For LeBron James, the 2019-20 NBA season represented a massive departure from the norm. After all, the Los Angeles Lakers star won his fourth NBA championship playing in an empty bubble rather than the jam-packed Staples Center.
Of course, the 36-year-old didn’t have a ton of time to recover from an incredibly taxing title run. And with the COVID-19 pandemic ongoing, it’s clear that even the sports world can’t totally return to normalcy anytime soon.
Yet, that hasn’t stopped the NBA from making a controversial decision that James deemed “a slap in the face” on Thursday. And can you blame him? By throwing a late curveball, the league has officially jeopardized the safety of players by moving forward with an annual tradition that many expected to fall by the wayside this season.
LeBron James is playing at an All-Star level again despite a shortened offseason
Despite all the challenges brought on by the pandemic, LeBron James still accomplished his goal of leading the Lakers to an NBA title last season. However, the aging star did not get much of an opportunity to rest and get ready to get back to action.
Just over two months after LA took down the Miami Heat in six games, James and his teammates had to go back to work.
Yet, an abbreviated offseason has done nothing to slow down the most dominant force in NBA history not named Michael Jordan.
Through 23 games, the 6-foot-9, 250-pound forward has averaged 25.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 7.7 assists. Surprisingly, James has hit 40.9% of his 3-point attempts. During his decorated career, he has only shot 34.6% from behind the arc.
With James and Anthony Davis leading the way, and offseason additions Dennis Schroder and Montrezl Harrell both averaging more than 13 points per game, the Lakers sit in second place in the Western Conference.
Once again, the longtime face of the NBA has put his team in a position to contend for a title. And thanks to his consistent brilliance, the 16-time All-Star also looks primed to make another appearance in the star-studded affair.
The Lakers superstar blasts the NBA for a controversial decision
With the league finalizing plans to hold the All-Star Game on March 7 in Atlanta, LeBron James spoke about the NBA’s controversial decision to move forward with a seemingly meaningless exhibition showdown despite the ongoing presence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I have zero energy and zero excitement about an All-Star game this year,” James said after Thursday’s 114-93 win against the Denver Nuggets. “I don’t even understand why we’re having an All-Star Game.”
He pointed out that he and his teammates only had 71 days off between the end of the their championship run and the beginning of the current season. Because of that, he looked forward to a five-day break in March after NBA players were originally told that the All-Star Game would not take place.
But with the league ignoring player safety with its plan to host All-Star festivities despite concerns about contracting the coronavirus, that doesn’t sit well with James, who described the move as “pretty much kind of a slap in the face.”
“We’re still dealing with everything that’s been going on, and we’re going to bring the whole league into one city that’s open? Obviously, the pandemic has absolutely nothing to do with it at this point when it comes to that weekend,” he said. “I’ll be there if I’m selected. But I’ll be there physically, but not mentally.”
Who should we expect to see at the 2021 NBA All-Star game?
LeBron James clearly has no interest in playing in a meaningless basketball game. But he better start packing his bags for Atlanta based on the early voting results for the 2021 NBA All-Star Game.
The first returns of fan voting yielded fairly unsurprising results. James leads all Western Conference forwards with nearly 2.3 million votes. Stephen Curry secured more than 2.1 million to lead the guard group.
Moving to the Eastern Conference, Kevin Durant’s impressive first season following his Achilles tear has put him at the top of a deep and talented frontcourt. Giannis Antetokounmpo trails the Brooklyn Nets star by more than 500,000 votes for the No. 1 spot. Joel Embiid was the only other forward from the conference to surpass one million votes.
Meanwhile, Bradley Beal, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden are in a tight race for the most votes among guards. The disgruntled Washington Wizards star received nearly 1.3 million votes, which puts him just ahead of the Nets’ dynamic duo.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.