Since the NBA All-Star Game was established in 1951, five players who represented Los Angeles have been named most valuable player of the annual score-fest.
The list of winners includes a trio of Lakers cornerstones from the last 25 years, as well as one of the team’s first big stars after its move from Minnesota, and the lone All-Star MVP for the Clippers, who has a chance to add a second trophy on Sunday. This list doesn’t include Wilt Chamberlain, since his MVP award came in 1960 while a member of the Philadelphia Warriors, nor Karl Malone, who won the award in 1989 and 1993 while a member of the Utah Jazz.
1. Kobe Bryant (Lakers 2002, 2007, 2009, 2011)
Bryant is one of only two players with a quartet of All-Star Game MVP awards, matching Bob Pettit of the St. Louis Hawks, who earned the honor four times in the game’s first 11 years. Like Pettit, Bryant won all of his MVP awards with the same team, although his came in a span of nine years. In 2009, he shared the honor with Shaquille O’Neal, who was a member of the Phoenix Suns at the time.
Bryant’s first award in 2002 came as he returned to his hometown of Philadelphia to lead the West to a 135-120 win over the East. Bryant had 31 points, five rebounds and five steals despite being booed throughout the game by a crowd dominated by Sixers fans still stinging from their team’s loss to the Lakers in the 2001 Finals.
In the 2007 All-Star Game in Las Vegas, Bryant scored 31 points as the West took a 153-132 victory. Amar’e Stoudemire of the Suns made a good case for MVP with a 29-point, nine-rebound effort in that game.
Bryant had 27 points and four steals in the 2009 game, which he started, while O’Neal scored 17 as a reserve, leading the West to a 153-132 triumph in Phoenix. It was Shaq’s last All-Star appearance.
Back in the friendly confines of Staples Center for the 2011 game, Bryant had 37 points — including 21 in the first half —and grabbed 14 rebounds as the West was able to turn away a late comeback effort by the East to win 148-143.
2. Shaquille O’Neal (Lakers 2000, 2004; Suns 2009)
While a member of the Lakers, Shaquille O’Neal shared one of his NBA All-Star Game MVP awards with another longtime pro basketball standout while his second award belongs entirely to him. He’d pick up his third as a member of the Suns five years after leaving Los Angeles.
In the 2000 game, O’Neal had 22 points and nine rebounds, but Tim Duncan also had a memorable night. scoring 24 points on 12-of-14 shooting and grabbing 14 rebounds as the West took a 137-126 decision in Oakland. It was the third time that two players had shared the MVP honors, as O’Neal and Duncan joined 1993 winners John Stockton and Karl Malone, and 1959 honorees Elgin Baylor and Pettit.
Four years later, in what would be his final season with the Lakers, O’Neal had 24 points (on 12-for-19 shooting), 11 rebounds, two steals and two blocks as the West won 136-132 at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Just as in 2009, O’Neal was a reserve in the 2004 game, posting his 24 points in 24 minutes.
3. Magic Johnson (Lakers 1990, 1992)
Years before Kobe and Shaq, Magic Johnson earned two All-Star Game MVP awards. One came while the Lakers’ star was at the height of his talent while the second was on a magic night when he made a dramatic return.
In 1990, Johnson scored a game-high 22 point, but the West could not overcome the East’s fast start, and suffered a 130-113 loss in Miami. He was joined by teammates James Worthy and A.C. Green in the starting lineup.
Two years later, Johnson came out of retirement for one game, and scored 25 points while handing out nine assists to lead the West to a big 153-113 triumph. Before the season started, Johnson announced his retirement after being diagnosed as HIV positive during a routine physical. Despite his decision, fans voted Johnson into the starting lineup, and while some players expressed doubts and even concerns about his playing in the game, his 29 minutes were the most of any player on either team, and he shot 75 percent from the floor. It was the final All-Star appearance of his Hall of Fame career.
4. Jerry West (Lakers 1972)
West already had quite a resume, having won the 1959 NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player Award as well as the inaugural MVP award in the 1969 Finals, when the Lakers lost to the Celtics in seven games. But his last award came in a relatively low-scoring All-Star Game.
Playing in front of the home fans at the Forum in Inglewood, West scored just 13 points, but had the most important basket when it was needed, breaking a tie with a jumper from the top of the key with 1 second left, lifting the West (team) to a 112-110 win. His 13-point effort was matched by West teammate Connie Hawkins of the Suns, while John Havlicek of the Celtics and Walt Frazier of the Knicks had 15 each for the East.
West was not the first Laker to win the MVP award. That distinction belongs to Minneapolis’ George Mikan, who was named MVP of the 1953 game in Fort Wayne, Ind., which the West won 79-75.
5. Chris Paul (Clippers 2013)
At a time when the basketball fortunes were changing in Los Angeles, the Clippers’ Chris Paul had an MVP performance for the West in Houston.
Paul had 20 points, 15 assists, including a pair of 3-pointers and a layup in the game’s closing minutes, as the West took a 143-138 win. For much of the game, Paul was giving up shots for better opportunities inside.
“You just want to play fast. I like to throw the lob. I like to see guys hit 3’s,” Paul told The Associated Press. “When we’re out on the court with all that firepower, why wouldn’t you want to make passes? You’ve got KD filling one of the lanes, you’ve got Blake, Kobe on the wing. There’s nothing like it.”
While Paul is the first Clipper to win the All-Star Game MVP award, Randy Smith is also in the record book, taking the honor with a 27-point effort in the 1978 game, when the team was still known as the Buffalo Braves. The East won that game 133-125.