The first voting results for the 2016 NBA All-Star Game, released by NBA.com, have Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant as the leading vote getter by a long shot.
Bryant was surprised by the results to say the least. “Shocked doesn't do it justice," Bryant said of his leading the vote after the Lakers’ 94-84 loss on Christmas Day. "It's exciting. What can I say? Just thankful."
The 37-year-old Bryant’s 719,235 votes are well ahead of last year’s MVP Stephen Curry (51 0,202), the next-highest vote-getter, and more than twice as many as leading Eastern Conference vote-getter LeBron James (357,937).
Bryant leads the voting despite struggling through the beginning of the season, averaging 17.4 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 30.5 minutes per game and shooting just 34.4 percent from the field for the 5-25 Lakers.
Before the Christmas Day game, Clippers forward Blake Griffin told reporters he feels Bryant deserves to play in the game, even if there are other deserving players.
"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," Griffin said. "It's just a legacy thing... If it was me, you kind of understand, you just tip the cap to a guy who has gone before you, who has paved the road for a lot of guys."
Clippers head coach Doc Rivers echoed that sentiment. “ I think Kobe should be on the All-Star team … I don't care if he's a starter of if they figure out a 13th spot for him,” Rivers said.“[With] what he's done in his career, he should be on the All-Star team, and I don't see any debate in that. You can have one, but I'm not hearing it."
Bryant had been listed as a guard in previous years’ All-Star voting but is listed as a frontcourt player on this year’s ballot. Kevin Durant is the next highest vote getter for Western Conference frontcourt players (349,473).
"It would be fun to go out there and play with the guys and kind of hang around with them one more time," Bryant said of the opportunity to play in one more All-Star Game. For the five-time champion, it will be All-Star appearance No. 18 if he does indeed play.
Below are the Top 5 results from each position in the early returns of the NBA All-Star vote.
— 2016 NBA All-Star (@NBAAllStar) December 25, 2015