Kobe Bryant – not Steph Curry, not LeBron James, but Kobe Bryant – received 1.9 million All-Star votes this year, more than any other player in the league.
“Very well-deserved,” RealGM.com NBA writer Jarrod Rudolph said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “Obviously it’s tough out there for him now, but when you look at the amount votes he received going into his 18th All-Star Game, it just shows you how he’s been able to gain and keep the respect of the fans simply by being himself and going out there and giving his all every single night. The guy at this point, I think, takes too many threes, and he’s up there in age. But he gives you nothing less in effort, though his body does not allow him to do what his mind can see. I think that even if you don’t like a guy, you respect it – and I think you’ve seen that throughout the season, people just showing this guy how much they respect him. People understand that this is it. This is his last ride. You’re not going see him in the All-Star Game next year.”
Bryant, 37, is averaging 16.3 points, 3.5 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game this year – well below his career averages of 25.1, 4.7 and 5.3, respectively. The Lakers (9-35) have the worst record in the Western Conference and the second-worst record in the NBA.
Thus, this game, more than anything, will be a chance for fans to thank Bryant for his 20 years of service to the NBA.
“And believe you me: When Kobe Bryant is gone, people are going to miss this kid a lot more than you expect,” Rudolph said. “You just wait and see. There’s not another Kobe coming anytime soon. He’s that good. Is he Michael Jordan? No, not even close. But in terms of where he’s at with this generation, he’s the closest thing that they’ve seen to Mike cosmetically. Guys like Kobe and Duncan and Garnett, just like Shaq, you can’t replace those guys. They come once-in-a-lifetime. And when Kobe’s gone, fans are really, really going to miss what he brings to the game – because it’s immeasurable.”
Bryant will start for the Western Conference alongside Curry, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Kawhi Leonard. James will start for the East, along with Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, Kyle Lowry and Dwyane Wade.