The NBA All-Star Game format was all new Sunday, but the end result of LeBron James holding a Most Valuable Player trophy was a familiar sight.
James scored 29 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and handed out eight assists to lead his handpicked Team LeBron to a 148-145 win over Stephen Curry's Team Stephen in the All-Star Game at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
The NBA this year abandoned the traditional All-Star format, Western Conference players against Eastern Conference players, to allow the top two vote-getters, James and Curry, to choose their sides. The game featured far more defense than it did the past two years, when the West won 196-173 in 2016 and 192-182 in 2017.
"(The new format) worked out not only for the players, not only for the league, but for our fans, for everybody," James said. "It was a great weekend, and we capped it off the right way. It had a real-game feel to it. Steph and I took it upon ourselves to change the landscape of the game."
James, 33, captured All-Star MVP honors for the third time, adding to his awards in 2006 and 2008. The only other players in NBA history with at least three All-Star MVP awards are Bob Petit (four), Kobe Bryant (four), Oscar Robertson (three), Michael Jordan (three) and Shaquille O'Neal (three).
"From my very first All-Star up until now, I just try to get better and better and not only show myself but show my peers and show everybody that I belong," the Cleveland Cavaliers star said. "It's always been my fans who voted me in.
"For 14 straight years, my fans have voted me in as an All-Star starter, and it's been up to me to go out and let them know and show them, listen, I appreciate that and here's what I'm going to give to you every time you vote me in."
James' dedication to the game was typified by the final play. With James' team up by three in the final seconds, Curry got the ball in the corner and was double-teamed by his Golden State Warriors teammate, Kevin Durant, and James. Curry finally dished the ball to DeMar DeRozan, who couldn't get off a shot before the buzzer.
"That was great defense by myself," Durant joked. "I'm patting myself on the back."
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