Chinese fan favourite Klay Thompson has racked up 100,000 votes ahead of the NBA All-Star game to put him 10th on the list of guards in the West despite not having played since 2019.
The NBA released the first round of fan votes on Friday, with Thompson’s Golden State Warriors teammate Steph Curry leading the West guards vote on 2.1 million votes.
Curry is behind only West frontcourt vote leader LeBron James and his Eastern conference counterpart Kevin Durant in overall votes. James, who has been highly critcal of the All-Star Game going ahead this season, had just under 2.3 million votes with overall leader Durant surpassing that mark.
Thompson, who has the fewest votes on the 40-man list, is a surprise inclusion having not been on court since June 2019.
The 30-year-old, who has been a regular visitor to China on tours promoting his Chinese shoe sponsor Anta, sat out all of last season injured and is still sidelined.
Thompson tore the ACL in his left knee in the 2019 NBA Finals, which the Warriors would go on to lose to the Toronto Raptors. Thompson was injured in game six but still sank two free throws after suffering the torn ACL.
That injury forced him to miss the 2019-20 season and then he suffered a tear to his right Achilles tendon last November and is expected to miss all of this season.
“China Klay” as Thompson has become known for his fun-loving antics on his tours is incredibly popular with Chinese basketball fans. He was ranked as the country’s third most popular player in 2020 on the annual NBA Red Card Report published by sports marketing agency Mailman.
The NBA All-Star fan vote accounts for 50 per cent of the decision for who will start on March 7 in Atlanta with the players and media making up the vote.
Vote leader James is not happy about the decision to go ahead with the All-Star Game this year, calling it a “slap in the face”.
“I have zero energy and zero excitement about an All-Star game this year,” the 16-time All-Star said after his Los Angeles Lakers beat the Denver Nuggets on Thursday.
“I don’t even understand why we’re having an All-Star game, but it’s the agreement that the Players’ Association and the league came about.
“[There was] a short off season for myself and my teammates – 71 days – and then coming into the season, we were told we were not having an All-Star game so we had a nice little break.
“Five days from the 5th to 10th, an opportunity for me to kind of recalibrate for the second half of the season, my teammates as well, some of the other guys in the league.
“Then they throw an All-Star game on us like this and it breaks that all the way up. It’s pretty much kind of a slap in the face and we’re also still dealing with a pandemic, still dealing with everything going on, and we’re going to bring the whole league into one city that’s open.
“Obviously, the pandemic has absolutely nothing to do with it at this point when it comes to that weekend. Obviously, as you guys can see, I’m not very happy about it, but it’s out of my hands.
“I’ll be there if I’m selected, but I’ll be there physically, not mentally.”