LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo voted as All-Star captains

ByTim Bontemps ESPN logo
Friday, January 27, 2023

BOSTON -- LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo were named the captains of the two teams that will take part in the 2023 NBA All-Star Game next month in Salt Lake City.

James ties Kareem Abdul-Jabbar -- whom he is about to pass as the NBA's all-time scoring leader -- for most All-Star Game appearances with 19. James has now been a captain each of the six years the NBA has used the format of two captains drafting their individual teams. The Los Angeles Lakers star is averaging 29.9 points, 8.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game in his age-38 season.

Antetokounmpo will be a captain for the third time, having done so in 2019 and 2020, and will be an All-Star for the seventh consecutive season. The Milwaukee Bucks star is averaging 31 points, 12 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game this season for the Bucks, who are a half-game behind the Philadelphia 76ers for second place in the Eastern Conference.

Joining James among starters selected from the Western Conference are New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson, Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry and Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic.

The other East starters alongside Antetokounmpo are Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant and his teammate Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, and Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell.

The starters were selected by a weighted voting process that is derived from a fan vote being weighted as 50% of the final outcome and player and media votes each counting for 25%.

Sixers center Joel Embiidjust missed the cut after ranking third among East frontcourt players in the player and media rankings but fourth in fan voting. Embiid garnered 4,900,482 fan votes to Tatum's 5,221,720.

Lakers forward Anthony Davis placed third among West frontcourt players in fan voting but seventh and sixth in the player and media rankings, respectively.

Jokic, the two-time reigning MVP, is having another spectacular season, averaging 25.1 points, 11 rebounds and 9.9 assists per game while shooting 62.9% for the Western Conference-leading Nuggets, and will be playing in his fifth straight All-Star Game. Williamson, who is making his second All-Star Game appearance, is averaging 26 points, 7 rebounds and 4.6 assists in 29 games but has been out since Jan. 2 with a hamstring injury.

Curry is now a nine-time All-Star, having recovered from a shoulder injury that cost him a few weeks of the season. He is averaging 29.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game. Doncic, who entered Thursday leading the NBA in scoring before exiting a win over the Phoenix Suns early with a sprained ankle, has been picked for the fourth straight time.

Durant, who is an All-Star for the 13th time, could miss the game for the third straight season after suffering an MCL sprain Jan. 8. The last time Durant played in the All-Star Game was in 2019, when he was named its MVP. But he missed the entire 2019-20 season while rehabbing from surgery on his torn Achilles tendon and then was unable to participate each of the past two seasons -- both times for which he was named captain -- due to injuries suffered in the weeks leading up to the game.

"I was just like, 'S---, another year of not playing against my old teammates. Another year of, at that point, maybe missing the All-Star Game and not playing against LeBron James at home,'" Durant said earlier this week, when asked about his frustrations over missing another chunk of a season. "Stuff like that that I look forward to. ... On top of just playing every game, I just look forward to that stuff. But it's part of basketball as well."

Irving, meanwhile, is now an eight-time All-Star while averaging 27.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game for the Nets this season -- one that included him being suspended by the team for several games for "failing to disavow antisemitism" following his tweet promoting a film containing antisemitic tropes.

He thanked the fans for voting him as an All-Star after Brooklyn's loss to Detroit on Thursday and said he is ready to "give a show" in Utah next month.

"I would not be here without y'all," Irving said of the fans. "Y'all voted me in, I'm ready to give a show. And it just shows the community power of just what I've been able to build over time. In an international community voting, obviously this community here in America, but I feel like I've put in enough work to be deserving this year and I think I just want that to continue to speak for itself. Just let my work speak for itself."

Tatum will play in his fourth All-Star Game -- his first as an elected starter, after being a fill-in last season for Durant -- after starring for the league-leading Celtics and averaging 31.1 points, 8.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game.

Mitchell will also be making his first start and will be doing so in the city that he called home the past five years. Mitchell, who is making his fourth straight All-Star Game appearance, has had a terrific debut season with the Cavaliers following a blockbuster trade to Northeast Ohio in September. He is averaging 28.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game for a Cleveland team hoping to make the playoffs without LeBron James on the roster for the first time in 30 years.

"I'm definitely blessed and honored to be a part of this," Mitchell told TNT in a video interview shortly after the announcement. "And you know you always have a chip on your shoulder, especially when you get traded and you're in a situation [in Cleveland] where ... these guys believe in me, these guys trust in me to go out there and do what I do. And I wouldn't be here without my teammates, my coaches."

The seven All-Star reserves from each conference, who are voted on by the coaches in each conference, will be announced next Thursday.

This year, for the first time, the teams will be decided by a draft that will take place live shortly before the start of the game next month, as opposed to a taped draft conducted in the weeks leading up to the contest.

As captains, James andAntetokounmpo will be responsible for drafting their teams.

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