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NEW YORK -- Stephen Curry, Kevin Love, Paul George and Kyrie Irving were voted NBA All-Stars Thursday, putting four first-time starters in the Feb. 16 game in New Orleans.
Kobe Bryant was elected by fans to his 16th All-Star Game, second-most in NBA history, but this one is shaping up as a kids' game.
Curry, perhaps the biggest snub last season, will join him in the Western Conference backcourt. Love passed Dwight Howard in the final days of voting and will start in the frontcourt along with Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant and the Clippers' Blake Griffin.
LeBron James was the leading vote-getter with 1.4 million and Miami teammate Dwyane Wade also was voted in Thursday. George, who has led Indiana to the league's best record, and New York's Carmelo Anthony are the other East forwards, and Irving will start at guard.
Bryant has been limited to playing in only six of the Lakers' 43 games this season because of injuries and will be out until at least early next month. Still one of the league's most popular players with fans, he said he will sit out the game because he feels it's the right thing to do. Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, with 19, was selected to more All-Star Games.
"With all due respect to the fans that voted me in, I certainly appreciate that, they know how much I appreciate that, but you got to do the right thing as well," Bryant said before the Lakers' 109-102 loss to the Heat on Thursday. "My fans know you got to reward these young guys for the work that they've been putting in."
Bryant finished second to Curry among West guards, a remarkable turnaround for the Golden State sharpshooter. He was the highest-scoring player not chosen last year, but moved past the Clippers' Chris Paul in the third returns of balloting, then passed Bryant in the final days to finish with more than a million votes and become the Warriors' first All-Star starter since Latrell Sprewell in 1995.
Curry took to Twitter to express his gratitude.
Wow. Thanks 2 everyone that supported and that voted for me. Amazing feeling and can't wait to represent my teammates down in NO. #dubnation— Stephen Curry (@StephenCurry30) January 24, 2014
Love also made a late move to surge into the top three, finishing about 8,000 votes ahead of Houston center Howard to become Minnesota's first All-Star starter since Kevin Garnett in 2007.
"I was hoping for the best and preparing for the worst, and knowing the worst was I was going to still probably end up in the All-Star Game (as a coach's pick) and represent the West and the Wolves and the Twin Cities," Love said. "Right now, I'm very happy."
|Kevin Love passed Dwight Howard in the final days of voting and will start his first All-Star Game in February.|
The Wolves' public relations staff made a massive push to get out the vote, urging fans to use social media to stuff the box. It's a bit of vindication for small-market Minnesota to be successful in pushing its star into the game when he was competing against the likes of Griffin and Howard in much bigger cities with much bigger fan bases. Love received 661,246 votes.
"It means a lot. It doesn't go unnoticed," Love said. "The fans have been so great this year not only to me, but to the rest of the team. Everybody's had my back and had the team's back so much. It really means a lot."
Indiana hadn't had one since Jermaine O'Neal a year earlier, but now George will get to play for Pacers coach Frank Vogel, who has already clinched the East's coaching spot.
"It means a lot because that means the fans are really watching us as a team," George said. "For us to have the No. 1 record in the league, and playing at a high level, I think the fans are starting to follow us as a whole and I think that's the biggest thing with me being a starter."
The four first-time starters are all 25 or younger. Curry went to All-Star weekend as a kid when his father, Dell, competed in the 3-point contest, and now he'll finally get to play in the game.
"It's kind of just a surreal feeling," Curry said. "I saw Kobe come on the screen and you knew that next person on the screen was going to be me or I was going to get left off that list. Just when I saw my name it was a real emotional kind of experience and glad my wife and daughter were here to watch it with me."
The reserves will be announced next Thursday. Head coaches in each conference will vote for two guards, three frontcourt players and two players regardless of position.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.