LOS ANGELES – The NBA’s best-known star LeBron James has torn up the league’s plans to host an All-Star game in Atlanta in March while COVID-19 restrictions keep the regular season under control.
“I have no energy or excitement about an All-Star game this year,” said James after the Los Angeles Lakers’ 114-93 win over the Denver Nuggets on Thursday. “I don’t even understand why we have an all-star game.”
36-year-old James has participated in the league’s showcase event for 16 of his last 17 seasons in the league, and was named a top voter for the last three seasons as the NBA bid farewell to East versus West and adopted a draft format to spice up the competition.
“Short off-season for me and my teammates, 71 days,” said James, referring to the time the Lakers had from the sixth game of the NBA Finals in October to the opening night against the LA Clippers in December. “And then when we got into this season we were told we weren’t going to have an All-Star game, so we’d have a nice little break. Five days [in March] from the fifth to the tenth an opportunity for me to recalibrate myself for the second half of the season. So do my teammates. Some of the guys in the league.
“And then they throw an all-star game like this at us and just break it all open. So, um, kind of a slap in the face.”
James also explained the obvious health concerns about hosting the celebrations in Atlanta, Georgia, which has fewer state-mandated coronavirus restrictions compared to other NBA regions across the country. The Atlanta Hawks, for example, are one of only nine teams that will allow fans to play their home games this season.
“We are still facing a pandemic,” said James. “We are still dealing with everything that has happened and we are going to bring the whole league to a city that is open? Obviously the pandemic has absolutely nothing to do with it at this point this weekend.
“Obviously you can see that I’m not very happy about it.”
James voiced his displeasure without a doubt and said he would sign up for the game if he was named an All-Star for the 17th consecutive year. James led the West with 2,288,676 votes in the league’s initial voting results announced Thursday. Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant led the East with 2,302,705 votes as the only player in the league to appear on more ballots than James.
“It’s the agreement that the players’ association and the league came about … It’s out of my hands,” said James. “I’ll be there when I’m selected. But I’ll be there physically, not mentally.”