The last two years, LeBron James couldn’t have Giannis Antetokounmpo on his All-Star team, because the two were captains of their respective squads.
But this year, with Kevin Durant getting the other captaincy against James, he made sure to play alongside the two-time reigning NBA MVP by taking him to the first overall pick in Thursday night’s All-Star draft.
“I’m just trying to pick players who can complement each other,” James said before bringing Antetokounmpo into the draft on Wednesday, when asked why he won the first three times he was captain. “We’re on the court, just try to play the game the right way. It’s an All-Star Game so there will be some mischief, but for most of the game we just play the right way and try to get a win.”
The top vote-winners from the Eastern and Western Conferences were then traded in the selection of the remaining seven starters for next month’s All-Star Game, as voted on by a combination of fans, players and members of the media.
The last two players on the board ended up being the league-leading Utah Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. Mitchell was eventually selected by Durant, while James took Gobert.
The Jazz are atop the NBA with a 27-9 record, and their last two All-Stars caused some controversy across the TNT team. James tried to defend himself and Durant for how things turned upside down.
“I just want to say something, because there is no slander for the Utah Jazz,” James said with a smile. “But you guys came to understand, just like in video games growing up, we never played Utah. As good as Karl Malone and John Stockton were, we would never have cast those guys. Never.”
Charles Barkley then gave James a hard time for his writing acumen, saying, “LeBron says he needs some size, and he’s 7-5 Gobert, and he takes 6-2 [Domantas] Sabonis “, causing much laughter from everyone involved.
This is the first time that one of the captains will not participate in the game, as Durant will be out until after the All-Star Break due to a hamstring strain that took him out of the game since early February. So, with Celtics forward Jayson Tatum replacing Durant in the starting lineup, meaning there were nine players to choose from, Durant finished with the last two picks of the starting group and then got the first round pick of reservation.
Finally, James went with Antetokounmpo, Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic and Nikola Jokic to start alongside him in Atlanta on Sunday night, while Durant’s starting group will be his Brooklyn Nets teammate Kyrie Irving, Joel Embiid, Kawhi Leonard and natives of St. Louis. and close friends: Bradley Beal and Jayson Tatum.
In the reserve round, Durant’s first pick was his other teammate, James Harden, followed by Devin Booker, Zion Williamson, Zach LaVine, Julius Randle, Nikola Vucevic and Mitchell. James, meanwhile, took Damian Lillard, Ben Simmons, Chris Paul, Jaylen Brown, Paul George, Sabonis and Gobert.
There were also back-and-forth picks where both men were frustrated with being off the board, with Durant needing a hiatus for a moment after wanting to take Simmons, and James saying he hoped to have Williamson in the draft.
Before the two chose teams, they showed a clip of Durant and James talking to each other just before Durant’s debut at the 2010 All-Star Game in Dallas.
“I was nervous about talking to Bron in that little sequence,” Durant said with a laugh.
Both also announced their options for the charities that both teams will play on Sunday, with the LeBron team playing for the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and the Durant team playing for the United Negro College Fund.
“So that we can shine a light on that program, shine a light on those children, it means a lot to me and my foundation and the things we do in my hometown,” said James explaining his choice.
“It is an honor to represent so many people and to use this platform to help advance the education of our youth in the world at large,” said Durant. “So we are looking forward to it.”
While Durant will not play in the All-Star Game, James, despite falling out of Wednesday’s loss to the Sacramento Kings, the first game he missed this season, will be on the court and playing.
“I’m fine,” James said, when asked how he was feeling. “It’s obviously a long season, and I want to make sure my body and mind are as fresh as possible heading into the second half of the season. So it’s been a good first half and hopefully it can be a second half. better”. so I’m looking forward to the final leg. “