Kobe Bryant was selected to start in his 16th consecutive All-Star Game despite only taking part in six games this season. Bryant finished second in voting for Western Conference guards with 988,884 votes. Only Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors received greater backing for Western Conference guards with fans giving Curry 1,047,281 votes.
Kevin Durant led all Western Conference All-Stars with 1,396,294 votes, but LeBron James led the NBA with 1,416,419 votes. Currently, Durant and James are favorites for the NBA's Most Valuable Player award, so the fans seem to have got this vote right.
Worth mentioning, a healthy Dwight Howard, who is averaging 18.3 points and 12.6 rebounds per game, only received 653,318 votes and missed out on a starting spot. Howard should be chosen as an All-Star reserve, but his decision to leave Los Angeles appears to have hurt his popularity.
On Thursday, Bryant talked about being selected and was adamant that he did not deserve to play in the annual exhibition.
“With all due respect to the fans that voted me in, I certainly appreciate that, they know how much I appreciate that, but you got to do the right thing as well,” Bryant said prior to Thursday’s loss to the Miami Heat. “My fans know you got to reward these young guys for the work that they’ve been putting in.”
“I think it’s important for them to go in and perform,” Bryant continued. “They’ve been playing all season. They deserve to be in there. They deserve to play. So, I see no reason why they shouldn’t be out there doing their thing.”
Unfortunately for Bryant, Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk points out that the collective bargaining agreement requires him to play if he is considered healthy enough to play with the Lakers. So, if Bryant is back on the court before Feb. 16, he will likely be forced to suit up or risk punishment from the league.
More likely, Bryant will suit up, play a couple minutes and watch the remainder of the exhibition game from the bench. However, this discussion is only relevant if Bryant is back playing with the Lakers before Feb. 16, which most people close to the team expect him to be.