Bryant tops early All-Star balloting


NEW YORK — Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, retiring after this season to end a 20-year career, is the runaway vote leader for the 65th NBA All-Star Game, the league announced Friday. Bryant, a 17-time All-Star, has received 719,235 votes with reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors next at 510,202 and LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers topping the Eastern Conference with 357,937 votes. Global fan voting determines the starters for the annual contest of NBA elite stars, which this season is set for Feb. 14 in Toronto. Bryant is the leading scorer in NBA All-Star Game history with 280 points and he ranks second in All-Star appearances behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 19. NBA scoring leader Curry averages 31.2 points a game for the defending NBA champion Warriors, who have the league’s top record at 27-1.

Joining him in the Western Conference backcourt based on current voting is 2015 NBA All-Star Game MVP Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder with 267,699 with Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers a distant third with 146,335. In voting for three spots in the West front-court starting lineup, Bryant sets the pace followed by Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant on 349,473 and the Clippers’ Blake Griffin on 182,107 with Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs in fourth on 164,521. Leading for spots in the East’s front court are James, the Indiana Pacers’ Paul George on 283,785 and Andre Drummond of the Detroit Pistons on 148,278 lead the East front-court with New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony just outside a starting spot on 132,119. The Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade has 300,595 votes to lead East guards followed by Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving, who has 138,191 despite just coming back from an injury suffered in last season’s NBA Finals. Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors was third on 128,131. Voting concludes on Jan. 18 and the starting lineups will be announced Jan. 21.