fb-pixelThe Celtics’ Jayson Tatum and Team Giannis won the NBA All-Star Game, but it still belongs to LeBron James - The Boston Globe Skip to main content

The Celtics’ Jayson Tatum and Team Giannis won the NBA All-Star Game, but it still belongs to LeBron James

For one night, Jaylen Brown (left) had the task of trying to defend against Celtics teammate Jayson Tatum, who wound up being named All-Star Game MVP.Tim Nwachukwu/Getty

SALT LAKE CITY — Celtics forward Jayson Tatum halted LeBron James’s All-Star Game dynasty, but the NBA’s 72nd midseason showcase still belonged to the Lakers star.

Team Giannis beat Team LeBron, 184-175, in a soporific contest Sunday night at Vivint Arena, snapping James’s five-game winning streak as a captain on a night when he was honored for becoming the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. Tatum led Team Giannis to the victory, pouring in an All-Star Game-record 55 points to go with 10 rebounds and 6 assists amid a captivating shooting display in the pivotal third quarter.

"I wanted to win MVP," Tatum said, noting that the award's trophy is named after his childhood hero, Lakers great Kobe Bryant. "I didn't think I'd get 55. That's icing on the cake."


Tatum prevailed at the expense of Celtics teammate Jaylen Brown, who nonetheless had a big night for Team LeBron. Brown finished with 35 points, 14 rebounds, and 5 assists.

James posted 13 points, 1 rebound, and 4 assists in 14 minutes before sitting out the second half with a finger injury that he said “[wasn’t] too much to worry about.” Despite missing out on crunch time after hitting his hand on the rim while blocking a shot, James was ubiquitous, participating in a live, playground-style draft with Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo to pick the team rosters and then being honored at halftime alongside Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone, the NBA’s second and third all-time leading scorers.

“No matter the challenge, no matter the noise, he was relentless,” former Heat teammate Dwyane Wade said as he introduced James to hearty applause at halftime. “He’s not just a four-time MVP or a 19-time All-Star or a gold medalist or an NBA champion. He’s a son, father, husband, and friend. Now he’s the all-time leading scorer in NBA history.”


James, Abdul-Jabbar, and Malone then stood side by side, embracing and waving to the crowd. By earning the 19th All-Star selection of his career, James tied Abdul-Jabbar for the most in league history.

The clock was turned off for the fourth quarter as the teams tried to reach a total target score of 182 points as part of the “Elam Ending,” which ensures every contest ends with game-winning points. The increase in effort that typically comes in the fourth quarter never materialized, and Tatum acknowledged the contest had a “safety first” feel as players tried to avoid injuries with the postseason around the corner.

Tatum dunks home two of his 55 points Sunday night.Rob Gray/Associated Press

Tatum broke Anthony Davis's All-Star Game record of 52 points set in 2017. With 27 points in the third quarter, the St. Louis native set a record for points in an All-Star Game quarter.

"[The all-star scoring record] means the world," he said. "Records are meant to be broken. I'll hold it for as long as I can, but I'm certain someone will come along and break it."

The Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard, who won the 3-point contest Saturday, delivered the winning basket with a deep three after several half-court heaves by Team Giannis missed badly. Some fans began filing out midway through the fourth quarter of Sunday’s showcase, which featured virtually no defensive effort.

“That is the worst basketball game ever played,” Team LeBron coach Michael Malone of the Nuggets said.

Antetokounmpo took the court with a wrap protecting his injured right wrist. The two-time MVP dunked on the first possession and then immediately checked out to prevent further injury, saying he had to make a “hard decision but a mature decision” so he could maximize his availability for Milwaukee’s stretch run. Though he spent most of the night cheering from the sideline, the seven-time all-star claimed his first victory in three tries as a captain.


“Winner, winner, chicken dinner,” a smiling Antetokounmpo said.