When the NBA decided to continue with the 2021 All-Star Game, the league knew it had little margin for error. Many wondered whether gathering the NBA’s best and brightest stars together in one place was a wise idea in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and some players even stated their hesitation about attending the game.
But the NBA pushed forward anyway. Just hours before the All-Star Game, the league saw its biggest nightmare come true when both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers were ruled out after having close contact with a barber who tested positive for the virus.
The 2021 NBA All-Star Game had more than a few critics
The All-Star break is normally a time for the NBA’s best players to relax and showcase their skills on the big stage. It’s the only time all season that NBA stars get to kick back and enjoy some quality time with their friends around the league.
But this year is much different. In light of COVID-19, numerous players spoke out against playing the All-Star Game this season. LeBron James was the leader of that group.
“I have zero energy and zero excitement about an All-Star game this year,” James said on Feb. 4 after a win over the Denver Nuggets. “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 … It’s pretty much kind of a slap in the face.”
NBA commissioner Adam Silver understood the concerns from his players, but he decided to move forward with All-Star Weekend anyway.
“The message within the NBA community is that we’re going to be operating in a mini bubble,” Silver told ESPN this week. “There will be no NBA functions [for fans] to participate in. We appreciate their support and hope they’ll watch our All-Star Game on television … this is a television-only event in Atlanta.”
The NBA’s worst All-Star nightmare just came true
Heading into Sunday’s All-Star festivities, the NBA hadn’t suffered any setbacks due to COVID-19. The game was on schedule to be played with every healthy All-Star expected to suit up. But that all changed Sunday morning.
Just hours before the 2021 All-Star game, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons were ruled out of the game after coming in close contact with a Philadelphia barber who tested positive for COVID-19.
Embiid and Simmons have remained in quarantine in Atlanta since Saturday night. Neither has tested positive for the virus.
The NBA won’t replace the 76ers duo with two other players in the 2021 All-Star Game. Zion Williamson, though, will take over Embiid’s starting spot on Team Durant.
Should the NBA have even held the All-Star Game this year?
Immediately after the news broke, even more questions were raised about whether the All-Star Game should be played this weekend. If you ask Paul George, that answer is a resounding no.
“You have situations like we are dealing with today, it’s just an unfortunate time in the world where our health and safety should be at the front of the helm,” George said during his All-Star media access Sunday. “I personally didn’t agree with the game, but it is what it is.”
As of now, the 2021 NBA All-Star game is still scheduled for 8 p.m. ET, even if the players involved don’t agree.