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On This Date in Sports February 10, 2002: Kobe stars in Philly

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

The NBA All-Stars gather in Philadelphia for the first time in 26 years. The All-Star Game was to be played at the First Union Center in Philadelphia in 1999 but canceled due to NBA Lockout. The Western Conference crushes the Eastern Conference 135-120 as a native of Philadelphia steals the show. Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers wins the first of four All-Star MVP awards, scoring a game-high 31 points with five rebounds and five assists.  

Kobe Bryant was born on August 23, 1978, in Philadelphia. The son of Joe "Jellybean" Bryant, Kobe learned how to play basketball at an early age. Spending some of his childhood in Italy when his father played in Europe, Kobe Bryant became a star a Lower Merrion in the suburbs of Philadelphia. In 1996, with many top schools recruiting him, Bryant decided to go from high school to the NBA. He was selected with the 13th overall pick by the Charlotte Hornets but traded on draft day to the Los Angeles Lakers for an aging Vlade Divac in one of the worst trades in NBA history. Kobe Bryant showed signs of stardom right away as an 18-year old, winning the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest in Cleveland. A year later, Kobe made his first of 18 All-Star Game appearances. Kobe Bryant would continue to develop into an NBA star as the Lakers won three straight championships at the start of the century. 

The NBA All-Star Game came to Philadelphia in 2002. It was scheduled to be there in 1999, but a lockout that delayed the start of the season led to the All-Star festivities being canceled. It was the fourth NBA All-Star Game in Philadelphia, with the game being there in 1960, 1970, and 1976. 

Shaquille O'Neal of the Lakers was the leading vote-getter in 2002, the second straight season he accomplished that feat. The Lakers were in the midst of a third consecutive NBA Championship. The Western Conference team was coached by Don Nelson of the Dallas Mavericks while Byron Scott of the New Jersey Nets led the Eastern Conference squad. The West dominated the game, leading 32-24 in the first quarter and 72-55 at the half. The West reached the century mark at the end of the third quarter and were up 100-77, entering the final 12 minutes. The East made a dent in the lead, but the game was never close as the Western Conference won easily 135-120.

With the Lakers beating the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2001 NBA Finals, fans in Philadelphia were not awed by Kobe Bryant, the hometown hero. Bryant was loudly booed. It only served as motivation, as he led all scorers with 35 points, with five rebounds and five assists. Gary Payton of the Seattle SuperSonics was second on the West with 18 points, while Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs and Kevin Garnett each had 14 points. 

The East bench shined brighter than the started as Tracy McGrady had a team-high 24 points, while Paul Pierce of the Boston Celtics had 19 points. None of the Eastern Conference starters had double-digit scoring, as Allen Iverson of the host Sixers had just five points, while Diekember Mutumbo, his teammate from Philadelphia, had eight. The game also saw Michael Jordan score just eight points in his return with the Washington Wizards.