This year’s NBA All-Star Game jerseys are less about the color and design and more about the numbers.
Unlike most years, the All-Star players won’t be wearing their own numbers while playing for the teams captained by LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo on Sunday in Chicago’s United Center. Instead, they’ll be using the game as an opportunity to honor NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, both of whom died in a helicopter crash Jan. 26.
Members of Team Giannis will be wearing No. 24, which was Bryant’s number in the second half of his career, while Team LeBron players will don No. 2, which was Gianna’s number on her youth team.
“It’s a big honor,” Antetokounmpo said, according to Michael C. Wright of NBA.com. “I wouldn’t want it any other way representing Kobe and Gigi in [Sunday] night’s game.”
That’s not the only way the NBA All-Star jerseys are serving as a tribute. There will also be a patch to honor all nine people who died in the helicopter crash that included the Bryants. The jerseys will also feature a black band in memory of former NBA Commissioner David Stern, who died Jan. 1.
Earlier this week, Darren Rovell of the Action Network tweeted a look at this year’s All-Star jerseys:
Not only has the NBA honored Bryant as part of its format adjustments for this year’s All-Star Game, but it also made a change to the contest’s MVP award, which NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced Saturday.
The award will now be known as the NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP Award to honor the Los Angeles Lakers legend, who won the award a record-tying four times during his incredible career. The only other player to win the honor that many times is Bob Pettit.
“Kobe Bryant is synonymous with NBA All-Star and embodies the spirit of this global celebration of our game,” Silver said in a statement, according to NBA.com. “He always relished the opportunity to compete with the best of the best and perform at the highest level for millions of fans around the world.”
It’s possible the first Kobe Bryant MVP Award will go to James, who has won the honor three times in his career and is looking to join the elite company of Bryant and Pettit.
According to ESPN’s Nick DePaula, Lakers forward Anthony Davis and numerous other players are expected to honor Bryant on the shoes they wear in this year’s All-Star Game as well. And it might not only be players who are partnered with Nike, which is the brand that has put out Bryant’s line of shoes.
Things are sure to get emotional Sunday night, with the uniforms, shoes and award name being only a few ways that Bryant will be remembered. There may be more tributes coming during the event.