TORONTO — Somebody’s going to win the MVP at Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game.
It won’t be Anthony Davis.
Davis said so at Friday’s All-Star media session, telling a reporter flatly “No” when asked if there was a chance he’d hoist the MVP trophy Sunday night at the Air Canada Centre.
“I’m trying to get Kobe (Bryant) to win it,” Davis said. “I want Kobe to win it. Last one. He’s got to go out there and try to get MVP.”
It’s a popular sentiment here as Bryant prepares for his 18th and final All-Star Game. The weekend is a showcase for the NBA, but this season it’s all about Bryant, who drew a massive crowd of reporters at Friday’s media session and was the talk of his peers.
“This is his weekend,” Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony said. “I’m pretty sure the other guys that’s participating and the NBA know that. This is Kobe’s week. This is his last hurrah.”
Bryant, who will retire at the end of this, his 20th season, is the leading scorer in the history of the All-Star Game with 280 career points. He’s a four-time All-Star MVP , and Las Vegas sports book Bovada set him as a 7-5 favorite to win this year.
And though Thunder forward Kevin Durant said Bryant “might defer to us,” given his respect for the league’s current crop of young stars, it’s likely that the West’s best will look to set up Bryant for a big night.
“We definitely want to send him off on a good note,” Durant said. “We know he’s going to be super competitive. This is the last time he’s going to be with all these elite players and on the court again.”
Miami’s Dwyane Wade remembers watching Michael Jordan’s last All-Star Game, remembers how “that whole weekend was dedicated to Jordan,” and hopes the vibe is similar Sunday.
“I never, ever thought I would be a part of something like that, and now to be a part of it with — as we say — the Michael Jordan of our era, it’s going to be special,” Wade said. “It’s going to be cool.”
And Bryant is going to be cool with it, however it turns out.
Like Davis, Bryant rejected the notion that he could win MVP. He’s not gunning for it, he said. The old, competitive Bryant who would have, he said, is no more. He’s come to terms with that.
“I’m looking around the room and seeing guys that I’m playing with that are tearing the league up that were, like, 4 during my first All-Star Game,” Bryant said. “It’s true. I mean, how many players can say they’ve played 20 years and actually have seen the game go through three, four generations? It’s not sad at all. I’m really happy and honored to be here and see this.”
Davis hadn’t yet turned 5 when Bryant played in his first All-Star Game in 1998. When Bryant wraps his 18th, Davis will be his teammate.
“It probably won’t hit all of us until it actually happens,” Davis said. “Then the game’s over, you realize that’s it for 24 (Bryant’s jersey number) for All-Star Weekend. It’s probably going to be the most surreal at that point.”
Davis on Friday fielded questions from reporters from Greece and England, and talk frequently turned to international basketball.
The Pelicans star was asked his take on the NBA someday expanding to London — “That would be a long flight,” he said, though he approved of the growth of the game overseas — and about foreign players from Giannis Antetokounmpo to Kristaps Porzingis.
And more than once, Davis was asked about the possibility of playing for Team USA at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Davis is a Team USA finalist, but the team has not been set.
“I definitely want to play,” Davis said. “It’s always an honor to play for your country. I would definitely like to be on that team.”
Four years into his NBA career, Davis still is a relative novice to Canada.
Asked by a local reporter about Tim Horton’s — a wildly popular fast food and doughnut chain — Davis admitted he’d never heard of it, and said that he mostly orders room service when he visits Toronto.
And Davis came up short when asked to name any five Canadians.
Davis listed Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins and the Utah Jazz’s Trey Lyles, who has dual Canadian and U.S. citizenship. After naming a popular rapper, Davis bowed out.
“Drake,” Davis said. “That’s all I know.”