Kobe Bryant has only played in six games this year. Neither that fact, nor the fact that injuries made it questionable that he would be able to play in the NBA’s 63rd annual All-Star Game, nor Kobe’s own encouragement to vote for someone else kept fans from putting him in the Western Conference’s starting five. According to an ESPN LAreport, Bryant was second in voting among guards for the Western Conference behind the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry. He received the fifth most votes of any player.
In his six appearances this year, Bryant is averaging 13.8 points, 6.3 assists and 4.3 boards per game. Those numbers are hardly Kobe-esque. Over his 17 year NBA career, Bryant – fourth on the league’s all time scoring list behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Maline and Michael Jordan – averaged 25.5 points, 4.8 assists and 5.8 rebounds per game. This is the 16th straight year the Los Angeles Lakers star has made the All-Star team.
Bryant has been out since Dec. 19, when he fractured his lateral tibial plateau. In layman’s terms, he damaged the bone that connects the shin and the knee. The initial prognosis called for him to be out for six weeks. The team recently released a statement saying that he would be out at least three more weeks.
The knee injury came on the heels of Bryant’s return from injuring his Achilles tendon last April. He had already missed the first 19 games of the season.
During the All-Star voting period, most – including Bryant – believed that he would return to the Lakers’ lineup shortly before the NBA All-Star game on Feb. 16. Kobe is on record saying that he does not deserve to play in the All-Star game this year. Instead, according to ESPN LA, the 35 year old Kobe Bryant suggested fans vote for one of the younger players:
“With all due respect to the fans that voted me in, I certainly appreciate that, they know how much I appreciate that, but you got to do the right thing as well my fans know you got to reward these young guys for the work that they’ve been putting in.”
Lakers teammates agreed with Kobe’s assessment. Four-time All Star Pao Gasol said:
“There’s only one of him, and I think people want to see him. It is what it is. That’s how the system works. He didn’t play much this year, but I think he gets the credit from such a tremendous career as a superstar.”
Likewise, Coach D’Antoni said, “He’s being voted, obviously, in what he’s done in the past. Not what he’s done this year.”
Bryant had initially expressed concern that he might have to play in the All-Star game if he returned to the Lakers before the All-Star break because of the league’s collective bargaining agreement. According to CBS Sports, league officials have said that there is no rule stipulating that Bryant would have to play in the game.
None of that matters now, as the Lakers have reported that Bryant will be out at least three more weeks. For now, he continues therapeutic non-load bearing workouts and vows to return before the season is over, despite the fact that his return is unlikely to affect the injury-riddled Lakers’ rapidly diminishing hopes of making the playoffs.
The Lakers are currently playing without Steve Nash, Jordan Farmar, Steve Blake and Xavier Henry in addition to missing superstar Kobe Bryant.