Tag Archives: nba

ESPN to show NBA in UK and Ireland until end of the season

ESPN strike deal to show NBA on UK screens until the end of the season

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UPDATED:

14:02 GMT, 5 December 2012

The NBA will return to British screens this Thursday after ESPN reached a deal to show the remainder of the season, as exclusively revealed by Sportsmail.

Eastern Conference leaders New York Knicks and Miami Heat will be the first game shown by the broadcaster as part of a deal that will showcase three live games from the US per week.

The revived partnership, which had expired last summer, will also see ESPN air the NBA All Star Game in February as well as the first and second round NBA Play-off games, Western Conference Finals, and NBA Finals.

On the ball: New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony will launch ESPN's return to UK screens

On the ball: New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony will launch ESPN's return to UK screens

NBA SCHEDULE – DECEMBER 6-12 – ON ESPN

Thursday 6th Dec, 1 am.*
New York Knicks @ Miami Heat
Friday 7th Dec, 2:30 am
LA Lakers @ Oklahoma City Thunder
Monday 10th Dec, 1 am
San Antonio Spurs @ Houston Rockets
Tuesday 11th Dec, Midnight
New York Knicks @ Brooklyn Nets
Thursday 12th Dec, 1 am
Dallas Mavericks @ Boston Celtics

*morning of Friday, December 7th

'We're very pleased to have the NBA returning to ESPN this season, and are looking forward to getting straight into the action and bringing UK and Ireland fans the world’s top basketball league with some great early match-ups,' said ESPN EMEA's head of programming and production, Simon Potter.

British fans will now get the chance to watch London 2012 Olympics stars Luol Deng and rookie Joel Freeland in action for Chicago Bulls and Portland Trailblazers.

Accompanying ESPN’s live coverage this season will be studio shows NBA Tonight and NBA Countdown, providing round-ups of all the action from around the league.

Hands on: British fans will be able to watch Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng in action

Hands on: British fans will be able to watch Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng in action

NBA: James Harden inspires Houston Rockets to beat Detroit Pistons

50m Rocket man Harden starts NBA season with a bang as Houston beat Detroit

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UPDATED:

10:26 GMT, 1 November 2012

Houston Rockets opened their NBA season with a stirring 105-96 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday thanks to James Harden's 37 points and 12 assists.

Houston acquired Harden on Saturday in a trade with Oklahoma City and agreed a five-year, 50million contract extension with him.

Detroit led 83-72 early in the fourth before Carlos Delfino's four three-pointers and Harden shifted the momentum to Houston.

A pretty penny: Houston Rockets signed James Harden (right) on an eye-watering 50m contract

A pretty penny: Houston Rockets signed James Harden (right) on an eye-watering 50m contract

Star man: Harden (left) goes to the basket past Detroit Pistons guard Brandon Knight

Rocket man: Harden (13) drives past Detroit Pistons centre Greg Monroe

Star man: Harden drives to the basket on his way to a big haul of 37 points against Detroit Pistons

Brandon Knight led Detroit's scoring with 15 points.

At Toronto, George Hill scored the winning basket with two seconds left to complete the Indiana Pacers' rally for a season-opening 90-88 win over the Raptors.

David West scored 14 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, and Paul George had 14 points and 15 rebounds for the Pacers, who trailed 84-74 with just under six minutes left. Roy Hibbert added 14 points for Indiana.

Kyle Lowry shone for Toronto with 21 points, and Jonas Valanciunas had 12 points and 10 rebounds in his NBA debut. Andrea Bargnani had 16 points, and Jose Calderon added 15 for the Raptors.

Decisive: Indiana Pacers' George Hill (right) scored the winning basket against the Toronto Raptors

Decisive: Indiana Pacers' George Hill (right) scored the winning basket against the Toronto Raptors

Three-pointer: San Antonio's Tony Parker

Three-pointer: San Antonio's Tony Parker

San Antonio's Tim Duncan scored 24 points and Tony Parker hit a huge three-pointer as the Spurs opened the season with a 99-95 victory over the New Orleans Hornets in the debut for top draft pick Anthony Davis. Davis scored 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds.

In other games, Joakim Noah scored 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the Chicago Bulls' 93-87 win over Sacramento Kings. Richard Hamilton added 19 points, while Carlos Boozer chipped in with 18 points and eight rebounds.

Spencer Hawes had 16 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Philadelphia 76ers to an 84-75 win over the Denver Nuggets, while Mo Williams and Marvin Williams each scored 21 points to lead the Utah Jazz to a 113-94 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.

Golden State's Carl Landry scored 12 of his 17 points in the in the fourth quarter as the Warriors overcame an awful post-contract night by Stephen Curry to edge past the Phoenix Suns 87-85 in the teams' season opener.

Curry, who earlier in the day agreed to a four-year, 27million extension with the Warriors, missed his first 10 shots from the field and wound up two of 14 with five points.

Joel Freeland to make NBA debut

Joel stacks up just fine with Kobe as Brit bids to crack NBA

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UPDATED:

23:54 GMT, 30 October 2012

Joel Freeland was stacking shelves in a Sainsbury’s in Surrey 10 years ago but on Wednesday he will face Kobe Bryant of the LA Lakers as he makes his NBA debut.

The Great Britain basketball player, 25, signed a three-year deal with the Portland Trail Blazers this summer worth a reported $9million (5.6m), just eight years after taking up the sport.

Freeland was the first Briton to make the NBA draft when he signed for Portland in 2006, but the forward failed to get any playing time and returned to Europe to gain more experience. Six years later he has made it back to the States and will today fulfil his ambition of playing in the ‘best league in the world’.

Standing tall: Joel Freeland is set to make his NBA debut

Standing tall: Joel Freeland is set to make his NBA debut

‘It’s a dream opening game,’ said Freeland, who represented Great Britain at the 2012 Olympics. ‘It’s going to be my debut in the NBA. I’ll be thinking of my family at home. It’s going to be epic.

‘It wouldn’t really matter to me as every team in the NBA has great quality and amazing players, but it’s incredible: to even be on the same court as people like Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash is going to be an amazing experience.

‘I have been getting better every year and established myself in Europe to get the chance to come over here. It’s a dream come true.’

Basketball was the ‘obvious choice’ for 6ft 10in Freeland after he broke his left leg playing football aged 14 and spent two weeks in hospital.

He played for the Thames Valley Tigers and then Solent Stars before joining Spanish third division side Gran Canaria II. Now he is an NBA ‘rookie’ once again, joining Luol Deng of the Chicago Bulls as Britain’s representatives in the NBA, and has ambitions to promote his sport in England.

Tough task: Freeland will face Kobe Bryant on his debut

Tough task: Freeland will face Kobe Bryant on his debut

‘I did get into basketball fairly late,’ said Freeland. ‘I was 16, nearly 17. But Sainsbury’s does feel like a long time ago. I worked part-time in a supermarket in Farnham. It was just to earn a little bit of money.

‘I was 16 when I left there, but I cherish that part of my life. I have been given the chance to play in the best league in the world. It’s something I have been fighting for my whole career.

‘Basketball hasn’t progressed how we would like it to in England. I thought after the Olympics it would get a lot better than it has. It’s fighting against huge sports like football and it’s hard to get it out there. Can I provide that push I hope so.’

Meanwhile, Cheshire Jets have been thrown out of the British Basketball League (BBL) because of their financial problems.

New owner Hadyn Cook saved the club last month but asked the league to postpone next Sunday’s game against the Mersey Tigers as he tried to raise cash. The BBL rejected the request.

Watch Joel Freeland’s NBA debut against the LA Lakers live or on demand via NBA League Pass. For more information and for a free trial before November visit www.nba.com/leaguepass

London 2012 Olympics: USA v Team GB basketball

Team GB basketball face 160m men who want more gold

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UPDATED:

21:58 GMT, 18 July 2012

Twelve men with combined annual earnings of 160million start their bid for Olympic gold on these shores on Thursday.

The United States’ men’s basketball team, the highest earners at the London 2012 Games, face Team GB in Manchester.

These American multimillionaires may not exemplify the true spirit of the Olympics in some people’s eyes, but suggest they will take it lightly at your peril.

Big bucks: Kobe Bryant is the highest paid NBA player

Big bucks: Kobe Bryant is the highest paid NBA player

Kobe Bryant, the NBA’s highest paid player with a salary of 16.6m plus sponsorship deals totalling a further 18m a year, labelled the idea that the Olympics should be an Under 23 tournament as ‘stupid’ and ‘dumb’.

‘It should be a player’s choice,’ said the LA Lakers guard, 33. ‘This is it for us. Representing your country is always a huge honour, particularly on a global stage.

ANNUAL SALARIES OF THE USA STARS

16.6m K Bryant (LA Lakers)
10.9m D Williams (Brooklyn)
9.5m C Anthony (NY Knicks)
9.4m A Iguodala (Philadelphia)
8.7m T Chandler (NY Knicks)
8.4m C Paul (LA Clippers)
8.3m L James (Miami Heat)
8.2m R Westbrook (Oklahoma)
8m K Durant (Oklahoma)
3.7m J Harden (Oklahoma)
2.9m K Love (Minnesota)
2.7m A Davis (New Orleans)

‘We are going to play hard. When you have this kind of talent and we got here by hard work, the only thing we know how to do is play hard. For us it is either win the gold or don’t come back. They might revoke our citizenship.’

The USA came back from a disappointing bronze medal in Athens in 2004 to win gold in Beijing four years ago. New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, 28, is one of five survivors from that team, along with Bryant, Chris Paul, Deron Williams and LeBron James, the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player, who will compete in his third Olympics.

Great Britain has its own NBA star, too: Chicago Bulls’ Luol Deng, who grew up in Brixton, south London. And 6ft 11ins GB forward Joel Freeland, 25, has just signed a three-year deal with the Portland Trail Blazers.

‘It’s a big deal,’ said Anthony. ‘It’s the pinnacle of all sporting events, for any sportsman.

The opposition: LeBron James (left) and Kevin Durant (right) in training

The opposition: LeBron James (left) and Kevin Durant (right) in training

‘My first memory of the Olympics was ’92. That’s the first time everybody started paying attention to basketball, from a global standpoint.

‘That “Dream Team” really paved the way for us, as basketball players, to be able to come over and really do what we’re able to do right now.’

The sight of global superstars such as Bryant and James casually shooting hoops in the middle of Manchester yesterday was a slightly surreal one. Security was particularly over-zealous with such valuable sporting assets to protect, but Bryant, a Manchester United fan, seemed relaxed amid the flashbulbs.

Respect: Bryant likes David Beckham (left)

Respect: Bryant likes David Beckham (left)

James, whom Wimbledon finalist Andy Murray cited as his inspiration after he won his first NBA title with Miami Heat this year, was rather less obliging. Perhaps the Liverpool shareholder was feeling slightly more uncomfortable in this part of Lancashire.

Bryant, however, has been able to call on a certain United old boy, David Beckham, for advice. The LA Galaxy midfielder has been giving him tips to help him combat the English weather.

‘I love Becks,’ said Bryant. ‘I tease him all the time about the Olympics coming up. I would love to have seen him have some type of role in the (Team GB football) team, for just his leadership and intelligence. But he is going to be pretty busy in terms of being an ambassador.

‘We talked a little bit about the English weather. That was the thing I needed the most help on — packing. The rain I don’t mind — it is a little chilly, though.’

Luol Deng good enough to play for US says America coach

US coach claims GB star Deng is good enough to play for American basketball team

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 15 July 2012


In action: Luol Deng takes on Portugal

In action: Luol Deng takes on Portugal

US basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski has paid the highest compliment possible to British NBA star Luol Deng, insisting he is good enough to play for the American national team.

Deng, his parents and eight siblings were granted political asylum in 1995 when his family settled in Brixton, before he headed to the United States to pursue his basketball dreams at the age of 14.

He is now the 6ft 9ins star of NBA giants the Chicago Bulls and Krzyzewski believes Deng – who he coached at Duke University – would make it into his squad of 12.

He said: 'Luol is a special player. He's good enough to be on the American team.

'I loved my time with him, he's a warrior and keeps improving. The quality of the person that he is exceeds his basketball ability. He's an all-star.

'And I love the fact that he's committed to playing for his country, knowing his family and what Great Britain did for his family I can see him honouring that commitment.'

Deng was identified by Krzyzewski as a future international when he joined Duke, rated as highly as this season's NBA Finals MVP, LeBron James.

The two come face-to-face when Team GB play the USA at the Manchester Arena on Thursday in an Olympics warm-up match.

Backed: US head coach Mike Krzyzewski praised Deng highly

Backed: US head coach Mike Krzyzewski praised Deng highly

Krzyzewski said: 'Deng was in the same year as LeBron and we felt that outside of James, Luol was the next best player.

'I think he proved that to be true during his year at Duke. He got us to the final four and we had a chance to win the national championship.

'He was beyond his years, he wasn't a freshman, he just played so beautifully and hard. He's a guy you want on your team if you're a coach.'

Krzyzewski is relishing the visit to Manchester, which he describes as a ‘city of champions’ and hopes some of that winning culture rubs off on his players.

In demand: Krzyzewski added Deng would be wanted by any coach

In demand: Krzyzewski added Deng would be wanted by any coach

'The Manchester stop is going to be an interesting one. All the guys are excited about it, they all know the name Manchester.

'A number of them are soccer fans. Kobe Bryant watches it all the time and LeBron's a fan, too – at least from a business point of view.

'We're visiting a place that is accustomed to championships and hosting high level sport so we're looking forward to it.'

Team GB's men cruised to a second straight victory over Portugal in as many days as they continued their Olympic preparations in
Sheffield.

Top form: Kyle Johnson (left) impressed

Top form: Kyle Johnson (left) impressed

Following on from Saturday’s 83-68 win, they turned in a more rounded performance with big contributions off the bench to record an 86-66 success.

Kyle Johnson, who finished as the leading scorer with 21 points, made an impact off the bench, making his first seven field goal attempts — including three big threes.

San Antonio Spurs sweep LA Clippers

Spurs sweep Clippers aside to advance to Western Conference finals

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UPDATED:

10:18 GMT, 21 May 2012

The San Antonio Spurs steamrolled into the NBA Western Conference finals after a 102-99 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday gave them a clean sweep of their seven-game series.

The West's top seeds rolled to their 18 consecutive victory going back to the regular season as the Clippers fell to the same fate as the Utah Jazz in the first round, exiting the play-offs after being swept 4-0.

Eye of the tiger: Tim Duncan scored 21 points for the Spurs

Eye of the tiger: Tim Duncan scored 21 points for the Spurs

Sunday's game was tight, and San Antonio trailed by one with two and half minutes remaining, but Tony Parker answered with a pair of clutch baskets and the visiting Spurs showed the nerve that has seen them dominate the NBA over the past month.

'We needed a game like that,' Parker told reporters. 'That was a great game for our young guys to get some experience. At the end of the game we executed our plays and made big baskets.'

Tim Duncan scored 21 and Parker finished with 17.

The Clippers' Chris Paul recorded 23 points and 11 assists, but he committed a turnover and missed a potential game-tying shot on two of his team's final possessions.

Hot streak: The Spurs have won 18 in a row

Hot streak: The Spurs have won 18 in a row

Mo Williams failed to get a final desperation shot off as the Staples Center crowd fell to hush and the Clippers saw their season come to a close.

San Antonio's postseason march is in contrast to last year when they were stunned in the first round as No 1 seeds.

It also has them positioned to make a run at their first NBA title since 2007.

'I know how good this team was last year, and we're healthier and deeper,' said guard Danny Green, who finished with 14 points. 'I know what we're capable of.'

San Antonio will play either Oklahoma City or the Los Angeles Lakers for the Western Conference title.

Delighted: Tony Parker was happy with the result

Delighted: Tony Parker was happy with the result

The Clippers, playing in the second round of the play-offs for the first time since 2006, were outclassed in every department by the seasoned Spurs.

A day earlier, Los Angeles squandered a 22-point advantage to lose Game Three, but this time they fell behind by 12 in the second quarter but fought to make it a test.

Reserve guard Eric Bledsoe scored 10 consecutive Clippers' points in the fourth, he had 17 on the night, to help give the home team a five-point edge with five minutes left but the Spurs battled back.

With Paul and Blake Griffin, who had 21 points, the Clippers have every reason to be optimistic for the future.

'I told them “this should hurt,”' said Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro. 'More is expected, and that's a good thing.'

Chinese Grand Prix 2012: Lewis Hamilton hit by five-slot grid demotion

Hamilton will struggle to hit heights in China after five-place grid penalty

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UPDATED:

08:41 GMT, 12 April 2012

Lewis Hamilton faces a mammoth task to win this year's Chinese Grand Prix after he was hit with a five-slot grid demotion over a gearbox change to his McLaren.

Hamilton, who was dwarfed by 7ft 6in Chinese basketball legend and former NBA superstar Yao Ming at a star-studded bash on Wednesday night, was last year's winner in Shanghai.

Little and large: Former NBA star Yao Ming towers over Lewis Hamilton

Little and large: Former NBA star Yao Ming towers over Lewis Hamilton

But he'll have it all to do this Sunday as he was hoping to soothe away his disappointment of the first two races of the new Formula One season by taking solace in the fact it is all part of the sport's long game.

'We have a gearbox issue and we will change it on Saturday morning so I will get a five-place penalty, but hopefully we will be quick enough to still move forward,' said Hamilton, speaking to Sky Sports News.

'We can still have a good weekend. I started from third last year here and won, and in the last race the driver who won [Fernando Alonso] started quite far back, so anything is possible.

'I don't like starting at the back and not going anywhere, but if you have a quick car, which we do, then we still have a fighting chance from wherever I have to start.

'I'll try to minimise the damage by trying to qualify as high as possible.'

Hamilton made a point of claiming after the Malaysian Grand Prix 18 days ago that he should have collected a maximum 50 points in the wake of starting from pole in Sepang and the curtain-raiser around Melbourne's Albert Park.

Instead, Hamilton only managed two third places and finds himself five points adrift of a surprise championship leader in Ferrari's Fernando Alonso going into this weekend's third round in China.

However, there is a mature appreciation from the 27-year-old that there is a long road ahead in the current campaign, potentially 18 races should next week's Bahrain Grand Prix take place.

'I'm looking at the championship as a whole,' said Hamilton, now in his sixth season with McLaren.

'Of course I'd love to win every race, but it's more important to be in a good points-scoring position at every race.

'I think the first two races have shown that, as a team, we're definitely in positions to win.

All to do: Hamilton has been hit by a five-slot demotion on the grid

All to do: Hamilton has been hit by a five-slot demotion on the grid

'Malaysia was a good example of how
to pick up points when you're looking at the championship. That was
something I really took away from that race as a positive.

'Naturally
I'm looking to win in China, but it's as important to pick up some good
points if, for whatever reason, a win isn't on the cards.'

Thumbs up: Hamilton does not want to let his grid demotion effect him

Thumbs up: Hamilton does not want to let his grid demotion effect him

Hamilton at least knows what it takes to emerge victorious at the Shanghai International Circuit after taking the chequered flag in 2008 and again last year after hunting down Sebastian Vettel.

They are both wins Hamilton claims he is proud of, and whilst he would love a third, he believes good fortune is required after feeling deserted by lady luck so far.

'I won't deny I'm disappointed to have had two pole positions and not been able to convert either of them into victories,' added Hamilton.

'I prefer to think that luck just hasn't been on my side, and that it will swing my way sooner or later.

'I also think last year taught me the value of consistency. It's no use chasing a great result if you can't back it up with another strong finish the following week.

Phil Duncan F1 blog

'So maybe I'm just playing myself in gently. After all, in 2007, I didn't win a race until the sixth round and I was in the hunt for the title all through the year.

'As I don't think the pecking order has settled down yet, it's important to get some good results in the bag while we can.

'It will be very interesting to see how the order has shaken itself out over the last three weeks – it's going to be an interesting weekend.'

.

Sports pictures of the day: February 27

Sports images of the day: Our picture editor's selection

Each day, MailOnline sports picture editor Dave Muir will choose his favourite photographs from around the world in the past 24 hours.

Enjoy today's selection right here…

Jason Miller takes part in the steer wrestling competition at the Tucson Rodeo La Fiesta De Los Vaqueros

Jason Miller takes part in the steer wrestling competition at the Tucson Rodeo La Fiesta De Los Vaqueros

Rayo Vallecano keeper Joel Robles dives for the ball during his side's 1-0 defeat to La Liga leaders Real Madrid

Rayo Vallecano keeper Joel Robles dives for the ball during his side's 1-0 defeat to La Liga leaders Real Madrid

American star Kelly Slater surfs into round four as crowd members stand waist deep at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast

American star Kelly Slater surfs into round four as crowd members stand waist deep at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast

Jeremy Evans of the Utah Jazz takes two balls over a man in a chair during the slam dunk contest at the NBA All-Star weekend in Florida

Jeremy Evans of the Utah Jazz takes two balls over a man in a chair during the slam dunk contest at the NBA All-Star weekend in Florida

Jonathan Versteeg performs his silver medal-winning jump in the slopestyle event at the FIS World Cup Jamboree in Quebec

Jonathan Versteeg performs his silver medal-winning jump in the slopestyle event at the FIS World Cup Jamboree in Quebec

Kobe Bryant overtakes Michael Jordan career scoring record at NBA All-Star game

Bryant takes Jordan's record as West win NBA All-Star game

By
Sportsmail Reporter

Last updated at 8:55 AM on 27th February 2012

Kobe Bryant took Michael Jordan's record, then nearly lost the game to LeBron James as the West held off a furious East comeback to win the NBA All-Star game 152-149 on Sunday.

Bryant scored 27 points, moving past Jordan as the career scoring leader in the game. Most Valuable Player Kevin Durant had 36, and Thunder teammate Russell Westbrook finished with 21.

'With all these great players on the floor, you never know what will happen,' Durant said. 'Guys making big shots, and they cut it down to one. We were up 18.'

Tip off: Dwight Howard of the Eastern Conference fights for the ball with Andrew Bynum at the start

Tip off: Dwight Howard of the Eastern Conference fights for the ball with Andrew Bynum at the start

James and the East cut a 21-point deficit to one in the closing seconds, but weren't able to move in front. James had 36 points and fellow Heat star Dwyane Wade finished with a triple-double.

Blake Griffin scored 22 points for the West, which rang up 89 points in the first half, setting an All-Star record. But he won the game with his defense, picking off James' pass when the East had a chance to tie in the final seconds.

Hang time: Western Conference's Kobe Bryant dunks the ball during the second half of the NBA All-Star game

High jump: Kobe Bryant

Hang time: Western Conference's Kobe Bryant dunks the ball during the second half of the NBA All-Star game

'I can't turn the ball over like that,' James said. 'I let my team down, but overall it was a great weekend.'

Griffin then hit one free throw with 1.1 seconds left, and Wade was off on a 3-point attempt from the corner. He finished with 24 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, joining Jordan and James as the only players with All-Star game triple-doubles.

With Durant named MVP, Bryant is tied for the All-Star record with his four. But he got a bigger mark in his 13th All-Star game.

He broke Jordan's record of 262 points on a dunk with 4:57 left in the third quarter and now has 271 for his career. He entered with 244 and passed Oscar Robertson (246 points) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (251) earlier in the game.

Keeping the ball: Kobe Bryant fends off Derrick Rose

Keeping the ball: Kobe Bryant fends off Derrick Rose

It nearly wasn't enough, as the East's comeback had the crowd filled with entertainers and athletes chanting for defense – never a part of the All-Star game vocabulary – in the final seconds.

With Bryant covering him, James hit two long 3-pointers in the final period, and the East had a chance when Bryant, with the crowd loudly booing, missed a free throw with 18 seconds left and the West up 151-149.

'Just being a competitor,' James said. 'They pretty much beat us up all game so we just wanted to make a game of it.'

Sharing a joke: LeBron James talks with Kobe Bryant during the All Star game

Sharing a joke: LeBron James talks with Kobe Bryant during the All Star game

But New Jersey's Deron Williams was short on a 3-pointer, and after the East came up with it, James fired a pass into a crowd that Griffin intercepted.

On a colorful night in Orlando, from pregame performer Nicki Minaj's pink and green hair to the neon sneakers many of the stars wore, Dwight Howard had nine points and 10 rebounds as the game's host.

The NBA's first All-Star game in Orlando in 20 years wasn't close after 2{ quarters. But players always say it gets competitive in the final five minutes, and James was again up for the challenge.

High jump: Western Conference player Russell Westbrook jumps to get the ball in the hoop

High jump: Western Conference player Russell Westbrook jumps to get the ball in the hoop

He hiked his scoring average to 25.9 points over his eight All-Star games, and someday he'll probably take the record Bryant set Sunday.

But he couldn't quite catch Kobe in the game.

With the 2-year-old Amway Center considered by many the finest arena in the league, the NBA brought its midseason showcase back to Orlando for the first time since the memorable 1992 game, when Magic Johnson was MVP three months after retiring from the league because of the HIV virus.

Winner: Kevin Durant looks through the MVP trophy after the NBA All-Star game

Winner: Kevin Durant looks through the MVP trophy after the NBA All-Star game

This one was once in jeopardy of being lost when the lockout lasted into late November. Without a settlement then, All-Star weekend may have been wiped out, as it was in 1999 following a work stoppage.

The party was saved.

James and Howard, wearing bright orange shoes, danced onto the stage for pregame introductions, Howard breaking into an enormous grin when fans gave him a thunderous ovation as the last All-Star introduced. He insists that he and Magic fans still have a love affair despite his trade request, understanding he still loves the city even if not his team, and urged everyone to ignore the trade talk for a weekend and have fun.

Top performer: Mary J. Blige performs the National Anthem

Entertainment: Ne-Yo performs at halftime

That's entertainment: Mary J Blige sings the National Anthem while Ne-Yo performs at half-time

'We did it big for our city,' he said in brief pregame remarks to the crowd before the game.

Then Andrew Bynum blocked his first shot attempt.

The speedy Westbrook had the East looking like it was standing still late in the first half, and it was 88-69 at the break. Howard and Derrick Rose ditched their orange sneakers in the second half – James kept his – and the East quickly got back into it, trimming 12 points off its deficit in less than 6 minutes.

They even started to defend – Wade whacked Bryant so hard on a drive that the Lakers star needed a break between free throws to wipe blood from his nose before sinking it to tie Jordan.

Williams scored 20 points for the East, Carmelo Anthony had 19, and Rose finished with 14.

Kevin Love, who won the 3-point contest on Saturday, scored 17 points for the West, which has won two in a row. Chris Paul had eight points and 12 assists.