Rematch! James, Antetokounmpo are All-Star captains again

MIAMI (AP) — It’ll be an All-Star rematch: Team LeBron vs Team Giannis.

LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers and Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks will be the captains for the NBA All-Star Game, just as they were last season. They earned the captaincies by being the top overall votegetters from the Western and Eastern Conferences, respectively.

The other starters for the February 16 game in Chicago: Anthony Davis of the Los Angeles Lakers, Kawhi Leonard of the Los Angeles Clippers, Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks, James Harden of the Houston Rockets, Pascal Siakam of the Toronto Raptors, Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers, Kemba Walker of the Boston Celtics and Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks.

“For me, it’s always a blessing just being part of All-Star weekend,” James told TNT yesterday.

James, as the leading overall vote-getter, will have the top pick when he and Antetokounmpo pick their teams; Antetokounmpo will pick first in the second round, when the reserves are chosen.

James is a starter for the 16th time, an NBA record. Being a 16-time All-Star also puts him third on the all-time appearance list, behind 19-time selection Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and 18-time selection Kobe Bryant.

James received 6,275,459 fan votes, edging Doncic for the West captain’s spot by 163,724 votes. James has been a captain all three years of this format being in place by the NBA; Team LeBron beat Team Giannis last year, and Team LeBron beat Team Stephen Curry in 2018.

Antetokounmpo received 5,902,286 votes, easily the most in the race to be the captain from the East. Embiid got the second-most votes in the East, at 3.1 million and barely half of Antetokounmpo’s total.

Fan voting, the NBA said, was up seven per cent from last year.

Siakam, Young and Doncic are all first-time All-Stars. Siakam — the NBA’s most improved player last season and a key part of Toronto’s run to the NBA title — said the news made him think of his father, who died in 2014.

“I think it would be kind of nice to be able to look him in the face and just tell him, like, ‘You did it. And we did it. And whatever you put your mind into and whatever you’ve worked so hard for is here and we do it at the highest level,’” Siakam told The Toronto Star.

Having the 21-year-old Young and the 20-year-old Doncic starting gives the NBA two starters those ages or younger for only the second time. The other was in 1998, when a 19-year-old Bryant and a 21-year-old Kevin Garnett got starter nods.

“It’s an indescribable feeling,” Young said in a statement released by the Hawks. “After watching and admiring all these guys in the league growing up, I am truly humbled to be in this position.”

The reserves will be announced on January 31, with NBA head coaches doing the voting for those. James and Antetokounmpo will pick their teams on February 6, first splitting up the eight remaining starters and then choosing from the pool of 14 reserves.

James’ coach will be his All-Star coach, too: Lakers coach Frank Vogel is headed to Chicago, after his team clinched the best record in the Western Conference by the February 2 cutoff with a win in Brooklyn yesterday. The Lakers are 36-9, second-best in the NBA behind only Milwaukee.

Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer is ineligible to coach the All-Star Game because he did the job last year.