Reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James again were named captains for the NBA All-Star Game, the league announced Thursday night.
Antetokounmpo and James earned the honors after leading their respective conferences in fan votes and will be two of the 10 starters for this year’s game, which will be held Feb. 16 in Chicago. They will next draft the rosters for the All-Star Game from the pool of players voted as starters and reserves in each conference.
The East starter pool also includes Kemba Walker, Trae Young, Pascal Siakam and Joel Embiid, while the West starter pool includes James Harden, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard and Luka Doncic. The reserves will be announced next Thursday.
James, who led all players in voting, was named to his 16th All-Star team, breaking a tie with Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett for the third-most selections in NBA history. He now trails only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (19) and Kobe Bryant (18). Assuming he plays in next month’s game, James will trail only Abdul-Jabbar (18) in All-Star Game appearances; Bryant missed three All-Star Games due to injury.
After a close race throughout, James wound up staying ahead of Doncic in the final round of fan voting to claim the West captaincy. James finished with 6,275,459 fan votes, while Doncic had 6,111,735.
Doncic, who will be 20 years, 353 days on Feb. 16, will be the sixth-youngest player to start in an All-Star Game. Bryant was the youngest, at 19 years, 169 days.
There was little drama in the West, with the five selections all far outpacing the rest of the field in the fan vote (50% of the final tally) as well as the player and media votes (25% each). In all three, James finished ahead of Davis and Leonard among forwards, while Doncic and Harden were first and second, respectively, among guards.
The East selections, however, were a different story. Antetokounmpo and Embiid took two of the starting spots in the frontcourt, as expected, and Walker was the clear choice for the first starting spot in the East’s backcourt in his first season in Boston.
The two most hotly debated spots on the ballot were the final frontcourt spot in the East — which was a two-man race between Siakam and Jimmy Butler — and the other starting guard spot next to Walker, with a fleet of candidates — from Young to Kyrie Irving to Ben Simmons to Kyle Lowry to Bradley Beal — each having his own argument.
In the end, though, it was Siakam who wound up edging out Butler, while Young won the fight to start in the backcourt.
Siakam won out thanks to finishing second in the fan vote, ahead of both Embiid and Butler. In the backcourt fight, Young benefited from winning the fan vote and finishing second in the media balloting.
Thursday was just the first of three consecutive weeks of All-Star announcements. Next Thursday, the league will announce the seven reserve selections from each conference, which are made by the league’s head coaches (who are not allowed to vote for their own players). Then, on Feb. 6, James and Antetokounmpo will draft their rosters for the game from the pool of 22 players, regardless of conference affiliation.
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