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Kobe Bryant scores 60 points in Lakers win to end career

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Kobe Bryant scores 60 points in Lakers win to end career

By ANDREW DALTON, Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- After one, last, unforgettable, 60-point night, the fans of Los Angeles will have to get used to life without Kobe Bryant. It's something many of them have never known.

For two decades he has loomed over the city like no other figure, often literally on billboards and the sides of downtown buildings.

In the hours leading up to his last game Wednesday, when Bryant would lead the Lakers to a 101-96 comeback victory over the Utah Jazz with his season-high 60 in one of the greatest farewells by an athlete, many thousands of those fans packed shoulder-to-shoulder into the plaza outside Staples Center, the arena that opened just as his legend was beginning to grow.

They began arriving in the morning and the crowd swelled as the day went on, with chants of "Kobe! Kobe! Kobe!" erupting from the crowd.

Most didn't even have tickets for the game. They just wanted to be close enough to bask in Bryant's last Laker moments. Many wore jerseys bearing his current No. 24, many others his old No. 8. Some had replicas of his five championship rings.

He owned the city in a way no athlete has since Magic Johnson.

Los Angeles is full of movie and TV stars, but they are not local heroes. They belong to the world.

Kobe belonged to LA.

Carlos Hernandez, 25, is among those who have no pre-Bryant memories.

"Kobe Bryant is Los Angeles," said Hernandez, who wore Bryant's high school jersey from Lower Merion High School in Pennsylvania.

Cesar Ramos, wearing a black Bryant jersey, agreed.

"Kobe means LA," he said. "Twenty years of my life I've known him, since I was six."

Bryant lacked Johnson's magnetic, smiling charm or Michael Jordan's iconic image projection, yet he looms as large as both for many of the gathered fans.

"I grew up watching Michael Jordan as a kid, so I only caught the tail end of Michael Jordan's career," said Luis Leon, who was raised as a Laker fan despite living in Phoenix. "So the closest thing to Michael Jordan was Kobe Bryant. The way he carried himself on the court was beautiful. He was the last link to Michael Jordan for my generation."

Leon drove the six hours from Arizona to LA to be there despite not having a ticket, or hope of getting one.

The gathered fans were unanimously willing to forget for now that the last Laker team Bryant led was the worst the city has ever seen (17-65).

But unlike Dodgers announcer Vin Scully, another LA icon in his final season, Bryant was by no means universally revered here. Many scorned him as a ball hog who took too many shots, and a salary hog who kept the team from signing free agents to stay relevant in his late career.

"I'm a Laker fan again starting tomorrow," said Michele Siqueiros a longtime local who loved Magic Johnson's teams of the 1980s. "As a Showtime Laker fan his selfish disregard for team play is offensive."

There was also the lingering memory of the Colorado rape charges that were dropped in 2004 when his accuser refused to testify just before the beginning of trial. The case could have led to a fall from grace before Bryant's career was halfway done, instead of the swan song he's had for the past season.

Siqueiros said the dropping of the charges didn't convince her of his innocence, and added to her distaste.

"I'm so glad he's gone," she said. "It was long overdue. Why they sacrificed the last few seasons for him is beyond me."

Back among Bryant's admirers outside Staples, Alfonso and Amber Ortiz were among the lucky ones who would get to go inside. They got their tickets in November, when the prices were merely sky-high and not yet astronomical.

"Kobe means everything to me," Alfonso Ortiz said.

The couple's baby, Brooklynn, wore a Lakers bandana on her head as Amber held her. She's not their only child.

"We actually have a son," Amber Ortiz said. "Named Kobe."

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2018 NBA All-Star Game: TV and live stream info, rosters, things to watch for dunk contest, three-point contest

2018 NBA All-Star Game: TV and live stream info, rosters, things to watch for dunk contest, three-point contest

The 2018 NBA All-Star Game is here with the annual showcase set for Los Angeles.

Here is all you need to know: TV and live stream info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:

2018 NBA ALL-STAR GAME

Where: Staples Center
Tip-off: 8 p.m.
TV: TNT
Online with no cable TV: fuboTV (try for free)

ROSTERS

TEAM LEBRON:

Coach: Dwane Casey, Raptors
LeBron James, Cavaliers
Kevin Durant, Warriors
Kyrie Irving, Celtics
Anthony Davis, Pelicans
LaMarcus Aldridge, Spurs
Bradley Beal, Wizards
Goran Dragic, Heat
Andre Drummond, Pistons
Paul George, Thunder
Victor Oladipo, Pacers
Russell Westbrook, Thunder
Kemba Walker, Hornets

TEAM STEPHEN:

Coach: Mike D'Antoni, Rockets
Stephen Curry, Warriors
James Harden, Rockets
Joel Embiid, 76ers
DeMar DeRozan, Raptors
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks
Jimmy Butler, Timberwolves
Draymond Green, Warriors
Klay Thompson, Warriors
Al Horford, Celtics
Damian Lillard, Blazers
Kyle Lowry, Raptors
Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves

PODCAST: ALL-STAR WEEKEND PREVIEW, WIZARDS AT THE BREAK 

Three things to watch...

New format

The NBA switched it up this season by doing away with the traditional matchup between the East and West. The teams were instead chosen by captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry, the two top vote-getters in All-Star fan voting. The idea was to breath new life into the All-Star Game and hopefully make it more competitive. The league also installed a system where the winners each get $100,000, $75,000 more than the losing team. 

All pro sports leagues struggle drawing interest with their All-Star showcases. They are always trying to get ratings up and this is the latest ploy by the NBA. The new format is definitely intriguing, but whether it will have a major impact on the competition itself is hard to tell. We'll see how the fans respond.

RELATED: JOHN WALL GIVES UPDATE ON HIS REHAB

Reunion time

The teams picked by James and Curry will give fans some throwback combinations with former teammates back together again. Team LeBron is full of them. James will reunite with Kyrie Irving, who essentially forced his way out of Cleveland over the summer after the two combined to reach three straight NBA Finals and win one title.

We will also see Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook play together again. They of course teamed up to win a lot of games with the Oklahoma City Thunder before Durant signed with the Warriors. Westbrook will also be reunited with Victor Oladipo, who was traded from OKC to the Pacers over the summer.

RELATED: WIZARDS/BULLETS HISTORY ON ALL-STAR SATURDAY NIGHT

Beal's All-Star debut

Wizards fans will of course be focused on Bradley Beal, who is making his first All-Star appearance. He is Washington's lone representative, as John Wall is still recovering from left knee surgery.

Beal may not get many minutes on a stacked roster of guys who have been in the game before. If that happens, it's probably for the best. Beal is currently fifth in the NBA in total minutes played. He needs the rest if he can get it.

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS

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Bradley Beal eliminated in first round of three-point contest, Donovan Mitchell wins dunk contest

Bradley Beal eliminated in first round of three-point contest, Donovan Mitchell wins dunk contest

It was a short night for Wizards guard Bradley Beal in the 2018 All-Star three-point contest on Saturday, as he was eliminated in the first round.

Wearing the Wizards' new 'The District' white alternate jersey, Beal shot a 15 and fell short of the top three spots to qualify for the second round. Suns guard Devin Booker won the contest with a 28 score in the final, beating out Klay Thompson of the Warriors and Tobias Harris of the Clippers.

RELATED: BEST WIZARDS/BULLETS MOMENTS ON ALL-STAR SATURDAY NIGHT

Beal's was undone by a slow start. He missed all five shots on the first rack and made just one on the second. He began to heat up at the third rack, but by then couldn't recover.

Here is Beal's full round:

This was Beal's second showing in the three-point contest. He finished second back in 2014 and this year said he was motivated to avenge that loss. He should have plenty more opportunities to participate in the future if he chooses.

The NBA's All-Star Saturday night began with Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie winning the skills competition. He beat Bulls big man Lauri Markkanen in the final round.

Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell won the dunk contest. He edged Larry Nance, Jr. of the Cavaliers in the finals.

RELATED: LATEST 2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT