By Brendan O’Brien
CHICAGO (Reuters) – The National Basketball Association All-Star Game MVP Award has been permanently named for the late Kobe Bryant, league Commissioner Adam Silver said on Saturday.
Bryant, an 18-time All-Star who won a record-tying four All-Star Game MVP awards, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles on Jan. 26. He was 41.
“His loss, together with his daughter and those other seven people on the helicopter, is unspeakable,” Silver said at a news conference before the All-Star Saturday Night event at the United Center in Chicago. “As the father of a child … that’s the unimaginable.”
The Kobe Bryant MVP Award will be presented on Sunday to the most valuable player at the end of the 2020 NBA All-Star Game.
“Kobe Bryant is synonymous with NBA All-Star and embodies the spirit of this global celebration of our game,” Silver said in a statement. “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.”
Bryant made his NBA All-Star Game debut in 1998 at age 19 – the youngest player to ever play in an All-Star Game. His 18 All-Star selections are the second most in NBA history behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, at 19.
Silver said the decision to name the MVP award in honor of Bryant was made collectively by league officials and some players.
“To all of us, it seemed like the appropriate way to bring honor to him,” Silver said.
Silver also spoke about the loss of former NBA Commissioner David Stern, who oversaw explosive growth in the popularity of the game during his 30-year tenure. Silver said that Stern, who died in January, and Bryant had a lot in common.
“They were both determined to win,” he said. “They could be difficult at times because they prioritized winning, and often, they didn’t have time for some of the niceties around personal relationships because it was about winning.”
Moments after Silver’s news conference ended, the packed United Center stood and cheered as the game clock was wound up to 24.2, in honor of Bryant’s No. 24 jersey number and the No. 2 that Gianna Bryant wore when she played basketball at her father’s Mamba Sports Academy.
(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; additonal reporting by Gene Cherry; editing by Jonathan Oatis)