The NBA has renamed its All-Star Game MVP trophy after Kobe Bryant in the wake of Bryant’s tragic death last month.
Commissioner Adam Silver announced Saturday that the award would now be known as the Kobe Bryant All-Star Game MVP Award. Silver unveiled the newly-minted trophy at his annual All-Star weekend news conference in Chicago.
Bryant made 18 consecutive All-Star Games from 1998 to 2016 and won the game’s MVP four times – in 2002, 2007, 2009 and 2011.
The award he won on those four occasions will now forever be associated with him.
Bryant’s death in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26 sent the NBA and the basketball world into a very public and fast-paced grieving process. The league had to mourn – the loss, Silver said, “is unspeakable.” It also had to celebrate and honour Bryant’s life.
Less than a week after the crash, the NBA announced its first major league-wide tribute, a reformatted 2020 All-Star game, plus All-Star jersey number changes for all players to 24 (for Bryant) and 2 (for his daughter Gianna). Silver said Saturday that players “embraced” the changes.
But the league knew that wasn’t sufficient. “So we were thinking,” Silver explained, “What is something special we could do at All-Star that had more permanence than changing the numbers on the jerseys?”
There were discussions within the league office. There were discussions with players, Silver said. They realized they had “this trophy that, while it has existed for a long time, it never had that particular player association, for example, in the way the Finals MVP is the Bill Russell trophy. To all of us, it seemed like the appropriate way to bring honour to him.”
“I’m sure there will be other honours as well,” Silver said. “And as I mentioned, there are other things that we will be discussing with our board, the NBA board, when they meet in April to honour [former commissioner] David [Stern]. But this one seems so appropriate here at All-Star because nobody embodied All-Star more than Kobe Bryant.”