Devin Booker was the most notable omission as six first-timers won NBA All-Star selection among the 14 reserves named on Thursday.

Jimmy Butler, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook headlined the list of players selected by NBA coaches to round out the roster options for Team LeBron and Team Giannis.

Phoenix Suns guard Booker was denied a place despite averaging 27.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 6.4 assists through 44 games this season.

Oklahoma City Thunder veteran Paul, Houston Rockets star Westbrook, Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz youngster Donovan Mitchell snatched Western Conference guard spots, the latter handed his maiden selection alongside team-mate and fellow first-timer Rudy Gobert.

Brandon Ingram, Bam Adebayo, Jayson Tatum and Domantas Sabonis will also be among the newcomers at United Center in Chicago on February 16.

Suns general manager and three-time NBA champion James Jones questioned Booker's absence.

"I've played with and against multiple All-Stars in this league and Devin Booker is undoubtedly an NBA All-Star," Jones said in a statement.

Frenchman Gobert's inclusion alongside Sabonis (Lithuania), Ben Simmons (Australia) and Nikola Jokic (Serbia) plus starters Luka Doncic (Slovenia), Joel Embiid (Cameroon), Pascal Siakam (Cameroon) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece) lifts the number of international players to eight, a record for an All-Star Game.

The 2020 edition will feature several format changes to honour Kobe Bryant after the Los Angeles Lakers legend, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others died in a helicopter crash on Sunday.

Among them will be a 'target score' to chase in a timeless fourth quarter, the figure being the leading team's tally after three periods plus 24 points - representing the number Bryant wore during the second half of his glittering NBA career.

LeBron James and Milwaukee Bucks forward Antetokounmpo, the designated captains, will select their teams from the available player pool on February 6.

 

Eastern Conference reserves:

Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics), Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers), Domantas Sabonis (Indiana Pacers), Jimmy Butler (Miami Heat), Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks), Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors), Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat)

Western Conference reserves:

Chris Paul (Oklahoma City Thunder), Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers), Brandon Ingram (New Orleans Pelicans), Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz), Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz), Russell Westbrook (Houston Rockets), Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets)

Kobe Bryant was the "most inspirational athlete of our time" and "the best friend anyone could ever imagine," his former agent and Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said.

Pelinka issued a heartfelt statement on Thursday remembering Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, who were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday.

Pelinka, 50, developed a close relationship with five-time NBA champion Bryant throughout their long association and was Gianna's godfather.

He described their deaths as being "an amputation of part of my soul."

"Kobe was a force of nature, deep and obsessed with excellence," the Lakers GM said in the statement.

"He was wise, determined, passionate. A visionary beyond measure. A dedicated and loving husband, and a 'girl-dad' like no other.

"When he walked into a room, the energy ignited. He was high voltage, with a motor that had no limits. His mind had an infinite capacity to learn. He was, simply put, the most inspirational athlete of our time.

"What the world may not know is that he was also the best friend anyone could ever imagine.

"Gigi was pure joy. Her smile brought comfort to any and every occasion. She was brilliant, kind and warm.

"And, like her dad, when she stepped onto the basketball court, she took on an entirely different nature, and boy could she play. Her basketball destiny was apparent, and the world knew it.

"She was also an extraordinary, loyal and supportive sister, and a wonderful friend to my children. My son and daughter always left time with Gigi feeling better about life itself. Everything Gigi stood for, I am so proud of."

Pelinka described the nine deaths as leaving "an irreplaceable void" for those who knew them and vowed to carry on Bryant and Gianna's legacies.

The Lakers, who will return to the floor against the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday, have used their website to promote the Mamba Sports Foundation's MambaOnThree Fund, set up to financially support the families affected by the tragedy.

Kobe Bryant will be honoured in the format of the 2020 NBA All-Star Game, the league announced on Thursday.

The annual All-Star Game takes place in Chicago on February 16, with the East captained by reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the West led by Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James.

And the NBA has confirmed a number of alterations to the format of the game - one of which will honour Lakers legend Bryant who, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others, died in a helicopter crash in California last week.

Each of the first three quarters will act as a minigame starting from 0-0, with the winner of each 12-minute period seeing $100,000 donated to their designated community charity in Chicago.

At the end of the third quarter, the accumulative scores will be calculated and a 'target score', which will be 24 points greater than the leading team's tally, will be set for the fourth and final period.

This is a tribute to Bryant, who famously wore the 24 jersey for the Lakers, along with the number eight, during his career.

The fourth quarter has no time limit and will only end when the 'target score' is reached by either team, this time seeing $200,000 given to charity on behalf of the victors.

NBA president of league operations Byron Spruell said: "We spent a lot of time considering the right target number to use for the fourth quarter.

"Through the events of this week, it became clear to us that the only appropriate number for this season's All-Star Game is 24."

Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving vowed to "continue to carry the torch" following the death of his close friend and mentor Kobe Bryant.

Irving sat out the Nets' 110-97 defeat to New York Knicks at the weekend to grieve the loss of NBA great Bryant, who was one of nine people killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday.

The 27-year-old returned to the court on Wednesday and posted 20 points, five rebounds and five assists as the Nets prevailed 125-115 against the Detroit Pistons at Barclays Center.

After inspiring his side to victory, Irving paid a tearful tribute to Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and the other people that tragically died.

"It's just hard to even conjure up the words," he told ESPN. "You try to find a clear-cut message that you would send to Gigi and Kobe and everybody that lost their lives in such a tragedy like that. It's hard, you know. It's hard

"I've been trying to do this the last few days, just trying to getting ready for a moment like this. But I just gotta let it be, let it flow. I know he's there watching, as well as Gigi, as well as the young ballplayers that were on the plane.

"I was just with them at the Mamba Academy working out with them in the summertime, as well. Those young girls losing their lives. So it's heartbreaking for all of us. But I'm not the only one dealing with something. 

"I think the most beautiful thing is that it's connecting all of us. And his seeds that he's planted in all of us will continue to grow. his legacy is gonna live on forever, obviously.

"That man was a philosopher. He was a teacher. He left so many great things here for us to follow, and I’m just gonna continue to carry the torch."

The Nets paid a pre-game tribute that included a two-minute video, while two courtside seats were left vacant for Kobe and Gianna Bryant.

Irving was visibly emotional before the match and pointed to the sky as he left the court late in the fourth.

"Out there on the court, I am not the only one that is hurting," he told reporters post-game.

"I don't want to make this about me and just our relationship because we all shared something really, really strong with him.

"When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. I had that mentorship relationship with him, where I was able to ask him almost anything. 

"You know no matter how nervous I was or how fearful I was, he was just easy to approach with those type of questions.

"The ones about what goes on in the day-in and day-out basis of chasing something that's bigger than yourself and when you're trying to leave a legacy or something of a mark on a game."

Kyrie Irving returned to the court and helped the Brooklyn Nets to victory on Wednesday, while Damian Lillard continued to press his NBA All-Star claims.

In his first game since close friend Kobe Bryant's death, point guard Irving posted 20 points, five rebounds and five assists as the Nets prevailed 125-115 against the Detroit Pistons.

Irving, who skipped Brooklyn's last game, fought back tears as Barclays Center paid a pre-game tribute to Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and the other seven victims of Sunday's helicopter crash.

Overlooked for an All-Star starting spot, Lillard boosted his hopes of being named among the reserves with a first career triple-double.

The 29-year-old tallied 36 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists to take the Portland Trail Blazers to a 125-112 victory over the Houston Rockets, who were led by Russell Westbrook's 39 points and 10 rebounds.

 

Oladipo delivers in magical comeback

Victor Oladipo put 12 months of injury rehabilitation behind him with a clutch three-pointer as the Indiana Pacers beat the Chicago Bulls 115-106 in overtime. Finally recovered from a ruptured quad tendon, the former number two overall draft pick completed 21 minutes off the bench and hit a long-range shot in the closing seconds to send the game into an extra period.

DeMar DeRozan dropped a season-high 38 points on 11-of-19 shooting to see the San Antonio Spurs to a slump-busting 127-120 win over the Utah Jazz. Utah suffered their second successive loss despite Rudy Gobert's double-double and 31 points from Donovan Mitchell.

Dillon Brooks had 27 points and Jonas Valanciunas a double-double as the Memphis Grizzlies extended their winning streak to four games, defeating the New York Knicks 127-106.

 

Gordon goes cold

After hitting 50 points two days earlier, Eric Gordon came crashing back to reality in Portland. The 31-year-old guard went two-of-10 from the floor for eight points against the Trail Blazers, making just one of his eight three-point attempts.

 

Dinwiddie dazzles

Spencer Dinwiddie's 28 points against the Pistons included a neat reverse layup.

 

Wednesday's results

Indiana Pacers 115-106 Chicago Bulls
Memphis Grizzlies 127-106 New York Knicks
Brooklyn Nets 125-115 Detroit Pistons
San Antonio Spurs 127-120 Utah Jazz
Portland Trail Blazers 125-112 Houston Rockets
Oklahoma City Thunder 120-100 Sacramento Kings

 

Jazz at Nuggets

The Jazz (32-15) are back on the road on Thursday with a big Western Conference clash against the Denver Nuggets (32-15), who will be looking to rebound from their recent loss to the Grizzlies.

Kobe Bryant's sudden death has only strengthened the Los Angeles Lakers' tight bond, according to head coach Frank Vogel.

Lakers legend Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday.

Vogel said it had been an "extremely emotional" and "deeply saddening" time for everyone involved with the storied franchise, with whom five-time NBA champion Bryant spent his entire 20-year career.

But after returning to training on Wednesday, having postponed their game against rivals the Los Angeles Clippers, Vogel vowed his team would grow more unified.

"I don't think it could break us apart in any way," Vogel said. "It's just a feel thing. You observe those around you, you observe your own feelings and emotions, and you proceed at the right pace at the right time."

"It's just strengthened what we've felt all year about our current group," he continued. 

"We've become a family in a very short time. It's something you talk about in the NBA with the teams, but this group in particular has grown to love each other very rapidly.

"We understand the importance and opportunity we have this year, and this has just brought us closer together."

The league's MVP in 2008 and an All-Star 18 times, Bryant wrote his name into NBA record books during his two decades in Los Angeles.

The Lakers are this season competing for their first championship since 2010 and Vogel said the team intended to do their former superstar justice.

"We want to represent what Kobe was about more than anything," he said.

"We've always wanted to make him proud and that's not going to be any different here. We want to represent what he stood for. That's the most important thing for us."

Los Angeles are due to return to the floor against the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center on Friday.

Vanessa Bryant has thanked the "millions of people" who have expressed "support and love" following the death of her husband Kobe and daughter Gianna.

In her first public comments since Sunday's helicopter crash, Bryant published a heartfelt Instagram post describing the impact the losses have had on her young family, which includes three other girls aged under 18.

Los Angeles Lakers legend and five-time NBA champion Kobe, 41, and 13-year-old Gianna were among nine people killed in the crash in Calabasas, California.

Vanessa Bryant shared a family photo alongside her comments and used the post to announce the Mamba Sports Foundation had set up a fund to support the other families affected.

She wrote: "We are completely devastated by the sudden loss of my adoring husband, Kobe – the amazing father of our children; and my beautiful, sweet Gianna – a loving, thoughtful, and wonderful daughter, and amazing sister to Natalia, Bianka, and Capri.

"We are also devastated for the families who lost their loved ones on Sunday, and we share in their grief intimately. There aren't enough words to describe our pain right now. I take comfort in knowing that Kobe and Gigi both knew that they were so deeply loved.

"We were so incredibly blessed to have them in our lives. I wish they were here with us forever. They were our beautiful blessings taken from us too soon.

"I'm not sure what our lives hold beyond today, and it's impossible to imagine life without them. But we wake up each day, trying to keep pushing because Kobe, and our baby girl, Gigi, are shining on us to light the way.

"Our love for them is endless – and that's to say, immeasurable. I just wish I could hug them, kiss them and bless them. Have them here with us, forever.

"Thank you for sharing your joy, your grief and your support with us. We ask that you grant us the respect and privacy we will need to navigate this new reality."

Joel Embiid starred for the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA on Tuesday, while the Milwaukee Bucks recorded a resounding win.

Embiid made his return from a finger injury and had 24 points and 10 rebounds in the 76ers' 115-104 win over the Golden State Warriors.

The forward also wore a number 24 jersey to honour the late Kobe Bryant, who made it famous during his glittering career with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Al Horford chipped in with a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds for the 76ers, who improved to 31-17.

The Bucks extended their winning streak to nine by thrashing the Washington Wizards 151-131.

Without Giannis Antetokounmpo (shoulder), the Bucks had no problems against the struggling Wizards.

Khris Middleton contributed a career-high 51 points to go with 10 rebounds, while Eric Bledsoe poured in 34.

Super Siakam, Hayward steps up

Pascal Siakam's 24 points and nine rebounds helped the Toronto Raptors past the Atlanta Hawks 130-114. The Raptors have won eight straight.

Gordon Hayward guided the Boston Celtics to a 109-101 victory over the Miami Heat with 29 points and nine rebounds.

Jonas Valanciunas' 23 points and 12 rebounds saw the Memphis Grizzlies beat the Denver Nuggets 104-96.

 

Bad Bullock

Reggie Bullock went two-of-seven from the field for just six points in 28 minutes in the New York Knicks' 97-92 loss to the Charlotte Hornets.

 

Kobe tributes continue

The tributes to Bryant continued after his death in a helicopter crash in California on Sunday.

The Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns took an eight-second backcourt violation and 24-second shot-clock violation in honour of the Lakers great, who wore those two numbers during his career.

The 76ers and Warriors did likewise.

Tuesday's results

Charlotte Hornets 97-92 New York Knicks
Philadelphia 76ers 115-104 Golden State Warriors
New Orleans Pelicans 125-111 Cleveland Cavaliers
Toronto Raptors 130-114 Atlanta Hawks
Boston Celtics 109-101 Miami Heat
Memphis Grizzlies 104-96 Denver Nuggets
Milwaukee Bucks 151-131 Washington Wizards
Phoenix Suns 133-104 Dallas Mavericks

 

Rockets at Trail Blazers

Sitting fifth in the Western Conference, the Houston Rockets (29-17) visit the Portland Trail Blazers (20-27) on Wednesday.

Jerry West revealed Kobe Bryant had made a commitment to the Los Angeles Clippers during his glittering NBA career with the Lakers.

An all-time NBA great, Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday.

Bryant won five championships and was the 2008 MVP during a 20-year career with the Lakers which ended in 2016.

West, the former Lakers general manager, head coach and player, said Bryant had committed to making a shock move to the Clippers.

"I remember when he was going to leave the Lakers and I've never really mentioned this to anyone," he told NBA on TNT on Tuesday.

"He was going to come and sign with the Clippers, who I'm not involved with as a consultant. And I told him, 'Kobe, under no circumstances can you do this'.

"And he was mad at everyone at the Lakers, the owner, everyone else. I said, 'Kobe, you can't go play with the Clippers, you can't play for that owner [Donald Sterling], period'.

"We had two conversations about it and he had supposedly made a commitment to the Clippers … there's so many things that we talked about as he was just seeking information.

"His parents were with him for a while and honestly I felt like his father for two years. I don't know if I can get over this."

Bryant's former team-mate, Shaquille O'Neal, was still reeling from his friend's death, saying it would be difficult to overcome.

"The fact that we lost probably the world's greatest Laker, the world's greatest basketball player, is just, listen, people are going to say take your time and get better, but this is going to be hard for me," he told NBA on TNT.

"I already don't sleep anyway, but I'll figure it out."

O'Neal added: "I never could have imagined nothing like this. I was thinking the other day I've never seen anything like this.

"All the basketball idols that I grew up [watching], I see them. They're old."

Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid made his return from a finger injury and honoured the late Kobe Bryant on Tuesday.

Embiid missed nine games and required surgery after a nasty dislocated finger in a win over the Oklahoma City Thunder earlier this month.

But the 76ers star returned for a clash against the Golden State Warriors at Wells Fargo Center and he wore number 24, made famous by Bryant during his glittering career with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Bryant died in a helicopter crash alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others on Sunday.

The 76ers held a moment of silence before ringing the bell nine times to recognise all nine victims.

The teams then started the game by taking an eight-second backcourt violation and 24-second shot-clock violation in a tribute to Bryant, who wore the two numbers during his career.

Embiid was averaging 23.4 points, 12.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists this season heading into the meeting with the Warriors.

Kobe Bryant's body has been identified following the helicopter crash that killed the Los Angeles Lakers great, his daughter and seven others on Sunday.

Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among nine killed after the crash in Calabasas, California.

The Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner confirmed on Tuesday that Bryant's one of four bodies identified.

"Through the use of fingerprints, investigators identified three men and one woman who were on the aircraft," a brief statement read.

John Altobelli, Sarah Chester and Ara Zobayan were the other bodies identified by officials.

"Investigators are still working on identifying the five remaining decedents," the statement continued.

"The Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner will provide immediate updates on the names of the decedents as soon as they are officially verified and their next of kin have been notified."

An 18-time NBA All-Star and five-time championship winner, Bryant has been honoured across the world in the wake of his sudden death.

Kevin Durant feels nothing will ever be big enough to honour Kobe Bryant and his impact on basketball and the wider world.

Los Angeles Lakers legend Bryant was killed, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others, in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday. 

Tributes have poured in for the five-time NBA champion, who won the league MVP in 2008 and was named Finals MVP on two occasions in a glittering career that featured 18 All-Star berths.

NBA teams across the league have taken eight and 24-second violations – Bryant wore each of those numbers during his career – as a mark of respect. 

In Minnesota's game with the Sacramento Kings on Monday, Timberwolves star Andrew Wiggins placed the ball at the spot in the Target Center where Bryant surpassed Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring list.

However, Brooklyn Nets forward Durant, MVP in 2014 with the Oklahoma City Thunder and a two-time Finals MVP with the Golden State Warriors, is unsure any gesture can do justice to Bryant.

He told reporters: "It's so hard to say right now [how to honour Bryant]. Just every basketball player go out and play as hard as they can to honour Kobe, I think that'd do.

"I tried to think about what I would say, what I would write, nothing was big enough and that's what I feel about everything when it comes to Kobe Bryant, his mark he left on the Earth.

"It feels like nothing will ever be big enough to truly honour Kobe Bryant but how we approach every day life, me as a disciple of Kobe who study him, learn from him, I think it's my justice to go out there and try to be the best I can be every single day, not just in basketball, in everything.

"I feel like everyone who loved Kobe is going to take that approach in their lives."

Durant's team-mate Spencer Dinwiddie and the Orlando Magic's Terrence Ross elected to stop wearing the number eight as a mark of respect for Bryant.

The Dallas Mavericks announced on Sunday that they will retire the number 24 jersey in Bryant's honour.

When the San Francisco 49ers face the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV, they will have a chance to round off an incredible decade for Bay Area sport in style.

The 2010s has seen three World Series trophies and three NBA titles come to the Bay, with the 49ers and San Jose Sharks also enjoying postseason positives alongside the dominance enjoyed by the San Francisco Giants and Golden State Warriors.

Sunday's showpiece in Miami, which brings to an end a magnificent 2019 season for the 49ers, will mark the 11th championship decider to feature a Bay Area team since 2010.

The 2019 Niners will hope they can add the finishing touches to a remarkable 10 years, and here we look at the teams that have gone before them in reaching the biggest stage in their respective sports in a decade that has brought plenty to celebrate.

2010: San Francisco Giants – Won World Series

The Giants moved from New York to San Francisco in 1958, but the city's fans had to wait 52 years to see the franchise win a World Series title as a west coast team. That drought was finally ended in manager Bruce Bochy's fourth season in charge.

The Giants beat the Texas Rangers in five games, with Edgar Renteria hitting a three-run home-run in a decisive 3-1 victory secured when Brian Wilson's strikeout clinched the first of three titles in five seasons for Bochy's men.

2012: San Francisco Giants – Won World Series

On the back of consecutive home defeats in the National League Division Series against the Cincinnati Reds, the Giants' hopes of regaining the World Series looked slim. However, after winning game three in extra innings, San Francisco claimed that series in five games thanks to NL MVP Buster Posey's grand slam in the decider.

They pulled off another comeback in the Championship Series, recovering from 3-1 down to defeat the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games, but the World Series proved a routine affair as the Giants swept the Detroit Tigers to take the trophy back to San Francisco.

2012: San Francisco 49ers – Lost Super Bowl XLVII

Having suffered an agonising overtime loss to the New York Giants the season before, the 49ers went one better and, thanks to Colin Kaepernick's emergence and the play of a dominant defense, made it to the Super Bowl in New Orleans.

There would be more heartbreak for the Niners, though, as – in a game remembered by most for the power outage that caused a 34-minute interruption in play – Jim Harbaugh's team were unable to complete a comeback from 28-6 down. John Harbaugh won the battle of the brothers, his Baltimore Ravens clinging on for a 34-31 win.

2014: San Francisco Giants – Won World Series

Few would have expected the Giants to improve on their heroics of 2012 when they made the postseason as a Wild Card team but, after crushing the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Wild Card game, they embarked on another improbable run.

The Giants saw off the Washington Nationals and then won the NLCS against the Cardinals on home soil in Game 5 thanks to Travis Ishikawa's walk-off homer. An epic World Series with the Kansas City Royals went seven games, with Madison Bumgarner's Herculean pitching effort the decisive factor.

2014-15: Golden State Warriors – Won NBA Finals

Golden State spent much of the first season of their dynasty listening to questions about whether a "jump-shooting team" could win the NBA title. Those questions were emphatically answered time and again over the coming years by one of the most dominant teams in NBA history.

In Steve Kerr's first season after taking over from Mark Jackson, Stephen Curry claimed the MVP award as the Warriors went 67-15. They eventually progressed to the NBA Finals against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, with the Warriors ending a 40-year wait for a title in six games thanks in large part to the tireless efforts of Andre Iguodala, who was named Finals MVP for his defense on LeBron.

2015-16: San Jose Sharks – Lost Stanley Cup Finals

Having formed in 1991, the Sharks' quarter-century wait to experience a Stanley Cup Finals series was finally ended when they overcame the St. Louis Blues in six games to win the Western Conference.

The Cup did not make its way to the Bay for the first time, however, as the Pittsburgh Penguins prevailed 4-2 in an absorbing finals series that featured two overtime games. San Jose have yet to return to the same stage and the Sharks' wait to reach the top of the mountain in the NHL goes on.

2015-16: Golden State Warriors – Lost NBA Finals

The Warriors appeared destined to secure back-to-back titles throughout the 2015-16 campaign, which they started with an astounding 28-game winning streak, the second-longest in NBA history.

Behind a unanimous MVP season from Curry, the Warriors broke the record for regular-season wins by going 73-9 but, in the postseason, they made history for the wrong reasons. Golden State overturned a 3-1 deficit to the Oklahoma City Thunder to reach the NBA Finals, but they ended up on the other end of a comeback as LeBron delivered on his promise to bring a title to Cleveland with the Cavaliers. The Warriors became the first team in history to lose a Finals having led 3-1.

2016-17: Golden State Warriors – Won NBA Finals

Golden State's response to their heartbreaking defeat to the Cavs was to add one of the best ever to take to the court to the roster. Kevin Durant had been on the Thunder team undone by the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, but he controversially made the move to join his conquerors, and it was one that paid huge dividends.

The Warriors did not put the same effort into the regular season as they had done when in pursuit of the record in 2015-16 but, with Durant in the line-up, they were unstoppable in the playoffs. Golden State lost just one game in the postseason, swatting aside the competition and defeating the Cavaliers 4-1 in the Finals. Durant averaged 35.2 points per game and added the only two things missing from his glittering resume: an NBA title and the Finals MVP award.

2017-18: Golden State Warriors – Won NBA Finals

Though the second act with Durant on the team may not have been quite as impressive as the first – the Warriors had to fight back from 3-2 down to beat the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Finals – LeBron and the Cavs still proved powerless to stop them marching to back-to-back NBA crowns in a Finals sweep.

Such was the Warriors' dominance that the biggest question of the Finals was whether it would be Curry or Durant who would win Finals MVP. Durant won that debate, further vindicating the decision that caused so much consternation two years earlier.

2018-19: Golden State Warriors – Lost NBA Finals

The Warriors' addition of DeMarcus Cousins in the offseason following their third title in four seasons gave them the possibility of starting five All-Stars. Rarely did a line-up of Curry, Durant, Cousins, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green see the floor at the same time, however, and injuries eventually became too much for Golden State to overcome.

Durant missed a large portion of the postseason with a strained calf and attempted to return in Game 5 of the Finals with the Toronto Raptors. His decision proved ill-fated, though, as Durant ruptured his Achilles in what proved his final game for the Warriors. Golden State pushed the series to Game 6, but Thompson's torn ACL effectively ended their hopes as the Raptors won the title for the first time.

2019: San Francisco 49ers – ???

It has been an incredible turnaround for the 49ers who, after going 6-10 and 4-12 in their first two seasons under Kyle Shanahan, are a win away from a sixth Super Bowl title.

Legendary Niners coach Bill Walsh went 2-14 and 6-10 in his first two seasons before, like Shanahan, going 13-3 in his third in 1981.

The Niners went on to win the Super Bowl and start a dynasty under Walsh and, throughout an emotional rollercoaster of a season in which they have won several nail-biting games, Shanahan's men have felt like a team destined for glory.

Their challenge now is to turn destiny into reality.

The key players in Super Bowl LIV expressed their admiration for Kobe Bryant at Opening Night on Monday, a day after the former Los Angeles Lakers star died in a helicopter crash.

A moment of silence was held for Bryant at Marlins Park in Miami, where players from both the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs spoke about the NBA great.

The 18-time All Star was killed, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others on Sunday, shortly before the Niners and Chiefs arrived in Miami.

Here is what some of the leading Chiefs and 49ers players said about Bryant's death.

 

Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City Chiefs quarterback): "I wasn't lucky enough to get to meet Kobe. But the impact that he made in my life, it was huge. The way he was able to go about every single day and the work ethic and the intensity that he had to be great every single day. Even to this day, I still watch videos on YouTube the day before games."

George Kittle (San Francisco 49ers tight end): "Other than my parents, he was the reason I played sports. Just his mindset, the 'Mamba mentality'. I wore the number 24 in high school, my freshman, sophomore year, because of him. I wore Kobe Bryant basketball shoes because of Kobe Bryant. Every time I laced up my basketball shoes, I felt like I had Kobe Bryant with me. I had a little part of him."

Richard Sherman (San Francisco 49ers cornerback): "There's not enough words in my vernacular, in my vocabulary, to give him the praise and the respect that he deserves. But he deserves every inch, every ounce of respect, every ounce of gratitude. He gave me a ton of inspiration and I'm sure he inspired millions and millions and trillions of other kids."

Travis Kelce (Kansas City Chiefs tight end): "I had an opportunity to meet Kobe and he's just an unbelievable person. You can't say enough about who he was and his impact and with that, I just feel bad for the Bryant family, everybody involved out there on the west coast. My heart's with you as well as everyone here in America."

Frank Clark (Kansas City Chiefs defensive end): "The one person I looked to for inspiration and all my strength growing up when I was going through the things I was going through was Kobe Bryant. He was a successful guy and that's the one thing you look to. You look at the gangs and you look at the drug dealers and then you look at the guys who are successful."

Tyrann Mathieu (Kansas City Chiefs safety): "His will to win was nothing I'd ever seen before. I thought I practiced hard but going through YouTube videos and watching Kobe at practice, he was in a complete different element."

Dante Pettis (San Francisco 49ers wide receiver): "The way he attacked life, there was nothing Kobe couldn’t defeat. He was a hero. A hero in general. In everything he did. It wasn't just sports. He wasn't just a basketball player. Everything he did, he gave 100 percent. That's something I'd like to be able to do. I wanted to live like him."

Jimmy Garoppolo (San Francisco 49ers quarterback): "We were actually on the plane ride in, and someone told me in the seat behind me. Honestly, I didn't even believe it. It didn't register at first. Just so sudden and everything like that. It's hard to accept but just a terrible, terrible tragedy."

An emotional Luka Doncic led the Dallas Mavericks to a 107-97 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, while the short-handed Houston Rockets topped the Utah Jazz.

Emotions were still raw on Monday following the tragic death of Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, who was killed in a helicopter crash, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, on Sunday.

Suiting up for the road game in Oklahoma City, Mavericks star Doncic posted 29 points and 11 rebounds for Dallas – who have retired Bryant's iconic number 24 jersey.

"I broke down after the first quarter," Doncic said. "That was when it really hit me. It was really hard to explain."

The Thunder were without star guard Chris Paul, who sat out his first game of the season to mourn the loss of friend Bryant. Oklahoma City cited personal reasons.

Eric Gordon scored a career-high 50 points as the Rockets defeated the high-flying Jazz 126-117 in Utah.

In the absence of James Harden and Russell Westbrook, Gordon became the first Rockets player besides the former to score 50 points in a game since Hakeem Olajuwon had 51 in 1996, per Stats Perform.

 

Career night for Hield

A career-high 42 points from Buddy Hield helped the Sacramento Kings outlast the Minnesota Timberwolves 133-129 in overtime. The Kings rallied from a 27-point deficit in Minnesota.

DeMar DeRozan put up 36 points and 10 rebounds in the San Antonio Spurs' narrow 110-109 defeat the Chicago Bulls.

Bam Adebayo's third triple-double of the season (20 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists) inspired a 113-92 victory for the Miami Heat against the Orlando Magic. "It was about honouring Kobe," Adebayo said. "I felt like I had the 'Mamba Mentality' tonight ... I never got to meet him but he's here in spirit."

The Jazz lost but Donovan Mitchell starred with 36 points against the soaring Rockets.

 

Tough outing for Ingles

Usually a strong contributor, Joe Ingles struggled for the Jazz. The Australian was two of eight from the floor and one of seven from three-point range for just seven points in 33 minutes.

 

Timberwolves honour Bryant

Teams across the league have continued to honour five-time champion and 2008 MVP Bryant. On Monday, the Timberwolves opened the game by taking an eight-second backcourt violation and Sacramento took a 24-second shot-clock violation in hour of the two numbers Bryant wore in his famed 20-year career. While taking their violation, Timberwolves star Andrew Wiggins placed the ball on the free throw line – where Bryant scored to eclipse Michael Jordan for third place on the NBA's scoring list in December 2014.

Monday's results

Cleveland Cavaliers 115-100 Detroit Pistons
Miami Heat 113-92 Orlando Magic
Dallas Mavericks 107-97 Oklahoma City Thunder
Chicago Bulls 110-109 San Antonio Spurs
Sacramento Kings 133-129 Minnesota Timberwolves (OT)
Houston Rockets 126-117 Utah Jazz

 

Celtics at Heat

It is an Eastern Conference blockbuster as the Heat host the Boston Celtics on Tuesday. The Heat (32-14) are second in the east, while the Celtics (30-15) are fourth. The showdown between the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers was supposed to headline play, but the clash has been postponed following Bryant's death.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.