The Greatest NBA All-Star Game Ever? Players and Twitter Love New Format

The new NBA All-Star Game format was one of the real winners of the NBA's annual extravaganza this weekend.

Be it to the composition of the two teams or to the jerseys being worn, changes to the All-Star Game are always met with a degree of scepticism by the fans.

This year it was no different, when the league announced a brand-new format for the fourth quarter to honor the memory of Kobe Bryant.

On Sunday, the two teams competed to win each of the first three 12-minute quarters, which all started with a 0-0 scoreline.

At the beginning of the final period, however, the game clock was switched off and a final score target was set by adding 24 points—a nod to the number Bryant wore in the second half of his career—to the leading team's combined score through three quarters.

With the team captained by Giannis Antetokounmpo leading the team captained by LeBron James 133-124, the target was set at 157.

First introduced in The Basketball Tournament in June 2018 as the Elam Ending, the change was initially dismissed as a gimmick by many fans.

However, it made for the kind of competitive environment that is normally associated with playoffs basketball, rather than the All-Star Game.

"That was pretty damn fun," James said at the end of the game.

A number of his colleagues agreed, taking to Twitter to praise the intensity of the final period, where both teams threw everything at each other.

The easy dunks that normally punctuate the All-Star Game were nowhere to be seen, replaced instead by ferocious defenses, fouls and charges, with both coaches challenging the on-court calls.

"I think it was really interesting," Team Giannis coach Nick Nurse said. "It was really fun, each and every quarter, from a coaching standpoint."

Kawhi Leonard, who won the NBA title under Nurse last season, echoed his former coach's sentiment.

"[The NBA] did a great job with the format this year," he told NBA on TNT at the end of the game.

"They had us come out playing hard in the fourth quarter and competing for a total points score. That's pretty much how we got to competing out there."

Leonard became the first recipient of the newly renamed Kobe Bryant MVP Trophy after finishing with 30 points—shooting eight-of-14 from beyond the arc— seven rebounds and four assists.

While Leonard top scored in the game, the responsibility to decide the contest fell onto Anthony Davis' shoulders. Playing in his hometown, the Chicago Native converted one of two free throws to give his team a two-point win, which made this year's All-Star Game the closest since the Eastern Conference defeated the Western Conference 141-139 in 2010.

"I told my team I was going to miss the first one to put a little more pressure on myself here at home," Davis explained after the game.

It remains to be seen whether the NBA will use the same format in future All-Star Games, but if Sunday night is anything to go by it would be surprising if it did not.

Joel Embiid, Anthony Davis, NBA All-Star Game
Joel Embiid #24 of Team Giannis and Anthony Davis #2 of Team LeBron leap for the tip ball in the third quarter during the 69th NBA All-Star Game at the United Center on February 16 in Chicago, Illinois. Stacy Revere/Getty