You can think what you'd like about his off-the-court history, but Bryant is the best player on the two-time defending champions. He's second in league-wide PER on a team that has won 19 of 26 games to start the season, and this February's All-Star game will take place in Kobe's adopted hometown of Los Angeles. Sure, the whole game could take place in Clipper colors, but Kobe pretended to want to sign with them in 2004, so this feels all the more appropriate.
Beyond that, via the press release I just quoted from RealGM, here's the rest of the early returns:
In the Western Conference, Bryant, a three-time All-Star MVP, who garnered the honor in 2002, 2007 and 2009, is followed at guard by the New Orleans Hornets' Chris Paul(notes) (386,649). Kevin Durant(notes), a member of last year's All-NBA First Team, paces forwards in the West (470,881), with the Lakers' Pau Gasol(notes) (390,808) second. The Houston Rockets' Yao Ming(notes) (430,984) is the leading vote-getter among Western Conference centers, with the Lakers' Andrew Bynum(notes) (198,044) following.
[Dwight] Howard, the leading vote-getter in the Eastern Conference with 611,561 votes paces centers in the East, followed by the Boston Celtics' Shaquille O'Neal(notes) (241,782). [LeBron] James, a two-time All-Star MVP (2006, 2008), leads all Eastern Conference forwards with 607,994 votes, followed by the Celtics' Kevin Garnett(notes) (456,111), MVP of the 2003 All-Star Game. The Heat's Dwyane Wade(notes), last year's All-Star Game MVP, paces guards in the East with 570,489 votes; the Celtics' Rajon Rondo(notes) is second (497,141).
Yao Ming's appearance on the list could make a little wistful, but it is worth pointing out that a dogged return from a stress fracture in an ankle in December could result in one last All-Star appearance in February. And while my Chicago fandom pines for Derrick Rose(notes) to make the East's starting five, it should be noted that Rajon Rondo is a fine choice in just about any era, even if he does miss the next month due to an ankle sprain.