Kobe Bryant excelled practically every time he stepped on a basketball court, but there was a special place in his heart for All-Star appearances. He holds league records for most All-Star MVP awards (four), most consecutive selections (18), most games started (15, though LeBron James is set to top that this season), most offensive rebounds in a game (10) and most steals for his career (38).
Weeks ahead of the 2020 All-Star Game, the NBA decided to use the event to honor Bryant after his death last month in a tragic helicopter accident. In a press release issued in January, the league announced that the game’s format has been changed, with Bryant at the center of the alterations.
The score will be reset to 0-0 after the first and second quarters. The winners of the first, second and third quarters will receive $100,000 per quarter to donate to a Chicago-based charity of the captain’s choice. At the end of the third quarter, the total scores from each quarter will be combined, as it would be in a typical game. The fourth quarter will be untimed. Instead, a target score will be set by adding 24 points (Bryant’s old uniform number) to the total of whichever team has the lead through three quarters (i.e, if the team in the lead has 100 points, the target score would be 124). The first team to reach that target would win the game. The winning team will receive another $200,000 to donate to charity, bringing the total up to $500,000.
The broad strokes of this change had been in the works prior to Bryant’s death, according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. The target score was the only detail that may have changed, but according to the AP’s Tim Reynolds, NBA player union president Chris Paul already wanted to adopt this sort of format.
The idea is based on a concept called the “Elam Ending,” created by Nick Elam for a summer event called The Basketball Tournament. That tournament operates on a winner-take-all basis, with the last team standing taking home a $2 million cash prize. Their games are formatted differently than typical NBA matchups, though. Games are played as usual up until late in the fourth quarter. At the first stoppage beyond the four-minute mark in that quarter, the clock is turned off. A target score is then set at seven points above however many points the leading team has. As with the All-Star Game, the first team to reach that target score wins.
The NBA also announced that it has other plans to honor Bryant at All-Star Weekend. While not confirmed, many have speculated that both teams could wear Bryant’s old uniform numbers as a tribute to him, with one side donning No. 8 and the other No. 24. Such a change has yet to be announced, but Bryant figures to be well-represented in Chicago.