The Los Angeles Lakers are arguably one of the most popular sports franchises in the world, and Kobe Bryant is the team's most popular player. Bryant has been in the top 10 in jersey sales for each of the past 10 years.
The fact that he was chosen as a starter in this year's National Basketball Association All-Star Game to be played in New Orleans, despite having only played in six games in the regular season due to an Achilles injury, should come as no surprise to anyone.
Still, that does not change the fact that Bryant said he did not want to be voted into the NBA All-Star game.
"My advice would be to vote for some of the younger players, the Damian Lillards of the world," Bryant told the Los Angeles Times. "Because they're more than deserving to be out there and play during that weekend."
Still, the fans rewarded Bryant as one of the faces of the league for 17 years. He was elected as a starter into the NBA All-Star Game, but unfortunately for the fans that voted to see him play, Bryant is still not fully recovered from his injury, so NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was forced to replace him. Anthony Davis, the 6-foot-10 big man for the New Orleans Pelicans, has had an incredible season, averaging 20.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and a league-leading 3.3 blocks, and deserves the honor of replacing Bryant in the starting lineup.
This year's game, which was Bryant's 16th All-Star Game selection, brought up a common theme in the NBA. All-Star Games are supposed to be fan-centric, but is it fair to the other athletes for a player who has hardly played or sometimes not played at all to be voted into the game?
The All-Star Game is supposed to be about the fans. The NBA stresses that by placing emphasis on events like the Slam Dunk and Three Point contests. It is an exhibition; if you watch the game, you'll notice that no one plays any defense.
"The NBA All-Star game is not a meaningful game and is a device used by the league to increase fan interest and overall revenue," said freshman James Gieselmann. "This means that the league is attempting to get fans involved. In order to give the fans all the power, they are the only ones who can choose who is able to start in the game. As long as the fans are choosing, it's okay with me."
Bryant plans to return to the court this year showing his resiliency; not surprisingly, this is the man who once said, "I've played with IVs before, during and after games. I've played with a broken hand, a sprained ankle, a torn shoulder, a fractured tooth, a severed lip, and a knee the size of a softball. I don't miss 15 games because of a toe injury that everybody knows wasn't that serious in the first place."