James took his fellow Lakers All-Star with the No. 1 overall pick of the Feb. 16 game’s draft on Thursday, as he matched wits with fellow captain Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks for the second consecutive year.
James is looking to go 3-0 as an All-Star captain, after his team beat the one picked by Golden State’s Stephen Curry in 2018 and topped the one Antetokounmpo selected last year as well. James had the No. 1 overall pick for this year’s first round, the starters’ round — since he received the most overall votes from fans.
And Davis, predictably, was the pick.
“I know you’re all surprised,” James said.
Antetokounmpo made Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, “my African brother,” he said, his first pick. James stayed with the LA theme by taking the Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard with the third overall pick, and Antetokounmpo stayed with African-born players by selecting Toronto’s Pascal Siakam — like Embiid, a native of Cameroon — with the next selection.
James went with a risk next, taking Dallas’ Luka Doncic — who is currently dealing with an ankle injury. Antetokounmpo chose Boston’s Kemba Walker sixth, James then took Houston’s James Harden seventh, and that left Atlanta’s Trae Young as the last remaining starter and automatically going to Team Giannis.
The reserves were next, with Antetokounmpo choosing Milwaukee teammate Khris Middleton with the first selection of the second round. Portland’s Damian Lillard was James’ first reserve selection, and they were off and running.
The rest of Team Giannis’ reserves, in order: Miami’s Bam Adebayo (the third pick of the reserve round), Utah’s Rudy Gobert (fifth), Miami’s Jimmy Butler (seventh), Toronto’s Kyle Lowry (ninth), New Orleans’ Brandon Ingram (11th) and Utah’s Donovan Mitchell (13th).
“Cost me a trip to the finals last year,” Antetokounmpo said when he took Lowry.
Team LeBron was filled out, in order, by: Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons (the fourth pick of the reserve round), Denver’s Nikola Jokic (sixth), Boston’s Jayson Tatum (eighth), Oklahoma City’s Chris Paul (10th), Houston’s Russell Westbrook (12th) and Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis (14th) became the last selection.
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“There’s no wrong choice,” James said. “We’re all All-Stars, they’re all All-Stars for a reason.”
Added Antetokounmpo: “You cannot go wrong. These are the best 24 players in the world.”
NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant and the seven other victims of the helicopter crash in Southern California on Jan. 26 will be memorialized throughout the weekend.
Players on Team LeBron will all wear No. 2, in tribute to Gianna Bryant. Players on Team Giannis will all wear No. 24, in tribute to Kobe Bryant. And all participants in All-Star weekend will wear a patch with nine stars, commemorating the nine victims.
There is a charity component to the game, with $500,000 at stake for Chicago-based programs.
The first three quarters will essentially become mini-games, each worth $100,000 to the winning team. Scores will be reset after the first and second quarters, and then the scores will be added up after the third quarter. From there, the game clock gets turned off for the rest of the night and the first team to add 24 — another nod to Kobe Bryant — to whatever the leading score after three quarters was wins the game and captures another $200,000 for its charity.
“I love the idea,” James said.
James’ team will be playing to benefit Chicago Scholars, which assists children trying to become first-generation college students. Antetokounmpo’s team will play for After School Matters, which funds after-school activities and summer programs.