When Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers announced at the end of November that he will be retiring at the end of this season, emotions throughout the league were high. The inevitable farewell tour for the five-time NBA champion began, as Bryant has been honored in every city he has visited since.
The farewell tour will continue in Toronto on Feb. 14 as Bryant will be playing in his 18th and final All-star game, as he led all vote-getters.
The fans made it apparent that they want the 37-year-old on the floor at the Air Canada Centre next month, despite his rough season. Bryant got off to the worst start of his 20-year career this season, and while his play has improved in the last month, he is still playing the least efficient basketball of his career.
Joining Kobe in the Western Conference are Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook. In the Eastern Conference, LeBron James leads Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Kyle Lowry.
Here is the press release via Lakers.com:
EL SEGUNDO – Kobe Bryant was selected by fans as a starter for the 2016 NBA All-Star Game in Toronto it was announced today, his 18th selection (2nd-most all-time) and record-setting 18th consecutive time as an All-Star. Bryant was the leading vote-getter for the fourth time in his career (also 2003, 2011, and 2013) and will be named a starter for the 16th time, the most in NBA All-Star Game history.
A four-time All-Star MVP in 2002, 2007, 2009, and 2011 (tied with Bob Pettit for most all-time), Bryant holds All-Star Game records for most points scored (280), most field goals made (115), and most steals (37, tied with Michael Jordan). In his very first All-Star Weekend in 1997, Bryant became the youngest slam dunk champion at 18 years old.
Bryant, who announced he would be retiring from basketball at the end of the season, has earned numerous accolades over the span of his 20-year career – all spent with the Lakers franchise, the most in NBA history. A five-time NBA Champion, Bryant was selected as the NBA MVP in 2007-08 and won the NBA Finals MVP award in 2009 and 2010. Bryant earned All-NBA honors 15 times and has been named to the NBA’s All-Defensive Team 12 times. Internationally, the 37-year-old led the United States to gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 Olympics in London.