By BRIAN MAHONEY, AP Basketball Writer
NBA All-Star Weekend is all about fashion and fun, Saturday night slamming and celebrating the best in the game today.
This year, it’s just as much about yesterday’s stars.
The league honors its 75th anniversary team in Sunday’s game, just as it celebrated 50 years last All-Star Weekend in Cleveland in 1997. Michael Jordan scored the first triple-double in game history stars 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 emotional memories in history of the event.
“I remember 25 years ago watching these guys get those leather jackets and step onto that podium. I thought that was an amazing moment,” LeBron James said on TNT after he drafted his team which will play against the team chosen 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 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 that still doesn’t make sense to me, just knowing the game I loved, the game I watched and the game I studied all my life, and knowing that I’m part of such a historic moment in my hometown around my family and friends. It feels like a dream, to be quite honest.
Stephen Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Chris Paul and James Harden are the other All-Stars who were voted into 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 top pick as a winter travel destination, Cleveland will nonetheless warmly welcome All-Stars and hoop fans alike.
Fortunately, the weather forecast is quite promising and won’t hinder the international event, which has grown since it last visited the city 25 years ago.
Downtown Cleveland was decked out in All-Star signs, including a huge banner on a building across from Rocket Mortgage Arena, a place where James’ image dominated for years during his two stints with the Riders.
He returns as Cleveland experiences another basketball renaissance. The Cavs, who have won just 60 total games over the past three seasons, are relevant for the first time since James left after the 2018 season, ending the franchise’s run to four straight NBA Finals.
The Cavs will be represented in Sunday’s game by All-Star first guard Darius Garland and center Jarrett Allen, who got his first nod as a reserve replacement for injured James Harden.
James is 4-0 as captain since the NBA switched to a format of major voters in each conference drafting team, rather than East vs. West.
The Skills Challenge, combining dribbling, passing and shooting, is now a team event. Giannis, Thanasis and Alex Antetokounmpo will face 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.
Friday night’s Rising Stars Challenge was also revamped into a four-team tournament format with 12 rookies, 12 sophomores and four NBA G League Ignite players.
Chicago All-Star Zach LaVine, two-time slam dunk champion, is once again trying to win the 3-point contest. The rest 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).
Obi Toppin of New York, a finalist last year, is the only former contestant in the dunk contest. Orlando’s Cole Anthony, Houston rookie Jalen Green and Golden State’s Juan Toscano-Anderson complete the field.
AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed to this report.
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