LeBron James says playing an NBA All-Star Game this season would be a “slap in the face” for players but a lot of fans want to see him do it.
Los Angeles Lakers playmaker James overtook Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant for the overall lead in Thursday’s latest voting returns announced by the league for the NBA All-Star Game.
Despite his criticism of the idea, James surged into the lead in worldwide voting totals with 4,369,553 to 4,234,433 for Durant.
In initial voting returns announced last week, Durant set the pace with just over 2.3 million votes to 2.288 million for James.
The league has not yet confirmed there will even be an elite showdown of the Eastern and Western Conference superstars, but multiple reports say the NBA and players union agreed on staging it March 7 in Atlanta during a one-week break in the campaign.
James said last week he didn’t want to lose his mid-season break after leading the Lakers to the NBA crown on October 11 following the longest canmpaign in NBA history due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
NBA clubs then started pre-season training camps on November 10 and began the 2020-21 season December 22, a much shorter off-season than usual.
“I have zero energy and zero excitement about an All-Star Game this year,” James said last week. “I am not happy about it. If I am selected I will be there physically but not mentally.”
James, 36, noted players were told there would not be an All-Star contest when they agreed to start the season so soon after deciding the title in an Orlando Covid-19 quarantine bubble.
“It is pretty much a slap in the face,” he said.
Among other players who criticized the idea of staging an NBA All-Star Game were James Harden, Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
James is averaging 25.5 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.9 assists a game for the Lakers while Durant is averaging 29.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists a contest.
James set the pace for Western Conference forwards followed by Denver’s Nikola Jokic, a Serbian center, with 3,006,981 votes and Leonard of the Los Angeles Clippers on 2,462,621 with Anthony Davis of the Lakers a close fourth on 2,329,371.
Among Eastern Conference forwards, Durant was followed by Greek big man Antetokounmpo on 3,282,478 and Cameroon star Joel Embiid of Philadelphia on 3,022,105.
Curry leads all guards
Among guards, NBA scoring leader Bradley Beal set the pace for Eastern Conference guards on 2,528,719 with Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving second on 2,104,130 and his backcourt partner on the Nets, Harden, third on 1,829,504.
In Western Conference backcourt voting, Golden State’s Stephen Curry led with the third-most total votes on 4,033,050 with Slovenian Luka Doncic of Dallas second on 2,484,552. Portland’s Damian Lillard was third on 2,095,157.
All top-three players remained in the same order at their positions as they enjoyed last week.
Worldwide fan voting will conclude on Tuesday. Starting lineup selections will be announced next Thursday and All-Star reserves chosen by NBA coaches will be named on February 23.
Fan balloting will count for 50% of a player’s total with current player voting and a media panel each contributing 25% to decide a final ranking for each individual.