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Despite this being Kobe Bryant’s last season in a illustrious career there was some doubt that he would get to participate in his last All-Star game considering his poor play to start the season and that the Lakers have been toiling towards the bottom of the league standings all season.
Those doubts were quickly squashed after the first returns in fan voting came in from the NBA on Christmas morning where it was blatantly clear that the basketball fans around the world demanded to see Bryant one last time on the big NBA stage of the NBA showcase of talent that is the NBA All-Star game which will take place in Toronto, Canada in February.
Bryant dominated the voting, beating out the closest vote getter, the new darling of the NBA Steph Curry, by more than 200,000 votes.
For perspective of just how great the disparity is in voting, the gap in votes (209,033) between Bryant and second place vote getter Steph Curry alone would rank 8th in overall voting for the 2016 NBA All-Star game, finishing well ahead of the Clippers Blake Griffin with his 182,107.
There will be some that discuss the justification of Bryant being named a starter or even being named to the All-Star team at all based on solely his play. Bryant had a very rough start to his season but it appears his struggles early had more to do with shaking off rust than old age as he has played consistently well of late.
Bryant’s numbers are really close to his career averages over the last 5 games; he’s averaging 23.8 points, 4.6 assists, 4.4 rebounds and shooting an efficient 46.2 percent from the field and a respectable 34.2 percent from 3.
Bryant’s improved play actually extends to his last 8 games where he is averaging 20.4 points and shooting 45.5 percent from the field; this stretch includes 5 games of 20 or more points, one of which was a season tying 31 point game against the Denver Nuggets.
Even though Bryant is starting to look more like the player we have grown to love over his career, it has not resulted in more team success as the Lakers are 2-6 in the last 8 games in which he has played.
While there is merit to the discussion of Bryant’s worthiness of being named to the All-Star team based on his overall play and team’s lack of success, there is no debate from the fans’ end of things. Fans have been packing in NBA arenas all season, paying huge mark-ups for tickets in the secondary market just to get their last glimpse of Kobe on an NBA court, in effect turning road games into rabid home crowds cheering on the Lakers and Bryant.
Fans have spoken again and done so loudly with the first return of votes for the 2016 NBA All-Star game; they want more Kobe on the court and on their television sets as much as a possible before the sun sets on his career.