The NBA and National Basketball Players Association have agreed to host the 2021 All-Star Game on March 7 in Atlanta, per multiple reports, but the face of the league isn’t thrilled with that decision.
Lakers forward LeBron James didn’t hold back when discussing All-Star plans Thursday night after Los Angeles’ 114-93 win over Denver. James, who led the Western Conference in the first All-Star fan voting returns, told reporters he views the unexpected change in the season calendar as “kind of a slap in the face” to the players in need of a break. The NBA originally postponed what would have been a February All-Star break in Indianapolis, instead giving the city the 2024 All-Star Game.
“I have zero energy and zero excitement about an All-Star Game this year,” James said. “I don’t even understand why we’re having an All-Star Game. But it’s the agreement that the Players Association and the league came about. Short offseason for myself and my teammates with 71 days [between seasons], and then coming into this season, we were told that we were not having an All-Star Game, so we had a nice little break. Five days [in March] from the fifth through the 10th, an opportunity for me to kind of recalibrate for the second half of the season, my teammates as well, some of the guys in the league.
“Then they throw an All-Star Game on us like this and just breaks that all the way up. So, pretty much kind of a slap in the face. We’re also still dealing with a pandemic. We’re still dealing with everything that’s been going on, and we’re gonna bring the whole league into one city that’s open. So obviously the pandemic has absolutely nothing to do with it at this point when it comes to that weekend. Obviously you guys can see I’m not very happy about it, but it’s out of my hands. I’ll be there if I’m selected. But I’ll be there physically, but not mentally.”
James isn’t alone in his thinking. Just a day earlier, Kings guard De’Aaron Fox said holding an All-Star Game this year would be “stupid,” adding that he would participate in the event if selected only because he doesn’t want to get hit with a “hefty fine.” Many around the NBA view the event as an “unnecessary risk,” according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
The NBA has not yet finalized details regarding this year’s All-Star Game, so it’s possible the league would allow players to opt out based on health concerns. Allowing exemptions for non-injured All-Stars could eliminate interest, though, so the rule could stay in place.
Regardless of how the NBA organizes its festivities, it’s clear some players won’t be feeling the typical enthusiasm for the All-Star Game. James is firmly in that group.