Team Giannis forward Jayson Tatum (0) drives during the first half of the NBA basketball All-Star game Sunday, Feb. 19, 2023, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rob Gray)
SALT LAKE CITY — Jayson Tatum put on a record-setting show, and made Giannis Antetokounmpo look like a genius.
Tatum scored an All-Star Game-record 55 points on his way to winning MVP honors, and Team Giannis ended LeBron James’ hold on All-Star captain supremacy by beating Team LeBron 184-175 in the NBA’s annual showcase exhibition on Sunday night.
Tatum had 27 points in the third quarter, another All-Star Game record for any period. He was the first pick by Antetokounmpo in the starters’ portion of the All-Star draft, and in the end, that pick proved to be the right one.
And the MVP award Tatum was given is named for Kobe Bryant, one of his heroes.
“It means the world,” Tatum said. “You think of all the legends and great players that have played this game, and in all honesty, records are made to be broken. I’ll hold it for as long as I can, but I’m certain someone will come along in a couple years and try to break it.”
Tatum broke Anthony Davis’ All-Star record of 52 points. He was 22 of 31 from the floor, plus had 10 rebounds and six assists.
It was James’ first loss in six times as captain. Antetokounmpo improved to 1-2 in his All-Star captaincies, and became the first captain to hoist a new trophy presented to the winners of the All-Star Game.
Later, with a more serious tone, Antetokounmpo said he had a reason for choosing Tatum.
“I knew he would take it serious. It was a no-brainer,” he said.
Donovan Mitchell added 40 for Team Giannis, which got 26 points from Damian Lillard — including the game-winner to push his team past the target score.
Jaylen Brown scored 35 points and had 14 rebounds for Team LeBron, while Kyrie Irving had 32 points and 15 assists and Joel Embiid finished with 32 points.
Brown and Tatum — Boston teammates — were reveling in a back-and-forth duel during a stretch of the second half.
“It was a normal day for us,” Tatum said. “Just millions of people watching.”
Lillard, the winner of the 3-point contest on All-Star Saturday Night, made eight 3s — including a halfcourt pullup in the third quarter.
“That was the worst basketball game I’ve ever seen,” Team LeBron coach Michael Malone said, clearly poking fun at the defense-optional event.
Winning coach Joe Mazzulla of Team Giannis said he had a very simple strategy.
“Stay out of the way, enjoy it, have fun, allow the guys to just be themselves,” Mazzulla said. “I think it’s important, especially in this league, that guys are just able to be themselves.”
The league had a ceremony before the second half to pay tribute to the three leading scorers in NBA history: No. 3 Karl Malone, No. 2 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James, now the game’s career leader after he passed Abdul-Jabbar earlier this month.
Malone and Abdul-Jabbar were brought to the stage, and then Dwyane Wade — James’ former teammate in Miami and now a part-owner of the Jazz — introduced James to bring him onto the platform.
“We’ve all been witnesses,” Wade said. “No matter the challenge, no matter the noise, he was relentless.”
With the number 38,388 displayed behind him, James then raised his hand to thank the fans for their ovation, hugged Abdul-Jabbar and Malone. He didn’t return to the game, his night ending with a right hand contusion.
He finished with 13 points, and said a chasedown block in the first half led to him getting a finger caught in the rim.
“Precautionary reasons,” James said.
James played a half. The game’s other captain didn’t play a half-minute.
Antetokoumpo drafted his team before the game, went through warmups (such as they were) and started the game as planned.
But his right wrist was wrapped, and that was an ominous sign. The injury kept him out of All-Star Saturday’s skills event, limited him to 20 seconds in this one. He got an uncontested dunk to open the game, then took a foul and headed to the bench.
“Whatever I have, I’m going to give,” Antetokounmpo said. “That’s who I am. That’s never going to change.”
As in past years, the teams played for charity, with Team LeBron raising money for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah and Team Giannis for Raise the Future, which connects youth waiting in foster care with stable adults. Each team started with $150,000, with the first three quarters worth another $100,000 apiece and the All-Star Game winner getting another $150,000.
The teams were tied at 46-46 in the first quarter, and Team Giannis took the second quarter 53-46. Team Giannis also won the third quarter 59-49, and the cumulative score to that point — 158-141, Team Giannis — meant 182 would be the score to reach in the untimed fourth quarter with a target-score ending.
Team Giannis won $550,000 for its charity, and Team LeBron won $200,000. And Tatum, just as he vowed he would at his first All-Star Game in 2020 — when the award was named for Bryant — won the trophy that he’s wanted for a while.
“Icing on the cake,” Tatum said.
Team Giannis: Antetokounmpo’s two points kept him the all-time All-Star scoring average leader. He’s now averaging 25.1 points in All-Star Games, just ahead of Kevin Durant (25.0). Without that basket, he’d average 24.9. … Jrue Holiday took Antetokounmpo’s spot in the starting lineup for the second half.
Team LeBron: Denver’s Nikola Jokic, the two-time reigning MVP, became the first player to start an All-Star Game on his birthday; he turned 28 on Sunday. The only other player to appear in an All-Star Game on his birthday, the NBA said, was Larry Nance Sr. in 1989. … Halftime lasted 42 minutes. … Paul George started in place of James for the second half.
Last year’s All-Star Game was broadcast in 215 countries; this year, it was shown in 214 countries. The omission was Russia. The NBA isn’t showing its games in Russia and hasn’t for nearly a year. The league suspended its business activities with Russia in March 2022, just days after that country invaded Ukraine.
The officiating crew of John Goble, Mark Lindsay and Michael Smith had the game.
Indianapolis will play host to the next NBA All-Star weekend, set for Feb. 16-18, 2024. The city was supposed to have the 2021 game, but it was moved to Atlanta and considerably scaled down because of the pandemic.
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