Like Old Times: Shaq, Kobe Share All-Star MVP Honors • Latino Sports

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Like Old Times: Shaq, Kobe Share All-Star MVP Honors

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PHOENIX – All-Stars Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal hadn’t shared the same court as teammates since their championship Laker days, but Sunday night at U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix, the dynamic duo reunited, putting their differences aside, as the West All-Stars dominated the East, 146-119 in the 58th annual NBA All-Star Game.

In a contest that lacked drama and the spectacle that fans have grown accustomed to seeing at All-Star weekend, Bryant and O’Neal delivered, sharing Co-MVP honors by the time it was all said and done. Kobe went for a game-high 27 points and O’Neal had 17 in 11 minutes. It was their first game together since their eight-year run in Los Angeles ended in 2004. 

For O’Neal, it is likely his last All-Star appearance. He has said he will retire at season’s end. He was the star Sunday night, with Bryant directing the action. After O’Neal checked in midway through the period, Bryant set up a play for him that resulted in a Shaq layup. With the East playing a small lineup, O’Neal took over the game.

Bryant immediately ran a play for Shaq inside with smaller Orlando forward Rashard Lewis guarding O’Neal. Kobe gave him the ball and O’Neal dunked it. He would jam home another two dunks, scoring 11 points in under six minutes.

Next thing you knew, Shaq and Bryant were sharing the podium behind David Stern – O’Neal acting silly, playfully trying to pull it away from Bryant. “

“It was fun for us to interact,” Bryant said. “It is just fun. We are just having fun. In terms of being nostalgic … We are not going to go back to the room and watch ‘Steel Magnolias’ or something like that, you know what I'm saying, crying, all that stuff. We had a good time. That's all.”

Added O’Neal: “It felt like old times. I miss those times. He was really looking for me, especially when we went to a pick-and-roll and they had Rashard Lewis on me. He was really looking for me.”

Although it looked as if the fix was in for O'Neal and Bryant to win their third All-Star MVP each, it was a legitimate vote. The nine-member media panel, which accounted for 75 percent of the vote, gave it to O'Neal, 5-4. Fan voting, which accounted for the final 25 percent, put Bryant first (2 votes) and O'Neal second (1 vote.) So they actually tied, 6-6.

 Amare Stoudemire scored 19 for the West, which bounced back from its loss last year in New Orleans, when Bryant was limited to just a few minutes of action while resting a dislocated pinkie finger.

LeBron James led the East with 20 points. Paul Pierce and Dwyane Wade each scored 18.

O'Neal missed the All-Star game last year after 14 straight selections. He danced on the stage during pre-game introductions.

The East started quickly, while the West missed nine of its first 11 shots and trailed 20-10 when West coach Phil Jackson called timeout and inserted O'Neal with 5:44 remaining in the first quarter. The West scored the next 11 points with Shaq and Kobe on the floor, part of a 19-0 run that made it 27-20.

“In a game like this, there really isn't any flow,” Pierce said. “You don't really have the practice time. You just go out there and to the best of your ability try to blend in with the rest of the guys. But knowing that you are trying to win but also have fun.

“They went to Shaq,” Pierce added of the difference maker. “We had Rashard Lewis on him.  We had a small team tonight. We were at a disadvantage I thought. Especially with Chris Bosh being hurt, I think that really hurt us when we subbed out and had to go small versus the bigger bodies in the West.”

O'Neal returned midway through the third quarter with the West already ahead by double digits.

“I tell you what, those two guys together, that's a deadly combination as we all saw tonight and we have all seen in the past,” said East coach Mike Brown. “It is what it is. They are where they are right now, but if they were to stay together, no telling how many more rings they would have had on their fingers and toes.”    

About Bobby Ciafardini