Daily Tribune (Philippines)


James, Durant lead All-Star Game


LOS ANGELES (AFP) — LeBron James and Kevin Durant were named captains for next month’s National Basketball Associatio­n (NBA) All-Star Game as the league confirmed plans for the showpiece despite an outcry from stars.

The league announced that the 70th NBA All-Star Game would be played on 7 March in Atlanta along with such skills events as the Dunk Contest and Three-Point Shootout. “NBA All-Star in Atlanta will continue our annual tradition of celebratin­g the game and the greatest players in the world before a global audience,” NBA commission­er Adam Silver said.

The game comes during a mid-season break that had been meant to give all players a rest after a shorter than usual off-season gap after Covid-19 delayed the 2019-20 NBA Finals, where James sparked the Los Angeles Lakers to the title.

“We came off a short off-season of 71 days and then coming into season we were told we were not going to have an All Star Game so we would have a nice little break,” James said earlier this month.

“Then they throw an All-Star Game on us like this. It is pretty much a slap in the face.” Silver told ESPN that he understand­s the complaints. “I certainly hear the other side of this issue,” Silver said. “Ultimately, it feels like the right thing to do to go forward.” Silver told TNT that 130 million people worldwide will watch the game and highlights will attract a billion online views, justifying it as the NBA’s top “fan engagement” event. “It begins and ends with the fans,” Silver said. “We have a huge global audience that follows All-Star. Doing this as a television event still reaches 99.9 percent of our fans.” James was the top overall vote-getter from fans with 5,922,554 to pace the Western Conference while Brooklyn forward Durant led the Eastern Conference with 5,567,106. “I have zero energy and zero excitement about an All-Star Game this year,” James said two weeks ago. “I am not happy about it. If I am selected, I will be there physically but not mentally.” James and Durant will pick fellow starters from among a record five starters born outside the United States — Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokoun­mpo of Greece, Dallas guard Luka Doncic of Slovenia), Philadelph­ia forward Joel Embiid of Cameroon, Denver frontliner Nikola Jokic of Serbia) and

Brooklyn guard Kyrie Irving, an American born in Australia.

Others in the starters pool include Golden State guard Stephen Curry, Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard and Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal, the NBA scoring leader.

Ultimately, it feels like the right thing to do to go forward.

The NBA and the National Basketball Players Associatio­n struck a deal for the contest that will see $2.5 million committed to Covid-19 relief organizati­ons and historical­ly black colleges and universiti­es. While the deal was struck, losing rest didn’t sit well with players. “We all know why we’re playing it,” Leonard said earlier this month. “There’s money on the line. It’s an opportunit­y to make more money.”

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 ??  ?? DAM PANTOZZI/ AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE LEBRON James remains cold over the idea of playing in the NBA All-Star Game.
DAM PANTOZZI/ AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE LEBRON James remains cold over the idea of playing in the NBA All-Star Game.
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