James, Antetokounmpo pick their NBA All-Star teams

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – LeBron James knows just how valuable Anthony Davis is, so he made his Los Angeles Lakers teammate his first selection in the NBA All-Star Game draft yesterday.

For the second straight year, James and reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo, as captains of the two All-Star teams, picked their rosters from players selected for the contest by fan votes and NBA coaches.

James will be seeking a third victory as an All-Star captain in the mid-season showcase in Chicago on February 16.

As the top vote-getter in fan balloting, James had the first pick and he didn’t hesitate to take Davis.

“I know you’re all surprised,” James said as the draft unfolded on TV.

Antetokounmpo tapped Philadelphia’s Cameroonian big man Joel Embiid, “my African brother”, as his first pick.

James next opted for Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard, while Antetokounmpo, a Greek citizen of Nigerian descent, went for Toronto’s Pascal Siakam, also of Cameroon.

James gambled with his next selection, taking Luka Doncic of Dallas even though the Slovenian star is currently nursing a right ankle sprain. James rounded out his starters with Houston’s James Harden, the league’s leading scorer, while Antetokounmpo took Boston’s Kemba Walker and Atlanta’s Trae Young.

When they got to the reserves, Antetokounmpo opened with Milwaukee Bucks teammate Khris Middleton and James selected Portland’s Damian Lillard.

Also on team Giannis: Miami’s Bam Adebayo, Utah defensive standout Rudy Gobert and Jazz teammate Donovan Mitchell, Miami’s Jimmy Butler, Toronto’s Kyle Lowry and Brandon Ingram of New Orleans.

James added Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons, Denver’s Nikola Jokic, Boston’s Jayson Tatum, Oklahoma City veteran Chris Paul, Houston’s Russell Westbrook and Domantas Sabonis of Indiana.

“There’s no wrong choice,” James said. “They’re all All-Stars for a reason.”

The NBA announced that All-Star weekend would feature several tributes to NBA icon Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others who died in a helicopter crash on January 26.

Team LeBron players will all wear number 2 on their jerseys, the number Gianna Bryant wore on her school basketball team.

Team Giannis players will wear number 24 in tribute to Kobe Bryant.