Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James and Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo will serve as team captains of the NBA All-Star Game on Feb. 17 in Charlotte, North Carolina, after receiving the most votes in their respective conferences.
James led all players in voting, and Antetokounmpo led the Eastern Conference vote. The captains will be tasked with drafting the All-Star Game rosters from the pool of players voted as starters and reserves in each conference.
In the Western Conference, James is joined in the starter pool by Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George, Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant, Warriors guard Stephen Curry and Houston Rockets guard James Harden.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr says he doesn’t think his team will land four players in the All-Star Game after doing so the past two years. “I don’t think it’s been that kind of a season,” he said. “It’s been rocky, at least until the last few weeks.”
George won a tiebreaker over New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis for the final frontcourt starting spot.
In the Eastern Conference, Antetokounmpo will be joined by Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard, Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid, Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker and Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving.
The Bucks, off to an NBA-best 34-12 start, were predictably thrilled that Antetokounmpo earned one of the captaincies.
“It speaks to how incredible of a player he is, how much excitement he creates for fans, and people want to follow him and watch him and I guess vote for him in this case,” said Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer, who currently is the front-runner to coach one of the two All-Star teams. “It’s just well-deserved.”
This will be James’ 15th All-Star Game start, tying Kobe Bryant for the most in NBA history. James also is tied with Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Shaquille O’Neal for third all time with 15 overall All-Star Game appearances; only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (19) and Bryant (18) have more.
Walker will start the game in his home arena and is the third player in franchise history to start an All-Star Game, joining Eddie Jones and Larry Johnson.
“It’s kind of surreal. It’s kind of surreal,” Walker told TNT. “I had a lot of doubt coming into my early career about just even being an elite point guard in this league. So for me to become an All-Star for two straight years and then now to become an All-Star starter most definitely proves the doubters wrong. So this is an unbelievable moment in my career.”
The format used last season for drafting teams remains in place.
James and Antetokounmpo will draft rosters from the pool of players voted as starters and reserves in each conference. The captains will draft the eight remaining players from the starter pool in the first round and then all 14 players from the reserve pool in the second round.
Captains can choose players for their teams regardless of conference affiliation. That means that even though a player was named an East starter, he could play for James’ team if selected.
Moment Kemba found out he was an ASG starter.Hornets point guard Kemba Walker reacts to being named an NBA All-Star starter for the first time in his career.
Reserves will be determined by a vote of NBA head coaches. So players such as Davis and Mavericks standout rookie Luka Doncic will have to make the team through the coaches’ vote.
The captains’ draft will be televised on Feb. 7 at 7 p.m. ET on TNT. It was not televised in 2018, the first year of the format.
Reserves will be announced Jan. 31.
James said in November that he was all for televising the All-Star draft, adding that the captains would determine the draft’s entertainment value.
“I think obviously there are certain personalities that can add to it,” James said then. “But it all depends how much the captains are going to get into it, as far as their draft boards. We’ll see.”
Curry, who made his sixth All-Star team, said he was excited to see the televised draft unfold after serving as captain last year with James.
“That should be fun to watch for sure,” Curry said. “Last year, doing it with Bron was an interesting experience. I’m sure that the fanfare and the attention this year will be heightened exponentially, so we’ll see where I end up.”
All-Star starters are chosen by a combination of voting from fans, media and NBA players.
George’s tiebreaker over Davis for a starting spot in the West was based on rank in the fan vote. George finished fourth in the fan vote for the West frontcourt, and Davis was fifth.
“Completely honored, grateful, not only for the state of Oklahoma, but for the world for voting,” said George, who is in his second season with the Thunder. “Can’t thank the fans enough for being in my corner, being behind me all season long.
“When I got traded here, it was almost people thought it was going to be the end of me being an All-Star, coming out to the West. But God is good.”
Among the notable snubs based on fan voting: Doncic, who was second in the West frontcourt voting but fifth overall in the group due to an eighth-place finish in the player vote and a sixth-place finish in the media tally; Minnesota’s Derrick Rose, who outpolled Harden for the No. 2 spot in the West guard voting but finished third overall due to a sixth-place finish among media and fourth-place finish in the player vote; and Miami guard Dwyane Wade, whom fans voted second among East guards in his 16th and final NBA season.
Wade finished third overall among guards due to a sixth-place finish in both the fan and player vote.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.