The NBA’s All-Star weekend is about fashion and fun, Saturday night slams and celebrating the very best in the game today.
This year, it’s just as much about the stars of yesterday.
The league is honoring its 75th anniversary team during Sunday’s game, just as it celebrated 50 years when it last brought All-Star weekend to Cleveland in 1997. Michael Jordan had the first triple-double in All-Star Game history that night and Kobe Bryant won the slam dunk contest as a rookie the night before, but it was the halftime ceremony that provided one of the most moving memories in the event’s history.
“I remember 25 years ago watching those guys get those leather jackets and stand on top of that podium. I thought that was an unbelievable moment,” LeBron James said on TNT after drafting his team that will play against the team picked by Kevin Durant in the game.
Both are part of the 75th anniversary team and James has become one of the greatest All-Stars of them all. The Akron, Ohio native returns home to make his record 18th consecutive All-Star start, a streak that began during his first stint playing for the Cavaliers in 2005.
“It’s very humbling and grateful to be a part of it,” James said. “But it just doesn’t make sense still to me, just knowing the game that I loved, the game that I watched and the game that I’ve studied my whole life, and then knowing that I’m a part of such a historic moment back in my hometown around my family and friends. It just feels like a dream, to be completely honest.”
Stephen Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Chris Paul and James Harden are the other All-Stars who were voted to the 75th anniversary team. The game also includes first-time All-Stars such as guards Ja Morant of Memphis, LaMelo Ball of Charlotte and starter Andrew Wiggins of Golden State.
Things to know about All-Star weekend:
Not exactly the first choice as a winter-travel destination, Cleveland will nonetheless warmly welcome the All-Stars and hoop fans.
Fortunately, the weather forecast is mostly promising and won’t hinder the international event, which was grown in scale since its last visit to the city 25 years ago.
Cleveland’s downtown has been spruced up with All-Star signs, including a massive banner on a building across the street from Rocket Mortgage Arena, a spot where James’ image towered for years during his two stints with the Cavaliers.
He returns as Cleveland is enjoying another basketball renaissance. The Cavs, who won just 60 total games over the past three seasons, are relevant for the first time since James left following the 2018 season, ending the franchise’s run to four straight NBA Finals.
The Cavs will be represented in Sunday’s game by first-time All-Star guard Darius Garland and center Jarrett Allen, who got his first nod as a reserve as a replacement for injured James Harden.
STRIVING FOR FIVE
James is 4-0 as the captain since the NBA switched to the format of the leading vote-getters in each conference drafting teams, rather than the East against the West.
The Skills Challenge, combining dribbling, passing and shooting, is now a team event. Giannis, Thanasis and Alex Antetokounmpo will compete against the Cavaliers team of Garland, Allen and Mobley, and a rookie trio of Toronto’s Scottie Barnes, Detroit’s Cade Cunningham and Oklahoma City’s Josh Giddey.
The Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night also has been revamped into a four-team tournament format featuring 12 rookies, 12 second-year players and four players from the NBA G League Ignite.
THE 3-POINT FIELD
Chicago All-Star Zach LaVine, a two-time slam dunk champion, takes another shot at winning the 3-point contest. The remainder of the field: All-Stars Trae Young (Atlanta), Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota) and Fred VanVleet (Toronto), plus CJ McCollum (New Orleans), Patty Mills (Brooklyn), Desmond Bane (Memphis) and Luke Kennard (Clippers).
New York's Obi Toppin, last year's runner-up, is the only former competitor in the dunk contest. Orlando's Cole Anthony, Houston rookie Jalen Green and Golden State's Juan Toscano-Anderson round out the field.
AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed to this report.
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