Kobe = All-Star Starter, Again

That Kobe Bryant will be elected as an All-Star starter for the 13th consecutive season was a foregone conclusion, particularly after the NBA announced that he led all players with 1,757,216 votes after the fourth round of ballot returns.

During Thursday night’s special All-Star Selection Show on TNT, it was announced that Bryant will indeed start at guard for the Western Conference, where he’ll represent the Lakers in front of a hometown crowd for the second time in his career (2004).

Bryant finished with 2,380,016 votes, and with his 13th straight selection, is only one behind record holders Jerry West, Karl Malone and Shaquille O’Neal, earning 14 consecutive nods apiece.

It will be the 12th A.S. game in which Bryant plays, as he missed last year’s contest due to a sprained left ankle. To account for the other two seasons in his career: he didn’t make it as a rookie, and there was no All-Star game in 1999. Bryant made his debut in 1998 as the youngest All-Star in NBA history, and last led all vote-getters in 2003.

This marks the fourth straight season in which Bryant led the Western Conference in All-Star balloting. Last season, he Bryant received 2,456,224 votes, finishing second overall to Cleveland’s LeBron James (2,549,693). In 2008-09, his number was punched 2,805,397 times, placing him third in overall balloting behind Dwight Howard (3,150,181) and James (2,940,823). Back in 2007-08, Bryant garnered 2,004,940 votes to finish fourth in overall voting behind Kevin Garnett (2,399,148), James (2,108,831) and Howard (2,066,991).

Bryant has won All-Star MVP honors three times, first in 2002 (Philadelphia), then in 2007 (Las Vegas) and finally in 2009 (Phoenix), when he shared the trophy with Shaquille O’Neal.