LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo will clash for the third time as the NBA All-Star Game team captains for this year’s festivities after teaming up for the last two exhibitions on Team LeBron.
James’ side has won the All-Star game in each of the five seasons since the current “Team Captain” format was instituted in 2018, including two wins against Team Giannis in 2019 and 2020. Beginning this year, the captains will be selecting their teams immediately before the game to be held on February 20 at Salt Lake City, Utah which should only add further intrigue to the contest.
The 38-year-old James will be making his 19th All-Star appearance, tying Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the most in league history, after topping the fan vote in the Western Conference. Meanwhile, Antetokounmpo reclaimed his status as number one in the fan vote over in the East after conceding to Kevin Durant in 2021 and 2022.
The other four West starters are reigning back-to-back NBA Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic, now two-time All-Star Zion Williamson, current NBA Finals Finals Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry, and 23-year-old superstar Luka Doncic.
Jokic topped the player and media vote in the Western Conference frontcourt which accounts for 25% each in the criteria. Williamson, who was fourth in the fan voting, leapfrogged Anthony Davis for the third frontcourt berth in the West largely due to Davis’ poor showing in the player (7th) and media (6th) rankings. However, Williamson’s availability is in doubt as the New Orleans Pelicans’ forward remains sidelined by a hamstring injury that has kept him out since January 4.
The East will feature Durant, MVP candidate Jayson Tatum of the league-leading Boston Celtics, 2014 NBA All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Kyrie Irving, and first-time All Star game starter Donovan Mitchell. While Antetokounmpo won the fan and player vote among East frontcourt players, it was Tatum who claimed first place among media members.
Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers was the most notable exclusion among this year’s starters, though it is difficult to make a case that the three players ahead of him–Antetokounmpo, Durant, and Tatum–are undeserving. Embiid is still poised to make it to the All-Star game this year as a reserve and it will mark the sixth consecutive appearance for the 28-year-old center.
Boston’s Jaylen Brown is most likely to be a lock along with Embiid and the five other reserve slots in the East will be contested by several deserving players including Tyrese Haliburton of the Indiana Pacers, the Atlanta Hawks’ Trae Young, and Bam Adebayo of the Miami Heat.
The Chicago Bulls’ pair of DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic figure to be in the mix as well together with Julius Randle of the New York Knicks, Embiid’s Philadelphia teammate James Harden, and one-time All-Star Pascal Siakam of the Toronto Raptors.
There is a bit more clarity with regards to the reserves over in the West as two-time All-Star Domantas Sabonis of the Sacramento Kings has had a standout campaign in his first full season with the franchise.
The inclusion of 2022 NBA Most Improved Player Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies, Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Lauri Markkanen of the Utah Jazz are all but guaranteed too given the strong seasons that they have had so far.
The remaining three All-Star nods will be contested by Davis, Sacramento guard De’Aaron Fox, six-time All-Star Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ rising star Anthony Edwards, and C.J. McCollum of the Pelicans.
With all of the injuries around the league this year, it would not come as a surprise if all of these players wind up making the team as the snubs sneak into the roster as injury replacements.