Kevin Durant and LeBron James are the top All-Star vote-getters. (Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)
The NBA released the first returns in fan voting for the 2014 NBA All-Star Game on Thursday, with LeBron James of the Miami Heat and Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder leading the pack as the top vote-getters to represent their respective conferences in New Orleans.
James, the four-time NBA Most Valuable Player and two-time NBA Finals MVP, leads all vote-getters with 609,336 votes. Durant, the three-time NBA scoring champion (and if you go by overall points scored rather than points per game, he's been the game's top scorer four years straight) and its current leading scorer, is second with 607,407 votes.
James is joined in the race to start for the East by this season's fastest-rising star, and a player whose team beat James' Heat earlier this week: Paul George of the Indiana Pacers, who has received 489,335 votes. The New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony (424,211 votes) rounds out the top three in the Eastern frontcourt — remember, as was the case last year, All-Star squads will start three "frontcourt" players, not two "forwards" and one "center" — while Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade (396,279) and Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving (365,712) lead Eastern vote-getters in the backcourt.
Out West, the voters' starting five looks exactly the same as last year's. Durant is flanked up front by Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (295,120 votes) and Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin (292,925), while fellow Clipper and 2013 All-Star Game MVP Chris Paul (393,313) appears set to run point.
And who's poised to be off the ball alongside CP3, you ask? That'd be Kobe Bryant, who has more votes than any guard in the league (501,215) despite playing all of two games for the Los Angeles Lakers since coming back from his ruptured left Achilles tendon. Should voting patterns hold, this would mark Bryant's 16th All-Star selection, moving him past ex-teammate Shaquille O'Neal for the second-most appearances all time, trailing only fellow Laker legend Kareem Abdul Jabbar (19). The lesson, as always: In popularity contests, it's good to be popular.
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