On Sunday, the Western Conference All-Stars will take on the Eastern Conference All-Stars down in New Orleans in the 2014 NBA All-Star Game, with the West having won the past three years. Unless you were born today, you probably already know Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers will not play due to a fractured knee. This is a game that Bryant has really excelled in over his storied career — he has won four All-Star Game MVP’s and generally takes the game more serious than his peers.
The West will start James Harden in Bryant’s place, who might have the complete opposite intensity level when playing the sport of basketball. Bryant brings a certain swagger that has given the West a level of intimidation, not to mention he is one of the few guys that attempts to play defense in this kind of game. This is evidenced by being the man who takes on the challenge to try to shut down Lebron James or Dwyane Wade. I can’t see Harden or Stephen Curry putting forth much effort in that department on Sunday.
The last two All-Star games the West have lost came when Bryant either didn’t play (2010) or made a quick two minute appearance and sat the rest of the contest out (2008). The last time Bryant played significant minutes in the All-Star game and the West lost was back in 2006, where they went down by just two points. It’s safe to say that he has been a huge key to the West’s dominance over the past 14 years. The East is hungry for a win, and I believe the only drama in this one will be Kyrie Irving, James, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George all fighting over who will win the MVP trophy.
The game will be televised live on TNT at 8 PM ET, and no doubt Bryant not playing will be a huge loss for the NBA.