The first returns of NBA All-Star balloting 2014 are in and to little surprise, Miami’s reigning MVP and the Finals MVP, LeBron James, is the overall leader with 609,336 votes. West rival Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder is close behind with 607,407.
And if there was any question just how beloved Kobe Bryant remains throughout the world, the 35-year-old coming off Achilles surgery (and back for just two games prior to the release of the first balloting) is the leader in the West backcourt with 501,215 votes. His Los Angeles neighbor, Chris Paul of the Clippers, is second with 393,313.
All-Star weekend returns to New Orleans with the game on Feb. 16 at New Orleans Arena.
In a bit of a strange twist, the 6-foot-9 James could essentially be the Eastern Conference’s starting center. He, along with New York’s Carmelo Anthony (424,211) and Indiana’s Paul George (489,335), are the East’s top vote-getters for the frontcourt. All three are essentially small forwards. Last year, the NBA did away with selecting a true center and designated players as simply “backcourt” and frontcourt.”
Indiana’s Roy Hibbert leads all true centers in East voting and is fourth overall among frontcourt players with 208,369. Brooklyn’s Kevin Garnett, who technically started at center for the East last season as a member of the Boston Celtics, sits sixth with 102,825.
The East backcourt is headlined by Miami’s Dwyane Wade (396,279) and Cleveland point guard Kyrie Irving (365,712), who made his All-Star debut last year. Chicago’s Derrick Rose, who missed last season’s game due to an ACL injury, is third in fan-voting. He is again sidelined by another knee injury. Washington’s John Wall, Miami’s Ray Allen and Boston’s Rajon Rondo, who is still recovering from ACL surgery, and Brooklyn’s Deron Williams round out the top seven.
The West’s frontcourt will likely have a true center starting for a second consecutive year under the new rules as Houston’s Dwight Howard is second in fan voting behind Durant. Howard started last year’s game in Houston as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.
The third starting spot will be an interesting race to watch. Clippers forward Blake Griffin has it with 292,925 votes, 17,149 more than Minnesota’s Kevin Love. San Antonio’s Tim Duncan is fifth and the hometown kid, the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis, is a distant sixth.
Behind Bryant and Paul in the backcourt is Golden State’s Stephen Curry (327,449), who received the most attention last year as a snub, followed by Houston’s Jeremy Lin and James Harden.