With Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers playing the worst basketball of his career, there’s bound to be plenty of debate about whether he deserves to play in an 18th NBA All-Star game. Although Bryant has shown flashes of his old form at times this season and has received a lot of recognition for his accomplishments while on his farewell tour with the Lakers, the fact remains that he has been very inconsistent on the basketball floor.
Many will base their debate on the fact that Bryant has played poorly, and someone in the Western Conference with All-Star-caliber numbers shouldn’t be passed over. Regardless of the argument against Kobe being voted in, one former rival believes there’s no question about whether he should be an All-Star this season.
Raja Bell, who had many heated battles with Kobe on the court, thinks Bryant has earned a spot on the roster of the Western Conference All-Stars despite his poor play this season via Ananth Pandian of CBS Sports:
“I definitely think Kobe Bryant deserves to be an All-Star,” says Bell, NBA Analyst for CBS Sports. “He’s earned the right to be celebrated in one of the NBA’s biggest stages. Clearly, whoever doesn’t get in because Kobe does will be upset with it but I definitely think Kobe earned the right to play in the All-Star Game this year.”
It’s incredible to think that a player who once clotheslined Bryant during an NBA playoff game back in 2006 is in full support of his longtime rival almost 10 years later. There was no love lost between these two players and they both had no problem making that fact public knowledge back when the rivalry was in full swing.
Despite the fact that Bell clearly wasn’t a fan of Bryant back in their prime playing days battling against one another in the Pacific Division, both players have grown to respect each other. Bryant even went as far as trying to get Bell to join the Lakers back in 2010, but the veteran journeyman elected to sign with the Utah Jazz over joining Kobe in Los Angeles.
With Bryant’s popularity still incredibly high in his final season, it would be safe to assume that only an injury or a personal choice to sit out would prevent him from playing in the 2016 NBA All-Star game on Feb. 14. Kobe will likely get the votes needed to be in the game and possibly be a starter once again, but that won’t stop the pundits from making a case for a younger player with the All-Stars stats to take his spot in Toronto in two months time.