HOUSTON LeBron James had the ball in his hands and a comeback on his mind.
Kobe Bryant blocked those plans twice.
He may not leap like Blake Griffin, but Bryant can still get up when he needs to, especially when the defenseless part of the All-Star Game is over and it's time to stop somebody even the league's best player.
Bryant blocked James' jumper, turning it into a dunk by Kevin Durant that helped the Western Conference put away the East 143-138 Sunday night.
On Michael Jordan's 50th birthday, the players most often compared to him turned the final minutes into a one-on-one duel, and it went to Bryant.
"It was a great block," said Durant, who had 30 points for the West. "I haven't really seen any MVP get a jumper blocked like that. It was a really great play."
Bryant added a second late block of James, the MVP of the 2006 game in Houston after leading a big East comeback. This time, he scored 19 points but shot only 7 of 18 after making 60 percent of his shots in six straight games before the break.
"I'm known for my defense. I can defend. I'm pretty smart with my defense," said Bryant, who finished with nine points and eight assists.
The West's Chris Paul had 20 points and 15 assists and was the game's MVP.
"I think we played really good defense at the end of the game as a team," Durant said. "Kobe was really going with the ball. It's tough to stop Le-Bron, but he did his best. He was able to block a few of his shots. But CP did a really good job of keeping us in the game."
The first dunk came 16 seconds into the game, Paul throwing a pass to Los Angeles Clippers teammate Blake Griffin as part of the West's 7-0 start. The West led after each of the first three quarters, though was not ahead by more than eight points through three periods.
The West finally pushed the lead into double figures early in the fourth quarter behind Russell Westbrook and James Harden. But the West couldn't put the game away until a late run behind the guys from Los Angeles.
After Paul sank two three-pointers, Bryant made a layup, and his block of James led to Durant's dunk for a 136-126 lead.
Griffin had one last forceful dunk to help close it out, throwing a pass to himself off the backboard and climbing high in his neon green sneakers to make it 142-134.
For most of the game, the rim shook repeatedly after thunderous dunks before players tried to make some stops down the stretch.
Griffin shot 9 of 11 and had 19 points. He didn't miss until trying to violently throw one down from a few feet away from the basket.
Carmelo Anthony led the East with 26 points.
Players' sneakers were a variety of pastels and fluorescent colors that looked as if they came right from Easter Sunday church. Many clashed so badly with their multicolored socks that they might as well have been created by randomly spilling paint buckets.
James and Dwyane Wade wore purple, and Griffin's neon look was also sported by the usually not-so-loud Tim Duncan and Brook Lopez.
But the NBA's high flyers sure could leap in them.
Durant slammed one down so hard at one point that he stumbled backward after landing, appearing woozy. He might have won a second straight MVP award if not for Paul's big finish.
But the Kobe-LeBron matchup down the stretch showed that even in an All-Star Game, when it's time to determine a winner, Bryant is all business.
"It was all in good spirit, man," James said. "It was just two guys that love to compete, love to go at it. So I had a lot of fun."
Today's NBA stars reflect on how much Michael Jordan who turned 50 Sunday means to the game of basketball and its players. Page C5
2013: Chris Paul, Clippers
2012: Kevin Durant, Thunder
2011: Kobe Bryant, Lakers
2010: Dwyane Wade, Heat
2009: Kobe Bryant, Lakers; Shaquille O'Neal, Suns
2008: LeBron James, Cavaliers
2007: Kobe Bryant, Lakers
2006: LeBron James, Cavaliers
2005: Allen Iverson, 76ers
2004: Shaquille O'Neal, Lakers
2003: Kevin Garnett, T-wolves
2002: Kobe Bryant, Lakers
2001: Allen Iverson, 76ers
2113: West 143-138
2012: West 152-149
2011: West 148-143
2010: East 141-139
2009: West 146-119
2008: East 134-128
2007: West 153-132
2006: East 122-120
2005: East 125-115
2004: West 136-132
2003: West 155-145 (2OT)
2002: West 135-120
2001: East 111-110