Kobe Bryant is a five-time champion. He’s been named to 11 All-NBA First Teams, is the third leading scorer in league history, and just might be the greatest player to ever wear purple and gold – and 2015-16 is the final time we’ll get to see him play.
It’s not surprising even in this diminished state, basically, that Bryant has more votes for February’s All-Star Game than any other player. He’s a living legend, and even enemy league followers have treated the 37-year-old as such since it became apparent that this season would be his farewell tour.
Despite being subject to widespread adulation from all NBA fans over the past few weeks, though, Bryant can’t quite comprehend his massive lead in the first returns of All-Star tallying.
Bryant’s reaction is perfectly in line with how he’s felt about the love he’s received since announcing his retirement late last month. After a final game in his hometown Philadelphia that included a pre-tip tribute and stirring Jumbotron video, the humbled Los Angeles Lakers superstar said, “I thought opposing fans hated me.”
Not quite. But the discrepancy in voting between he and other league luminaries indeed raises eyebrows. Bryant’s 719,235 tallies are over 400,00 more than second-place Steph Curry’s. He’s compiled more votes thus far than both LeBron James and Kevin Durant combined, too.
The basketball world’s reception to Bryant’s imminent retirement has been nothing short of heartwarming – and what a testament it is to his notorious tunnel vision for success that he never saw it coming.