Kobe Bryant couldn’t hold back his smile. He also couldn’t hold back his sarcasm.
Even though Bryant’s already appeared in 14 NBA All-star games in his 17th year career, Bryant acted surprised the NBA’s third returns shows the Lakers guard leading with 1,177, 456 votes. He has a slight cushion over Miami’s LeBron James (1,151,304 votes), Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant (1,008,797) and New York’s Carmelo Anthony (1,054,099).
“I guess people want to see an old dog, I guess,” the 34-year-old Bryant said. “Thank you. I’m extremely honored.”
It also helps that Bryant leads the league in scoring at 30.3 points per game. His 47.9 percent mark from the field would represent a career-high should he sustain it. Bryant also logged 16 30-point games and four 40-point games. He also went on a 10-game tear where he scored at least 30 points. A reporter mentioned that aspect likely helped too.
“I guess,” Bryant said. “It’s like backyard ball. You see your old uncle backing guys down and making shots.”
Balloting will conclude on Jan. 14, and starters will be announced live on TNT on Jan. 17 for the All-Star game Feb. 13 in Houston.
Once that date comes, expect to see a competitive Bryant. In recent seasons, Bryant has further showed his unyielding competitiveness during All-Star weekend. Bryant picked up his fourth All-Star MVP award in the 2011 game in Los Angeles. Bryant also played through a broken nose and concussion during last year’s game.
“When have I not competed?” Bryant said. “That’s what it is. In those situations, you don’t have to worry about zone coverages or double teams. You just get a chance to go at a guy. It’s fun for me to be a part of that.”
Still, Bryant seems to get a charge in playing with younger players, such as Durant, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and James Harden. Bryant’s recent performances have implied his want to prove he can still dominate among the best of them.
“It may have a little bit to with it,” Bryant said. “But I’ve been that competitive with the game since I was 18. So it’s the way I play.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org