Contrary to Kobe Bryant’s wishes, he remains the leading vote getter on the third returns of the NBA All-Star ballot among the Western Conference backcourt.
Considering he has only played six games this season without a definitive return date from a fractured left knee, Bryant encouraged fans last week to vote for other players, namely Portland’s Damian Lillard.
“Even though there is so much respect for me to play for the fans, I’d much rather see the young guys go out there and play the game,” Bryant said last week. “They’ve obviously put the work to be there.”
But just because Bryant’s fans will worship him over every game winner he makes, tweet he sends out or appearance he makes, that doesn’t mean they will listen to the Lakers’ star about not voting for him. The NBA’s leading vote getters include Miami Heat forward LeBron James (1,076,063) and Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (1,054,209). But Bryant’s 844,538 votes lead the Western Conference backcourt over Golden State’s Stephen Curry (677,372) and the Clippers’ Chris Paul (651,073).
Bryant could return before the NBA All-Star game on Feb. 16 in New Orleans in what would mark his 16th All-Star appearance. But if he can’t play, NBA Commissioner David Stern would hand select a replacement.
“I probably wouldn’t be able to come back soon enough to be able to make my stamp or make my mark on the game,” said Bryant, who has only averaged 13.8 points on 42.5 percent shooting, 6.3 assists and 5.7 turnovers in six games. “My advice is to focus on the younger players like the Damian Lillards of the world. They’re most deserving to be out here that weekend.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org