Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant may not be worried about whether or not he'll be picked for the 2016 NBA All-Star Game, but we are. It's an interesting debate -- does Kobe deserve his 18th All-Star appearance despite shooting just 32% on the season, or does his spot need to go to someone who's producing at a much higher level so far this season? Let's look at both sides below.
The Case For
Sports critics have short memories. Bryant's two-season stint in the injury wilderness has caused short-sighted analysts to forget Kobe's five championship rings, two Finals MVPs, one NBA MVP, 20 combined first-team All Defensive and All-NBA nominations, and two NBA scoring titles.
Hate on Kobe all you want, but he had the world of basketball wrapped around his finger for the better part of two decades. Sending him off without proper recognition in Toronto would be akin to a slap in the face.
The Case Against
Bryant has rebounded as of late, but the disproportion between his sky-high usage rate (29.3) and his awful shooting through the first week of December has played a big part in this Lakers team's slide towards the Lottery. As the primary attacker, Kobe has hurt the growth of the team's young stars by forcing up too many contested jumpers while attempting to make moves that just aren't in his arsenal anymore.
While there's the name value and legacy there to justify All-Star inclusion, the current state of Bryant's game is light years below that of the other players who will be selected to the game. An All-Star selection will be a legacy inclusion and a legacy inclusion only.
Verdict: A Resounding Yes
Kobe Bryant is the marquee name of the post-Michael Jordan era and on the list of the tem best players in NBA history (at least). Personal grudges aside, anybody who's anybody around the Association knows just what kind of impact Kobe has had on the game -- both on the court and off of it as a marketer's dream. Love him or hate him, Kobe deserves a proper send-off in Toronto. Anything less would be a travesty.