NBA All-Star captains: It’s LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant

LeBron
AP FILE

2018 — LeBron James scores 29 points and hits the go-ahead layup with 34.5 seconds to play, winning his third All-Star Game MVP award while his hand-picked team rallies to win an uncommonly entertaining showcase, beating Team Stephen 148-145. For the first time in All-Star Game history, the league abandons the traditional East-West format used since 1951 and allows team captains James and Stephen Curry to choose their own rosters.

Team LeBron's LeBron James, of the Cleveland Cavaliers, holds the MVP trophy after his team defeated Team Stephen at the NBA All-Star basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018, in Los Angeles. Team LeBron won 148-145. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

The voters have spoken: They wanted LeBron James of the reigning champion Los Angeles Lakers to be an All-Star captain, again.

So, he is. And Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant will be his opposition.

James and Durant were revealed Thursday as the leading fan votegetters in the Western and Eastern Conferences for the All-Star Game, meaning they’ll be captains for the matchup in Atlanta on March 7. James will start for the 17th time, extending his record, and Durant is an All-Star for the 11th time.

Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (19) and Kobe Bryant (18) have more total All-Star selections than James.

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The other starters: Denver’s Nikola Jokic and the Los Angeles Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard join James as West frontcourt picks, Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Dallas’ Luka Doncic are the starting guards from the West, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid are alongside Durant as the East frontcourt starters, while Washington’s Bradley Beal and Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving are the East starting guards.

Doncic and Portland’s Damian Lillard were tied in the NBA’s weighted system for the second West guard spot; Doncic got the nod because he got more fan votes. Fan votes counted for 50% of the starter selection process; player votes counted as 25% of the total, and votes from a media panel made up the other 25%.

Reserves will be announced Tuesday, to be decided by voting by NBA head coaches. James — the leading overall votegetter this year, with more than 5.9 million votes from fans — and Durant will then pick their teams, with the rosters for Team LeBron and Team Kevin to be revealed March 4.

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James is 3-0 since the NBA went to a player-captain format, defeating Curry’s team in 2018 and Antetokounmpo’s team in each of the past two seasons. Quin Snyder of the Utah Jazz will coach James’ team in Atlanta; Doc Rivers of the Philadelphia 76ers is currently the frontrunner to coach Durant’s team, with the standings after Sunday’s games to decide that spot.

The starters were revealed on the same day the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association announced details for the game, saying it will generate more than $2.5 million for historically Black colleges and COVID-19 relief efforts.

The game has been criticized by some of the league’s top players, James included, who voiced concerns about having it during a pandemic. It also drew concern from Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who made clear that fans shouldn’t come to the city for All-Star festivities since there won’t be public events surrounding the game.

But the charitable elements were a major factor in the league pressing on, and Commissioner Adam Silver said the game provides a platform to shine light on HBCUs and the ongoing need for resources in the fight against COVID-19.

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