Dave McMenaminESPN Writer4 minute read
SALT LAKE CITY — Team Giannis only had Giannis Antetokounmpo for one game because of his sprained right wrist. Team LeBron only had LeBron James for one half due to a bruised right hand and a plan to save the 20-year-old veteran’s legs for the post-break playoff push. Los Angeles Lakers.
So in Sunday night’s NBA All-Star Game, the real competition was between Boston’s Jayson Tatum and Cleveland’s Donovan Mitchell as they vied for the MVP title while playing for the same team.
While Mitchell (40 points) had the Utah comeback narrative going for him for a while, Tatum took the honors, scoring 27 of his 55 points in the third quarter to lead Team Giannis to a 184-175 win. . He shot 22 of 31 from the field (10 of 18 of 3) with nine rebounds and six assists.
Tatum set the record for most points in an All-Star Game, edging out Anthony Davis’ 52 points in 2017.
“I found out in the middle of the fourth (about the record),” Tatum said. “I think I had like 49 and Dame (Lillard) was like, ‘Yo, the record is 52.’ He was like, ‘Go get it.'”
Tatum, who grew up idolizing Kobe Bryant and trained with the Lakers legend early in his Celtics career, received the Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP trophy after the game.
“It’s extremely special to me,” said Tatum, 24. “My first All-Star Game was in Chicago in 2020 when they renamed the MVP after him and I remember thinking to myself one day I might get one.”
Tatum won 11 of 12 votes for the award, with Mitchell winning the other through a fan vote.
Mitchell, who entered the league in the 2017 NBA draft with Tatum, could only tip his hat.
“At the end of the day, it caught fire,” Mitchell said. “There was a moment when I said, ‘Hey, I need an assist’, and that’s when I gave the ball back to him and he ended up shooting, doing it. That’s all the love. But at the end of the day, we’re also competitors and we both wanted to go get it, and he got it, and I’m very happy for him .”
The Boston star capped off his torrid third quarter by teaming up with Celtics teammate Jaylen Brown, waving the crowd to some noise as he dribbled down the half court looking for the 1-on-1 challenge of Brown.
“I think it was fun,” Brown said. “Going against my brother in Jayson and going back and forth, it was like no one was there at all. It was just me and him.”
Tatum added: “It felt like another day in the office for us. Being on the same team for six years now, we’ve played countless 1-on-1 matches, scrums against each other. We’ve always somehow got the best out of each other.
“So it was a normal day for us. Just a myriad of people watching on one of the biggest stages.”
Brown, who led Team LeBron with 35 points and 14 rebounds, said he wasn’t surprised to see Tatum getting aggressive early on with the MVP in the lead.
“If you know Jayson, he goes,” Brown said. “And that’s what he’s supposed to do.”
Tatum was Antetokounmpo’s No. 1 pick among the live draft starters.
“I had a little chat with him, I knew he was going to play hard and he was going to take it seriously,” Antetokounmpo said of the selection. “So it was a no-brainer.”
Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla coached Tatum on Team Giannis, with Boston having the best record in the East on the All-Star break.
“Because of who Jaylen and Jayson are, you have to allow them to take responsibility for their individual legacies,” Mazzulla said. “I think it’s important to them, it’s important to our team, it’s important to our organization. So to see Jayson continue a legacy like that was really awesome… I’m glad he was able to achieve it.”
Antetokounmpo scored on the first possession and checked to rest his sprained wrist, but earned his first win as All-Star captain, improving his record to 1-2. James played 14 minutes in the first half, scoring 13 points on 6-for-11 shooting with four assists. He landed a finger on his right hand attempting a chase block and that was enough for him to call it a night. It was the first time his team had lost as All-Star captain, dropping their mark to 5-1.
Tatum said he had extra motivation because he debuted his signature sneaker, the Jordan Tatum 1, on Sunday.
“I wanted to win MVP, I didn’t expect to get 55, but that’s the icing on the cake,” Tatum said.