LeBron and Giannis named NBA All-Star captains, Kyrie and Zion among starters
LeBron James is set to tie the record for the most All-Star Game appearances in NBA history after being announced as one of the two team captains on Thursday.
James, who will match Kareem Abdul-Jabbar when he suits up for his 19th All-Star Game in Salt Lake City next month, will be joined by Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo as the captains.
In a league-first, the captains will draft their reserves live in the lead-up to tip-off, as opposed to previous years when the draft was conducted via a pre-recorded segment and aired weeks before the game.
While most of the expected names were announced as starters – including reigning back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic and Golden State Warriors icon Stephen Curry – there were also some surprises.
The two head-scratchers were New Orleans Pelicans franchise player Zion Williamson and controversial Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving.
Williamson is averaging the highest points per game figure (26.0) for any player shooting at least 60 per cent from the field this season, but has only played in 29 of the Pelicans' 49 games so far. He is also scheduled to miss at least two more weeks, meaning he will have only played in roughly half of the possible games by the time All-Star Weekend arrives.
Meanwhile, Irving has a stronger case as he averages 26.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.2 assists, but his addition as a starter in the East means relegating reigning scoring champion and back-to-back MVP runner-up Joel Embiid to the bench.
After James' 19th appearance, the next-most among the starters belongs to Kevin Durant, who has missed some time with injury in his own right but was playing at an MVP level prior to earn his 13th All-Star nod. Curry will play in his ninth edition, while Irving now has eight and Antetokounmpo has made seven consecutive.
The full list of starters includes:
LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets
Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets