LOS ANGELES — LeBron James handpicked his team and then carried it to victory in a 148-145 victory for “Team LeBron” against “Team Stephen” in the first ever playground pick-em style NBA All-Star Game on Sunday.
James had 29 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists and several key plays down the stretch to secure the win and third All-Star Game MVP.
James’ step-back 3-pointer over Joel Embiid with 1:30 remaining tied the game at 144-144. James followed that with a go-ahead layup off a feed from Kyrie Irving with 34.5 seconds left to put his squad up for good, 146-145.
Team Stephen led by as many as 15 points in the first half. Team LeBron cut it to three headed into the fourth quarter, but again, Team Stephen pushed the lead back up to 13 with 6:20 remaining.
James, 33, was the oldest player in the game and yet was involved in perhaps the most acrobatic highlight – a two-handed reverse dunk caught off an alley-oop from Russell Westbrook.
James addressed the crowd before tipoff and made a statement about the game’s locale that will surely be remembered when he can opt out of his contract and become a free agent in July.
“Los Angeles is a great city,” James said.
All-Star MVP is determined by a panel of nine votes from media members and three fan votes. The league runs an online poll for MVP and the top vote getter gets two votes, while the second place vote getter gets one vote.
It had been 10 years since James last won All-Star MVP when he had 27 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in a 134-128 win by the Eastern Conference in New Orleans in 2008. He also won All-Star MVP in 2006 in Houston, dropping 29 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals in a 122-120 win by the East.
James’ third All-Star MVP ties him with Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal for the second most of all time. Bob Pettit won it four times.