Part of the old guard recedes every year. Kevin Garnett took a seat after the first six minutes last night and let the young guys play.

Some aren’t quite so willing to let the young talent take over. Kobe Bryant turned in arguably the most electrifying play of the game when he caught LeBron James with a come-from-behind block that clinched the West’s 143-138 victory in the NBA All-Star Game. Bryant added another block before the night was finished, too.

But from MVP Chris Paul to young stars like Kevin Durant and James, a new era has taken hold. On Michael Jordan’s 50th birthday, James proclaimed the state of the game as healthy as ever.

“Just a love for the game,” James said of what he sees in his fellow players. “If you have love for the game you don’t ever try to cut corners to be successful. You can’t do it. You can’t do it in this league because the game gods will not give back to you if you try to cut corners and try to cheat the game. MJ loved the game at a high level. Look at the guys he played against — Patrick Ewing, Shaq (O’Neal), Penny Hardaway, Isiah Thomas. All those guys, man, they all love the game, and we do as well. We love the game and play it at a high level.”

They like Mike

You couldn’t go more than five minutes without a reminder that yesterday was Jordan’s 50th, which is fine by the players who grew up memorizing the legend’s every move and moment.

Garnett, who doesn’t cater to any opponent, remembers being as awestruck as the next guy when he stepped onto the floor for the first time against Jordan as a rookie during the 1995-96 season.