We didn’t need Nostradamus to predict that Kobe would be voted into the All-Star game this year. As long as the NBA elects to stay with the current system of fans deciding the starting five for both conferences, the sun will rise and Kobe will be a starter; simple as that.
When Kobe was announced as a starting guard and he declined, my head agreed. But my heart disagreed, vehemently.
Now, I’m not going to sit here and defend the fact that Kobe has played at an All-Star caliber this season, because he’s been average at best, but he’s wrong in declining the invite.
In the MLB, the winning team of the All-Star game receives home-field advantage in the World Series. And until the NBA legitimizes their All-Star game, February’s game will be nothing more than a glorified pick-up game.
I challenge you to name me the winner of the last 10 All-Star games? No luck, right? How about the last five years? Fine, how about three? Point is the All-Star game is defined by moments not results. I may not remember how many times the West has won the All-Star game in Kobe’s career, but I do recall vividly the moment he first challenged Jordan in his inaugural appearance in ‘98, or when he cleverly avoided LeBron’s chase-down block attempt in 2011, and most recently, when he rejected the King twice in last year’s game.
Steve Kerr, who was color commentating, had this to say at the moment the second block happened: “a lot of people thought, maybe they’ll meet in the Finals… well, that’s probably not going to happen. So, this is his moment to go head up and with King James, and he has really done an amazing job defensively.”
With the injuries to the team’s top four guards coupled with not properly replacing Dwight Howard, the Lakers have an outside shot of making the playoffs, and the Finals are a pipe dream—which makes it more important for Kobe to play in the All-Star game, if he’s healthy.
Mamba inked a two-year extension back at the end of November, in all likelihood his last NBA contract. If he’s hurt and he keeps the time to continue to rest his knee, fine. But, if he’s able to suit up for the Purple and Gold, and he’s still electing to sit, that’s robbing the fans of one of the three last opportunities to see him amongst the league’s brightest stars.
Take into account the fact that within moments of the league announcing Kobe as the West’s starting guard, he became a trending topic on Twitter. A feat Kevin Durant couldn’t accomplish outside the state of Oklahoma despite his fourth quarter heroics being the sole reason his Thunder overcame the Spurs on national television (it was also his ninth-consecutive game with 30 or more points, but who’s counting?).
What does that tell you? Sure, James Harden and Damian Lilliard are having much better seasons than Kobe, but what’s an All-Star game without the game’s biggest global star?
As much as Kobe hates the Michael Jordan comparisons, he is my generation’s MJ. And in the 2003 All-Star game, MJ’s last one, while the Washington Wizard didn’t deserve to start, Vince Carter sacrificed his starting spot for him, regardless; because you know, legends should have the opportunity to be showcased in a game of no meaning.
And the conclusion of that game in 2003 further illustrates my point. The East repeatedly fed Jordan the ball in key situations down the stretch, before MJ finally hit a patented fadeaway over Shawn Marion, with the game tied to give the East a two-point lead in the dying moments of the first overtime period. The West ended up winning that game in double overtime, by the way. It didn’t matter much though, as the entire game was essentially a ceremony to celebrate Jordan’s career, Mariah Carey even donned a Wizards #23 jersey during her halftime performance.
I understand the situation’s a little different as Kobe’s still got a couple more All-Star games left and that was Jordan’s final one, but the end is much closer than the beginning, now.
Out of all people, Bryant himself, understands how much it means when he plays not only to enhance his team’s chances of winning, but to the fans buying tickets solely to see him. Last season, despite landing on Dahntay Jones foot and severely rolling his ankle the game before, he still gave it a go a night later in Indiana, albeit unsuccessfully. Here was his tweet following his attempt to play through the injury.
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) March 16, 2013
So, what’s the difference now, Bean? “With all due respect,” respect the wishes of your fans and play.