Playing Hard as Hell in the All-Star Game Would Be the Best Kobe Bryant Tribute

NBA All-Star Game 2013
NBA All-Star Game 2013 / Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Dwyane Wade played intensely enough to accidentally break Kobe Bryant's nose during the 2012 All-Star Game. That exhibition contest ended in a 152-149 win for the Western Conference at the end of 48 defense-optional minutes. Naturally concerned, Wade reached out to his colleague to apologize. The fiercely competitive Bryant, though, wouldn't hear of it it.

“Me and [Kobe] got into a little tussle in the All-Star Game, and I ended up hitting him the wrong way and breaking his nose," Wade said during an interview last year. "So after the All-Star break, we got the Lakers about three games after the break. I call him, not maliciously. I didn’t maliciously do it. I called him and said ‘Yo Kob” and he was like ‘Bro, I love it.’

"I’m like [taken aback.] He’s like ‘I love it. I’ll see you in a couple days.’ And I’m like ‘Oh snap.’ And he gave it to me, too, boy.”

Bryant did give it to him, in the form of 33 points on 14-of-23 shooting while wearing a protective mask during the next Heat-Lakers game.

Consider this anecdote in the wake of the NBA announcing confounding and not-all-that-appealing rule changes to the upcoming All-Star Game and ask yourself if the league overcomplicated things. The answer is, yeah, they probably did.

The realest, most meaningful tribute to Bryant's legacy is plainly obvious. Instead of treating the game like a semi-joke aimed at pure entertainment, the players could have simply banded together and actually competed for 48 minutes.

Seeing the league's best players all gathered in one spot embodying the Mamba Mentality and doing anything to win would be a fantastic remembrance. It would be striking too, considering the deviation from what's become the traditional midseason fare.

And, look, it's not like the NBA's heart is in the wrong place. These decisions are tough and it's great to see a charitable component. The fun, free-flowing games of recent years are also fine. It's just that this year's will be markedly different. Why not make a statement on the court with the players' sacrifice of giving it their all?

Sometimes the simplest answers are the best. Bryant's drive came from within. It wasn't gimmicky. What is more pure than just playing hard, and playing for a greater purpose? It seems like something he would have appreciated.