"Kobe's a legend, we all know that," Cousins said before the Kings' game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday. "Filling his shoes in the All-Star Game, it speaks a lot. So, I'm honored."
Cousins, who said he did not watch the TNT telecast Thursday night announcing the All-Star reserves, said he had resigned to the fact that he wasn't going to make the team, going as far as texting Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard and suggesting he should be Bryant's injury replacement. He was told he made the team Friday afternoon in a phone call from Kings general manager Pete D'Alessandro.
"Honestly, I really didn't expect myself to make it," Cousins said. "I mean, the West was so tough this year and there are so many talented guys in the West. But the crazy thing is, me and Dame were texting after the results came out and I was telling him, 'Man, you know you're going to make this team, like, it's nothing.' It's just kind of crazy how things worked out."
It is the first All-Star appearance for Cousins, who ranks fifth in the NBA in scoring (23.8 points per game) and third in rebounding (12.3 rebounds per game).
As the league noted in a release, over the last 20 years, only five players -- David Robinson, Shaquille O'Neal, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and Kevin Love -- have averaged at least 23 points and 12 rebounds in a season.
Cousins is the Kings' first All-Star since 2004 and he replaces Bryant, who was voted in as a Western Conference All-Star starter for a record 17th consecutive year. The 36-year old Bryant suffered a season-ending shoulder injury last week in a loss to New Orleans, his third consecutive season-ending injury.
Cousins and Lillard were considered perhaps the two players most deserving of a spot on the Western Conference roster, but while Cousins got his invite Friday, Lillard is still on the outside looking in.
Lillard took to Instagram and in a since-removed post thanked those who didn't vote him on the roster for giving him further inspiration in the future.
"I just want to thank the coaches who feel I wasn't good enough, the fans that didn't think I was good enough, and Adam Silver also for not thinking I was good enough," Lillard said in the post that accompanied an image that read "Be So Good They Can't Ignore You." "This isn't unfamiliar territory for me , it's actually what my life has been inspired by. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed or that I don't feel disrespected but it's not too much to handle. Not the first or last guy to be snubbed. "You should have been there" isn't good enough for me. But anyway, The reason I'm in these shoes is because I've always use the hand I was dealt to my advantage... A wise man once told me... " it ain't always gone be peaches and cream but somebody has to pay for the reason it's not ... One way or another " ... #ImThankful #Real #NonAllStar #RipCity #YellowTape"
Cousins said that despite his disappointment for Lillard's exclusion, it couldn't temper his enthusiasm for his own All-Star inclusion.
"This whole process has been crazy ... It's a happy day for me," Cousins said.
"The first person I called was my mother. She was screaming on the phone. You know how mothers do."
While Cousins replaces Bryant on the roster, it remains up to Western Conference coach Steve Kerr to determine who will replace Bryant in the starting lineup.
The 64th NBA All-Star Game is Sunday, Feb. 15, at Madison Square Garden.
Information from ESPN.com's Dave McMenamin was used in this report.