In the midst of a breakout sophomore campaign, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant was rewarded with his first of 18 All-Star Game selections.
On Feb. 8, 1998, the then-19-year-old became the youngest starter in NBA history to play in an All-Star Game, breaking Lakers legend Magic Johnson’s record.
The game was held at Madison Square Garden in New York City, where Bryant suited up for a stacked Western Conference team that trotted out a starting lineup consisting of fellow Lakers teammate Shaquille O’Neal, Seattle Sonics guard Gary Payton, Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett and Utah Jazz center Karl Malone.
Two additional Lakers players were included on the roster in Eddie Jones and Nick Van Exel, who logged 25 minutes and 20 minutes, respectively, off the bench. Also selected to the Western Conference team as reserves were David Robinson, Vin Baker, Jason Kidd, Mitch Richmond and Tim Duncan.
The Eastern Conference countered with a starting lineup of Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan, the Detroit Pistons’ Grant Hill, Cleveland Cavaliers’ Shawn Kemp, Atlanta Hawks’ Dikembe Mutombo and Orlando Magic’s Penny Hardaway.
On the bench were a pair of Indiana Pacers in Rik Smits and Reggie Miller. Joining them were Jayson Williams, Tim Hardaway, Glen Rice, Steve Smith and Antoine Walker.
The Eastern Conference squad dominated the game, winning by a final score of 135-114. Jordan earned MVP honors and scored a game-high 23 points to go with eight assists, six rebounds and three steals.
For the Western Conference, Bryant led the way with 18 points and six rebounds in 22 minutes. He sunk 7-of-16 field goal attempts and additionally tallied two steals on the defensive end.
O’Neal contributed 12 of his own points with four rebounds in 18 minutes on the floor. Lakers teammates Jones and Van Exel also provided a spark off the bench, combining for 28 points and 14 rebounds.