The NBA All Star Weekend is usually a happy, friendly occasion where the focus is on having a good time and entertaining the fans rather than stirring up rivalries or anything that generates a negative vibe. But a new storyline is in the pipeline these days that could make the upcoming event a potentially nasty affair.
The Los Angeles Lakers' talisman Kobe Bryant has been chosen by the fans to start for the Western Conference in the February 16 showdown in New Orleans. This happened despite the 36-year-old repeatedly saying that he wanted some of the game's up and coming stars like Damian Lillard to be given a chance.
"With all due respect to the fans who voted me in, and I certainly appreciate that ... but you've got to do the right thing as well. My feeling is you've got to reward these young guys for the work that they've been putting in," Bryant told the media after his selection.
Not only does the 36-year-old veteran feels he hasn't done anything in his handful of appearances this season to warrant a starting role, but more importantly, he is currently nursing a knee injury that is not expected to heal until early February.
Chances are that he'd be able to play in a few games for the Lakers before the festivities kick off in New Orleans. In such a case, the NBA would expect him to honor the fans' wishes and lead the West against their Eastern Conference counterparts. If he doesn't comply, the league is likely hand him a standard, two-game suspension.
The Lakers, currently sitting five places below the final playoffs spot, have suffered immensely due to Bryant's injuries this season and can't afford to lose him anymore. But at the same time, they would want the man nicknamed Black Mamba not to burden his troublesome knees with another extra game that also means nothing to anyone.
He is a 16-time All Star already and has no desire to add to those numbers; at least not this season. The NBA needs to wisen up and find an amicable solution to this very solvable problem before Mamba gets angry and stings someone.
In the meantime, take a look at the East and the West starting line-ups: