Dwight Howard had nine points and 10 rebounds as the game’s host.
The NBA’s first All-Star game in Orlando in 20 years wasn’t close after 2 1/2 quarters. But players always say it gets competitive in the final five minutes, and James was again up for the challenge. With the 2-year-old Amway Center considered by many the finest arena in the league, the NBA brought its midseason showcase back to Orlando for the first time since the memorable 1992 game, when Magic Johnson was MVP three months after retiring from the league because of the HIV virus.
James hiked his scoring average to 25.9 points over his eight All-Star games, and someday he’ll probably take the record Bryant set Sunday.
But he couldn’t quite catch Kobe in the game.
“Being a competitor, no matter All-Star game or not, you don’t want to get blown out,” James said.
James and Howard, wearing bright orange shoes, danced onto the stage for pregame introductions, Howard breaking into an enormous grin when fans gave him a thunderous ovation as the last All-Star introduced. He insists that he and Magic fans still have a love affair despite his trade request, understanding he still loves the city even if not his team, and urged everyone to ignore the trade talk for a weekend and have fun.
“We did it big for our city,” he said in brief pregame remarks to the crowd before the game.
Then Andrew Bynum blocked his first shot attempt.
Howard and Derrick Rose ditched their orange sneakers in the second half – James kept his – and the East quickly got back into it, trimming 12 points off its deficit in less than 6 minutes. They even started to defend – Wade whacked Bryant so hard on a drive that the Lakers star needed a break between free throws to wipe blood from his nose before sinking it to tie Jordan.
Williams scored 20 points for the East. Carmelo Anthony had 19, and Rose finished with 14.
Kevin Love, who won the 3-point contest on Saturday, scored 17 points for the West, which has won two in a row. Chris Paul had eight points and 12 assists.