The NBA announced its first returns on the 2016 NBA All-Star Game, and Kobe Bryant has a healthy lead on the league with 719,235 votes. To put that number in perspective, LeBron James and Kevin Durant combine for 707,410 votes. Bryant has over 200,000 more votes than Stephen Curry, who is the reigning MVP and has his Golden State Warriors to a 27-1 start entering Christmas Day, which is the best start in NBA history.
Clearly, the fans have spoken and want Bryant in the game as he bows out of his 20th season, but the numbers in his favor seem rather staggering. While Bryant's support is not at all in question, the more likely explanation for the gap in votes is that the NBA's social media online voting system gives Bryant an advantage for playing on the Lakers because the Lakers' social media accounts have a healthy lead on their competition.
On Christmas Day, the Lakers had 4.57 million followers on Twitter, 2.2 million followers on Instagram and 21.3 million likes on Facebook. For the sake of comparison, the Golden State Warriors have one of the younger teams and a massive following with one of the biggest stars in the NBA, and the Warriors have 1.29 million Twitter followers, 2.6 million followers on Instagram and 5.4 million likes on Facebook.
For the 2016 NBA All-Star vote, the easiest way to accumulate votes is via Twitter, and the Lakers have not be shy with their social media campaign for Bryant.
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Simply including a player's first and last name or handle with #NBAVote counts as a vote, and voters can submit a maximum of 1 player name per Tweet and a maximum of 10 valid votes per Twitter handle per day. Retweets also count as votes, which explains why Bryant is cleaning up on the votes. Anyone following the @Lakers Twitter account has come across a Bryant tweet with #NBAVote recently, and just about every one of those tweets have hundreds, if not thousands, of retweets.
While the Instagram numbers between the Warriors and may seem like they could help the Warriors catch the Lakers' grip on social media, NBA All-Star voting decrees that for an Instagram vote to count, a fan must "post a photo with the player's first and last name or handle using #NBAVOTE...on Instagram, commenting on another account's original post will not count as a valid vote. The qualifying vote must originate as a post from the user's Instagram account."
Essentially, Twitter is far more effective to get votes than Instagram, and the Lakers have nearly four times as many followers as the Warriors on Twitter.
For Facebook, a fan must post a status with #NBAVOTE and the player's first and last name, which is far more labor intensive than simply pressing a retweet button on video of Bryant dunking with #NBAVOTE included in the tweet. Again, Twitter is the easiest medium to accumulate All-Star votes, and the Lakers have a firm and effective handle on that social medium.
The first returns of 2016 All-Star game voting suggest that only a miracle would stop no. 24 from making his 18th All-Star game. Bryant expects to be going for his fifth NBA All-Star game MVP trophy in Toronto on Feb. 14, and truthfully, the 37-year-old would probably be voted in if the players were picking teams, anyway.
As such, Bryant's inclusion into the mid-season exhibition game, regardless of how it happens, should be met with smiles from the league office and from players and coaches around the league.