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NBA commissioner confirms All-Star Game amid player opposition

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said he believes having the 2021 NBA All-Star Game this year in Atlanta is the right thing to do, despite critics who say the league should cancel the event. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI
NBA commissioner Adam Silver said he believes having the 2021 NBA All-Star Game this year in Atlanta is the "right thing to do," despite critics who say the league should cancel the event. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 19 (UPI) -- NBA commissioner Adam Silver confirmed the league still plans to hold its annual All-Star game this year in Atlanta, even though some of the world's best players are opposed to holding the game amid COVID-19.

Silver spoke about the plans to still have the game during an appearance Thursday on ESPN. The NBA also announced Thursday the captains and starting lineups for the March 7 contest between the Western Conference and Eastern Conference.

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"It's a global event for us, and we're making our best efforts to embrace all aspects of our league to the extent we can through this pandemic and this is just one more opportunity," Silver told ESPN.

"I'll add that of course I'm listening to those who don't think it's a good idea, and I think that's been the case in terms of essentially everything we've done since we shut down [nearly] a year ago because of the pandemic."

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Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James was named the captain for the Western Conference All-Star team. Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant was named captain of the Western Conference All-Star team.

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Nets guard Kyrie Irving, Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal, Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid also will start for the Eastern Conference.

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic and Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard will start alongside James for the Western Conference.

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James has been one of the biggest critics of the All-Star Game being played.

"I have zero energy and zero excitement about an All-Star Game this year," James told reporters Feb. 4. "I don't even understand why we are having an All-Star Game, but it's an agreement that the league and players union had.

"We came off a short off-season of 71 days. It is pretty much a slap in the face. We also are still dealing with a pandemic and everything that's going on and we are going to bring the whole league into one city that's open."

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James previously said he planned to go to the game if he received enough votes to be selected for the Western Conference roster.

Sacramento Kings guard De'Aaron Fox, Antetokounmpo and Leonard are among the other players who have said they don't want the game played.

"The Big Dog [James] says he has zero excitement, zero energy for the All-Star Game. I'm the same way," Antetokounmpo told reporters Feb. 6. "Right now, I don't care about the All-Star Game. I've got zero energy, zero excitement."

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms tweeted Tuesday that fans should not travel to Atlanta this year for All-Star Game festivities.

Fans won't be allowed to attend the game at State Farm Arena, but players will be allowed to bring up to four guests who are family members, close friends, agents or trainers.

"Under normal circumstances we'd be grateful for the opportunity to host the NBA All-Star Game, but this isn't a typical year," Bottoms tweeted.

"I've shared my concerns with the NBA and the Atlanta Hawks and agree this is a made-for-TV event only and people shouldn't travel to Atlanta to party."

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The NBA started the 2020-21 season Dec. 22. The first half of the 72-game per-team campaign ends March 4. The second half of the season starts March 11 and ends May 16.

The NBA and players union announced Wednesday that five players returned positive COVID-19 test results out of 454 players tested from Feb. 10 through Wednesday.

The NBA has postponed 30 games this season because of positive COVID-19 tests, contact tracing and quarantines. Teams this season are required to have eight players available to participate in games.

Silver on Thursday referenced critics from last year, when the league opted to play a portion of its 2019-20 campaign inside a protective bubble in Orlando, Fla., amid COVID-19, in his explanation to push forward with this year's All-Star Game.

"There were obviously those who thought we shouldn't play without fans, thought we shouldn't play in the bubble, thought we shouldn't be playing in a very serious way because of the social justice issues roiling this country," Silver told ESPN.

"So I certainly hear the other side of this issue here. And I'll lastly say it seems like no decisions during this pandemic come without uncertainty and come without risk. This is yet another one of them, and yet it's my job to balance all those interests and ultimately it feels like the right thing to do to go forward."

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The NBA and players union agreed to donate more than $2.5 million to historically Black colleges and universities as part of its plan to hold the 2021 All-Star Game this year.

All-Star festivities will be condensed into a single day, instead of the typical All-Star weekend format. The weekend's usual format features a slam dunk contest, skills challenge, 3-point contest and celebrity games on separate days.

James and Durant received the most All-Star votes in their respective conferences. The remainder of the All-Star rosters will be announced at 7 p.m. EST Tuesday on TNT.

The 2021 NBA All-Star Game airs at 7 p.m. EST March 7 on TNT.

Moments from LeBron James' career

St. Vincent-St. Mary High School senior LeBron James (L) drives around a Zanesvuille defender in Akron, Ohio, on February 14, 2003. James is expected to be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. A couple months later, the Cleveland Cavaliers coach was suspended because James worked out with the team before he graduated from high school. Photo by Tom Cammett/UPI | License Photo

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