Will Kobe Bryant Ever Be Able to Be an Elite NBA Star Again?

As great as the 2014 NBA All-Star Game turned out to be, it was still overshadowed, at least in part, by those who weren't fit to participate—chief among them, Kobe Bryant.

A fracture in his left tibial plateau forced Bryant to sit out what would've been his 16th All-Star Game after being voted in as a Western Conference starter by the fans. Instead, Anthony Davis and James Harden—the former taking Bryant's spot on the roster, the latter sliding in as the West's starting shooting guard—combined for a forgettable 18 points in a record-breaking 163-155 loss to the Eastern Conference squad.

Bryant, though, didn't resign himself to being just another face in the crowd at the Smoothie King Center. He was as ubiquitous as any NBA figure was in New Orleans over the weekend. He talked to the attendant media, showed up on stage during Sunday's pregame introductions and even joined Marv Albert, Reggie Miller and Steve Kerr on the mic during the showcase itself.

Chances are, Kobe will be an All-Star so long as he's still suiting up for the Los Angeles Lakers. He's arguably the most widely recognized active player the NBA has to offer, thanks to an all-time great, championship-laden career as the leading man of the league's marquee franchise. If his name is on the ballot, fans will flock to see him through, regardless of his concurrent on-court contributions.

That's not going out on a limb, either. The guy pulled in close to a million votes this year, despite playing in just six games between his recovery from a torn Achilles and his more recent knee troubles.

Whether Bryant will ever deserve to play in another All-Star Game is another story entirely. At his age (35) and with his mileage (more than 54,000 total minutes over 18 seasons) and extensive medical rap sheet, Bryant isn't likely to ever be completely healthy again, much less play like the Black Mamba to which we'd all become...

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