the league and even into Bryant’s retirement, Leonard developed a strong bond with the future Hall of Famer.
There is plenty of evidence that the former Lakers star rubbed off significantly on the reigning NBA Finals MVP. Leonard has taken his game to the next level over the last few years, which has seen him become an even more exceptional offensive talent that has seen him utilize moves that mirror what Bryant did on the court.
Leonard looked up to Bryant on and off the court, which only increased over the last couple of years. That made earning the first Kobe Bryant MVP award that much more important to him. Beyond that, it shows the impact that the former Lakers’ star has on the generation of talent after him in the league.