The 71st National Basketball Association All-Star game is set to tip off on Sunday, Feb. 20 at 6:00 p.m. ET. This annual event, dating back to 1951, is where the most elite basketball players from the Western and Eastern Conferences come together in legendary fashion. For those unfamiliar, this game is similar to the Pro Bowl in the National Football League or the All-Star Game in the National Hockey League.
The team captains for this game were announced in early February: Lebron James and Kevin Durant. These two were favorites coming into it, as they received the most fan votes in their respective conferences. Previously, James has been the captain five times since the integration of captains was introduced in 2018. For the Eastern Conference, however, this is Durant’s second time leading the Eastern Conference as captain.
On Feb. 10, the captains chose their preferred teammates based on the 22 players in the draft pool. These 22 players are divided into starters and reserves (those starting out on the bench). The 10 starters are chosen based on a weight of 50% fan votes, 25% current players and 25% of the votes from the media. 14 reserve spots are chosen by the 30 NBA coaches: two guards, three frontcourt players and two players in any position.
This system was implemented by the current NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, in 2018 to make the game more competitive and entertaining for the fans. While this ruling system is relatively new, it has received some criticism from fans; some believe the 50% weight for fan voters is too high.
Last but often overlooked are the coaches, who are chosen based on the standings two weeks before the All-Star Game. The coaching staff for the East and West leading teams are matched with their respective captain.
This year, Miami Heat’s Erik Spoelstra will guide Team Durant, while the Phoenix Suns’ Monty Williams is matched with James. James chose Giannis Antetokounmpo, Stephen Curry, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Jokic as his starters, while Durant chose Joel Embiid, Ja Morant, Jayson Tatum, Trae Young and Andrew Wiggins. Both teams are stacked and like many years, the game could go either way.
One important thing to note — Durant chose five starters because of a sprained MCL injury he suffered on Jan. 16. Considering Durant was playing one of his best seasons in his career, it’s a shame we won’t be able to witness him on the court. With this in mind, James’ team may have the upper hand against Durant’s young team.
However, the All-Star game isn’t just about experience, but also about chemistry and hitting big-time shots. James has won a whopping 18 times in his All-Star game career. Despite this, who knows – this year could be the one where James’ 4-game All-Star winning streak comes to a close.