SALT LAKE CITY — It was a perfect night for Jayson Tatum. It was a perfect night for the Celtics.
All-Star Weekend was an opportunity for the Celtics to take a deep breath, reflect on their sparkling first half and celebrate themselves in the crisp Utah winter.
The goal of Sunday night’s game at Vivint Arena was for Tatum to have fun and stay healthy, for Jaylen Brown to return after breaking his cheekbone and get accustomed to playing with a mask.
For Joe Mazzulla, his goal was to thoroughly enjoy his first weekend as permanent Celtics head coach.
Mission accomplished on all counts and then some. Tatum, one of the game’s emerging superstars and an MVP candidate, was brilliant in his fourth All-Star appearance, taking home the Kobe Bryant MVP award with an All-Star Game-record 55 points on 22-for-31 shooting and 10 3-pointers in Team Giannis’ 184-175 win over Team LeBron.
Tatum scored 38 points after halftime, including 27 in the third quarter. When he was at 49 in the fourth period, teammate Donovan Mitchell urged him to go for Anthony Davis’ record of 52.
He tied the record with a 32-foot 3-pointer and then broke it with a free throw before finishing with a late layup. In front of his 5-year-old son Deuce and debuting his first sneaker, Tatum basked in the moment.
“It’s extremely special for me,” Tatum said. “I remember telling myself (at All-Star 2020) that day I [have to get] one of those before I get done. To be able to wear my signature shoe today and break the record and take home this award of somebody that idolized. It’s a hell of a day.”
It was especially meaningful for Tatum, considering the late Bryant is his all-time favorite NBA player and he modeled his game after the Lakers great as well as worked out with him early in his career.
And with the basketball world watching, Tatum and Brown went one-on-one for the final four possessions of the third quarter, with Brown hitting a step-back jumper and 3 in the face of Tatum and Tatum responding with a 3 ball in front of smiling Brown for his 44th point.
Brown sparkled himself for Team LeBron, scoring 35 points on 16-for-27 shooting along with 14 rebounds and 5 assists.
“I think it was fun,” Brown said of dueling with Tatum. “Any time you come out and play in front of a great crowd and represent your organization, represent where you come from, is fun. Going up against my brother Jayson, going back and forth, it was like nobody was in [the arena] at all, just me and him.”
Mazzulla and his coaching staff sat there and watched the show. In his first head coaching assignment since being named head coach, Mazzulla led Team Giannis and was thrilled to watch his two All-Stars shine.
“It was a blessing that I was able to watch those two compete against each other,” Mazzulla said. “I think it’s healthy competition. I think it’s great and this is where legacies are built and it’s important for me to empower the chance for these guys to go after a legacy, so it was fun to watch.”
Tatum transformed himself from a 3-point shooter into a dunker, showing an impressive array of slams to score 17 first-half points. Brown couldn’t possibly be bested by his teammate, so he scored 13 points with 6 rebounds and 4 assists in his first 10 minutes of play.
The black mask covered his entire face, but he looked comfortable from the start.
“It took a little bit to get adjusted,” Brown said. “At times I got a little bit more comfortable toward the second half. All is fun in games like this. Real basketball is different. This was like a layup line. It was like a glorified layup line [and] we have to figure out how to make the game better. But if the fans like it, that’s all that matters.”
The night began with the unprecedented day-of All-Star Draft where team captains and leading vote-getters from their respective conferences LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo chose their teams an hour before tipoff.
To avoid a reserve being considered the last pick, the reserves were selected first and James chose Brown with his second selection, meaning he played for Denver coach Mike Malone. Antetokounmpo made Tatum his first pick of the All-Star starters, meaning he played for Mazzulla.
It was already a landmark day for Brown, who participated in a tribute to Bill Russell earlier Sunday at the NBA Legends Brunch. He was joined on stage by all-time greats Julius Erving and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Brown offered his thoughts on meeting Russell and condolences for the Russell family.
Tatum not only participated in the 3-point Shootout, being eliminated in the first round Saturday, he also premiered his first Air Jordan Brand sneaker during the game. It’s the 24-year-old Tatum’s first shoe and he posted photos wearing Tatum 1s along with his son Deuce.
“I guess I’m not 19 anymore,” he joked. “I say it all the time, I’m extremely grateful and blessed to be in this situation. I’m not too far removed from being a kid in St. Louis with essentially a ball and a dream and dreaming about these moments of being here. And living out that dream and reality is hard to describe. I never want to get complacent. I’m always chasing more but I thank God every day that I’m in this position.”
Gary Washburn is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GwashburnGlobe.