The voting has begun for the 2016 NBA All-Star game, and Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant is leading by a wide margin with a whopping 719,235 votes. This places him well ahead of his competition, with Golden State Warrior and reigning league MVP Stephen Curry at 510,202 votes, and twice as many as Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James, who has 357,937 votes. Bryant was shocked over the wide lead, especially after the Lakers' 94-84 Christmas night loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
"I was making a little coffee run this morning, got some gas and decided to just go on Instagram and peruse. I saw the damn votes, and I was like, 'What the hell?' Shocked doesn't do it justice," says Bryant. He also added that, "It's exciting. What can I say? Just thankful."
The 2016 NBA All-Star Game in Toronto would be Bryant's last, as he announced his plans to retire after this year's season — his 20th in the NBA. His 17 All-Star selections are second all-time only to former Lakers star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who had 19 selections. Bryant; however, is the leading scorer in NBA All-Star history with a total of 280 points.
Coaches and players alike are throwing respect his way. Clippers forward Blake Griffin stated, "Kobe's a guy that's done so much for this league and has such a big imprint on the game of basketball for the past 20 years. It's just a legacy thing...you just tip the cap to a guy has gone before you, who has paved the road for a lot of guys."
While some players look forward to recharging during the All-Star break, Bryant is enthusiastic to take part, saying that, "I'll have plenty of time off coming up. I enjoy trying to play as much as I can," adding, "It would be fun to go out there with the guys and kind of hang around with them one more time."
This season, Bryant holds an average of 17.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 3.5 assists in 30.5 minutes per game.
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(Photo: Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)