Sports Journalism Blog

By Kondwani Mzumara | @kondwamz

Sports Capital Journalism Program

INDIANAPOLIS — Damian Lillard of the Milwaukee Bucks received the NBA All-Star Kobe Bryant MVP Award after a dazzling 39-point performance during the NBA All-Star Game Sunday night. Lillard, who made his eighth NBA All-Star appearance, made 11 three-pointers, two of them coming from half-court, to help the East to a record-setting 211-186 victory.

“I just told myself I’m going to be aggressive, and I’m going to keep firing,” Lillard said. “I saw a couple go in. After that, it was just like I’m going after it.”

This performance capped off an impressive weekend for Lillard, who won the 3-point contest for the second consecutive year on Saturday night. Lillard joins Michael Jordan of the 1988 Chicago Bulls, who won the Slam Dunk Contest, as the only players to win the All-Star Game MVP trophy after winning an All-Star event on Saturday night.

“Any time you’re mentioned in the same category as Mike, it’s an honor, and it’s a major accomplishment, even if it’s All-Star Weekend,” Lillard said. “If it was that simple, more people would have done it….So that’s a major compliment for me to be mentioned in the same conversation as far as that.”

The All-Star MVP award race did appear close throughout the game between Lillard and Tyrese Haliburton of the Indiana Pacers. Haliburton, who was playing in his home arena at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, started the game 5-for-5 from beyond the 3-point in a remarkable span of 1:32.

Haliburton ended with 10 three-pointers made (one less than Lillard) and finished the game with 23 points. Lillard won the award by a vote of 7-5. Lillard played 27 minutes in the All-Star Game, finishing the night 14-of-26 from the field, including 11-of-23 from 3-point range.

“And I’m going to come into the All-Star Game, my first start, I know I’m going to be on the floor a lot,” Lillard said. “I’m a vet in the game at this point. Why not go and try to get an MVP, since I’ve been here enough.”

All-Star Games are typically high scoring affairs. The teams combined for 397 points in this game. The record point totals may just be a result of how the NBA is played today, with the focus on offense and three-point shooting. Both teams combined for 168 3-point attempts, making 67. The East made 43.3% of its 3-point attempts, and the West made 35.2%.

“I think 200 is a lot to be scored,” Lillard said. “It just shows that we didn’t go out there and compete like I guess you would want us to or whoever would want us to.

“But I think that’s just what it is. Guys are talented. Make a lot of shots. We hit a lot of threes, and that was it.”