According to the latest ESPN Sports Poll, for the first time in four years, the Miami Heat’s star player LeBron James is the most popular player in the NBA over Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Nearly 13 percent (12.9) of NBA fans said James was their favorite player this season, allowing him to best Kobe Bryant (12.5) for the first time since the 2008-09 season. That was the only other season when James passed the Los Angeles Lakers star, the top pick by fans for five of six years from 2006-07 to 2011-12.

After “The Decision,” James’ approval rating slipped drastically. For his final season in Cleveland, 15.6 percent of fans called him their favorite, according to the ESPN Sports Poll taken after the 2009-10 season. But for his first two years with the Heat, James was called fans’ favorite player by 10.2 and 9.4 percent, respectively.

James reportedly benefited from rises in votes from both the African American and younger demographics. Over 20 percent of African Americans voted James as their favorite player of the 2012-13 NBA season, compared to only 16 percent who voted for Kobe Bryant, and 18 percent of kids aged 12 – 17 said they preferred him, while only 15 percent preferred Bryant.

After James and Bryant, there was a significant drop off in voting, with Kevin Durant coming in third place with 3.6 of the votes, and after that was Derrick Rose (2.8 percent) and Dwyane Wade (2.6), rounding out the top five.


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