“It’s special,” Gasol said of playing in Sunday’s game. “One of the reasons I was excited to make it in the first place. I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to be present and witness that moment because Kobe is a special guy and special player and had a tremendous career and we have a unique friendship and relationship. “It’s really nice to be here and be part of the All-Star game with Kobe and the relationship we’ve developed over the years,” Gasol added. “One of my biggest disappointments of not being selected by the coaches directly was I wasn’t going to be here for that, and now that I am, I am happy to be part of this moment.”
The game’s MVP, Zach LaVine, had just celebrated his first birthday when Bryant was drafted in the 1996 draft. Devin Booker, who scored 23 points in the defense-less game, wasn’t born. In fact, none of the players were more than five years old when he was drafted. Their first memories of him came when they were just beginning elementary school. “(My) earliest memory of Kobe Bryant, probably when he won the Dunk Contest when he was 18, 19, and then probably after that just him in the playoffs hitting those shots, like Portland and Indiana in the playoffs in early 2000,” said LaVine. “So that probably is the earliest ones. I was really young, like six, five.”
Yet, Bryant did not sound thrilled on the idea that his Western Conference teammates could hep him. Bryant reported dismissively questioning Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry after the NBA’s reigning MVP told him, “I have a lot of assists for you.” “I said, ‘No. What are you doing? You’re a shooter. You grew up watching me. What the hell are you talking about that you want to pass me the ball at an All-Star game. Are you crazy?”