Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James and two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo will star for Team LeBron in the 2021 All-Star Game this Sunday.
James owned the first pick in the All-Star Draft after amassing the most All-Star votes this year and headed into the Thursday night’s event with Antetokounmpo on top of his wish-list. The Milwaukee Bucks star will partner the four-time NBA champion a year after leading the opposing team and losing 157-155 in the 2020 All-Star Game.
Rival captain Kevin Durant responded by drafting his Brooklyn Nets teammate Kyrie Irving with the second pick.
James entertained the TNT crew with jokes and crafty nicknames for his picks throughout the night. He then flung a jibe at the L.A. Clippers and likely enraged the entire Utah Jazz franchise, who ended the first part of the 2020-21 season with the best record in the NBA, with a hilarious video games comment.
But before, James completed his starting five by picking Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic and lastly Nikola Jokic, which he introduced as “the card you cannot use in blu-ray or Guts.” Durant countered by drafting Joel Embiid and Kawhi Leonard while Bradley Beal and Jayson Tatum automatically rounded off his starting five being the last two players left on the board.
Tatum replaced Durant among the All-Star starters as the Nets star forward will miss the All-Star Game with a hamstring injury.
Before moving onto reserve players in the second round, TNT studio host Earnie Johnson asked Durant whether he was always picked first by his childhood friends when they were deciding sides in the schoolyard, to which he likened the All-Star Draft.
And the two-time NBA champion surprisingly said he was “either the first or second pick,” revealing he sometimes had to give way to guys “like 12 years older” than him. “Whoever was the first guy taken before KD back then, KD needs to bring him to his Hall-of-Fame speech,” James quipped.
Durant started the second round of the All-Star Draft by selecting the other part of Brooklyn’s Big Three, James Harden, calling it a “pretty obvious pick.” Pointing at his watch, James then announced “it’s Dame Time,” signaling Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard was his next choice.
Next, Durant turned to Devin Booker, who replaced the injured Lakers star Anthony Davis among the All-Star reserves. The envy James grimaced in reaction to his move. “That’s a good one right there,” he said. James answered by drafting Ben Simmons from the Philadelphia 76ers or, as he introduced him, “Mr. Play Hard Every Possession.”
The 36-year-old missed out on first-time All-Star Zion Williamson, who joined Team Durant shortly after. Among other highlight moments, James prefaced selecting Clippers forward Paul George saying: “This is the only time I’ll root for this guy, or this team, because we are enemies.”
Cracking up, the Lakers forward then added he was “only making fun” of the rivalry.
And when two Utah Jazz players, Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, were picked last, Charles Barkley yelled that the team with the best record in the NBA was being “slandered” by the two captains. James tried to justify the draft order, but his explanation served as an unlikely consolation for the Jazz stars and their fans.
“You guys got to understand… just like in video games growing up, we never played with Utah,” he said.
The 2021 All-Star Game will tip-off at 5 p.m. PT on Sunday. In the lead-up, various NBA stars will compete in the skills challenge and 3-point shooting contest. The slam dunk contest will take place at halftime of the All-Star Game.
LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers)
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)
Steph Curry (Golden State Warriors)
Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks)
Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets)
Reserves: Damian Lillard, Ben Simmons, Chris Paul, Jaylen Brown, Paul George, Domantas Sabonis, Rudy Gobert.
Kyrie Irving (Brooklyn Nets)
Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers)
Kawhi Leonard (L.A. Clippers)
Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards)
Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics)
Reserves: James Harden, Devin Booker, Zion Williamson, Zach LaVine, Julius Randle, Nikola Vucevic, Donovan Mitchell.
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