NEW YORK — Kobe Bryant is the leading vote-getter for his final NBA All-Star Game, and Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry made late moves to join him in the starting lineup.
Leonard will start in his first All-Star Game and Lowry will 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 Steph Curry of the Warriors was next with 1.6 million and they will be joined in the Western Conference lineup by Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and Leonard, the San Antonio star who was more than 12,000 votes behind the Warriors’ Draymond Green for the last frontcourt spot after the most recent returns.
Cleveland’s LeBron James and Indiana’s Paul George will start in the East frontcourt with New York’s Carmelo Anthony, who held off Chicago’s Pau Gasol by 360 votes.
Wade starts at guard with Lowry, who overcame a 32,000-vote deficit to Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving after the last update.
The reserves will be voted by the head coaches in each conference and be announced next Thursday.
Bryant, who is retiring after the 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 in the game – 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 U.S.
Curry’s father, Del, finished his career in Toronto, and the league’s leading scorer will make his third straight All-Star start there.
“It’s going to be a fun experience for both sides of my family,” Steph Curry said in a video posted by the Warriors. “I lived there for three years, my wife is from there, she has a lot of family that still is up there that’s going to be able to celebrate with us. So I’m going to enjoy it and look forward to it.”
James led East players with 1.1 million votes and is an All-Star for the 12th time in 13 seasons.