Sat, Jan 23, 2016 - Page 19 News List

Bryant tops All-Star voting; Leonard, Lowry to start


The San Antonio Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard watches from the bench during their game against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona, on Thursday.

Photo: AFP

Kobe Bryant is the leading vote-getter for his final NBA All-Star Game, while Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry made late moves to join him in the starting lineup.

Leonard is to start in his first All-Star Game, while Lowry is to start on his home court in Toronto after both made up ground in the final days of voting on Thursday.

Nobody was catching Bryant, who had 1.9 million votes and was selected an All-Star for the 18th time.

“It’ll be a special All-Star, because this is Kobe’s last run,” Miami’s Dwyane Wade said. “Obviously, I wasn’t in the league and didn’t get a chance to see [Michael] Jordan’s, but I was watching as a fan and it looked like it would be something cool to be a part of. So this will be special.”

MVP Stephen Curry of Golden State was next with 1.6 million, with the Western Conference lineup also containing Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and Leonard, the San Antonio star who was more than 12,000 votes behind Golden State’s Draymond Green for the last frontcourt spot after the most recent returns.

Cleveland’s LeBron James and Indiana’s Paul George are to start in the East frontcourt with New York’s Carmelo Anthony, who held off Chicago’s Pau Gasol by 360 votes.

Wade is to start at guard with Lowry, who overcame a 32,000-vote deficit to Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving after the last update.

The reserves are to be voted by the head coaches in each conference and be announced on Thursday next week.

Bryant, who is retiring after this season, will finish one behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for most All-Star selections. He is a four-time All-Star Game MVP and the career leader with 280 points — though James is just two points behind.

He was atop the voting from the start, but Leonard had to come from behind and finish 14,000 votes ahead of Dallas center Zaza Pachulia for the final West frontcourt spot. Leonard joins Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon as the only players to be selected an All-Star, NBA Finals MVP and NBA Defensive Player of the Year.

Lowry surged past Wade last year and this time his late charge put him alongside Wade to give the Raptors a starter in the first All-Star Game held outside the US.

“It is an honor to be voted as a starter for the All-Star Game, especially for one in my home arena,” Lowry said in a statement. “I am thankful to all the great Raptors fans across Canada and throughout the NBA.”

Curry’s father, Del, finished his career in Toronto, and the league’s leading scorer is to make his third straight All-Star start there.

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