Kawhi Leonard excited for winning innaugral Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP Award

Kawhi Leonard was named the recipient of the NBA’s first-ever Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP Award on Sunday.

The award was given to Leonard after Team LeBron defeated Team Giannis, 157-155, in an exciting down-to-the-wire contest. Leonard tallied a team-high 30 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals on 11-of-18 shooting.

The MVP started the game with the hot hand, draining 7-of-8 threes in the first half and finishing the night 8-of-14 from distance.

Leonard was awarded the Kobe Bryant MVP Award one day after the honor was renamed. NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced the permanent name change on Saturday to reflect the impact Bryant had on the game.

“It means a lot to me,” Leonard said. “Words can’t even explain making this the first Kobe Bryant MVP trophy. I want to thank Kobe for everything he’s done for me, all the long talks and the workouts. Thank you, this one is for him.”

“It’s very special,” Leonard said in his press conference. “I had a relationship with him. Words can’t explain how happy I am for it. I’m able to put that trophy in my trophy room and see Kobe’s name on there.”

Bryant died in a helicopter crash along with his daughter Gianna and seven others on Jan. 26. The NBA paid tribute to Bryant and the late David Stern throughout the league’s All-Star Weekend, from jersey numbers to pregame performances.

During his 20-year NBA career, Bryant was an 18-time NBA All-Star and is tied for the most All-Star MVP awards with four. Leonard, a four-time All-Star, now has one All-Star MVP award to his name.