LeBron James will debut in the All-Star Game for the 17th consecutive time when this season’s contest takes place on March 7 in Atlanta, stretching his own record.
The Los Angeles Lakers forward has also been named captain for the contest alongside Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets, who will make his 11th career appearance. James and Durant will select their rosters on March 4.
The beginner voting formula consisted of a fan vote counting 50%, with player and media votes each counting 25%.
Denver Nuggets frontline Nikola Jokic and Los Angeles Clippers Kawhi Leonard join James as Western Conference starters. The backyard starters are Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors and Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks.
NBA leader Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards and Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets are the starting guards for the Eastern Conference. Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks and Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers join Durant in the frontcourt.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was the fact that Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard was bypassed as the starting guard. Lillard, who sits third in the NBA with an average of 29.8, tied with Doncic for a starting spot in the West.
The fan vote was used as a tiebreaker. Doncic placed second in the fan vote in the Western Conference backcourt and Lillard was third.
There has been criticism of the NBA holding an All-Star Game during the coronavirus pandemic, but Commissioner Adam Silver defended the organization of the competition in an appearance on TNT.
“All-Star is the # 1 fan engagement event of the entire season for the league,” said Silver. “It’s a 70-year tradition and some 100 million people will vote for All-Stars … For us All-Stars is part of the league, no different from the games we’ve played. It starts and ends with the fans. It’s an event our fans love to see. Nothing comes without controversy during a pandemic. “
James only trails Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (19 times) and Kobe Bryant (18) in the number of All-Star selections. He is averaging 25.7 points, 8.2 rebounds and 7.9 assists per game this season.
Jokic (third appearance) averages 27.4 points, 11.1 rebounds and 8.6 assists while Leonard (fifth) scores 26.7 points per game. Curry (seventh) ranks second in the NBA with an average of 30.0 and Doncic (second) is averaging 29.1 points, 9.4 assists and 8.6 rebounds.
NBA All-Star Draft:
Two team captains will choose from the group of players voted as starters and reservists and will make their choice regardless of conference affiliation. The Captains will be the starter of each conference that receives the most fan votes per conference.
– NBA (@NBA) February 18, 2021
Durant is back in the competition after missing all of last season with an injury to Achilles. He’s averaging 29.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists. Irving (seventh) averages 28.3 points per game. Beal is making his third appearance but is a first-time starter. He averages 32.8 points per game.
“It is truly an honor to have been selected to start the All-Star Game for the first time in my career,” Beal said in a statement. “I want to thank the fans, the media and the players for choosing me to represent the Wizards organization at the All-Star festivities in Atlanta. I also want to thank my teammates, coaches, the entire organization and our fans who still support us through this unprecedented season. “
Antetokounmpo (fifth) is the reigning regular-season MVP twice. He is averaging 28.2 points, 11.4 rebounds and 5.8 assists. Embiid (fourth) is fourth in the NBA in scoring (29.7) while also recording an average of 10.8 rebounds.
All-Star Game reservations will be announced on Tuesday. Seven players from each conference will be chosen by NBA head coaches.