LeBron James, Kevin Durant captains; NBA names All-Star Game starters

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Kevin Durant is back this season — and back at the top of the All-Star list.

Thursday, the NBA announced the starters for the 2021 All-Star game, a one-day event in Atlanta on March 7. The event may look and feel a little different because of the pandemic, but one thing has not changed:

The fans want to see LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

They got the most fan votes in each conference and will be the captains who select their All-Star teams, following the playground-style draft the NBA has used in recent years. First, the pair will choose their starters from the group of players listed below, then they will pick their reserves (who will be announced next Thursday and are selected by the coaches).

Here are the 2021 All-Star Game starters, as voted by the fans (50%), media (25%), and players (25%):

Western Conference

Stephen Curry (Warriors)
Luka Doncic (Mavericks)
• LeBron James (Lakers)
Nikola Jokic (Nuggets)
Kawhi Leonard (Clippers)

Eastern Conference

Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks)
Bradley Beal (Wizards)
• Kevin Durant (Nets)
Joel Embiid (76ers)
Kyrie Irving (Nets)

Here are some notes on the selections:

• The “snub” controversy centers around Damian Lillard.

The fan portion of the vote (which counts for half) had Lillard as the third guard, outside the starting two behind Curry and Doncic. Both the media and players had Lillard in front of Doncic (both Dan Feldman and I had Lillard as a starter, as discussed in this week’s PBT Podcast). That left Lillard and Doncic tied in total points, but the fan vote breaks ties, so Doncic will start.

Lillard is a lock to make the team as a reserve. That’s not going to satisfy angry Blazers fans who didn’t think there was even a debate to be had.

• In the East frontcourt, Boston’s Jayson Tatum was fourth in the voting, followed by Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo (both from Miami).

• Among East guards, James Harden (Nets) was third, followed by Zach LaVine (Bulls) and Jaylen Brown (Celtics, the media had him second and a starter in front of Irving).

• In the West frontcourt, Anthony Davis (Lakers) was fourth, but he will likely not play in the game as he recovers from his strained calf. Paul George was fifth in the voting and Zion Williamson sixth.

• This is LeBron’s 17th All-Star appearance, third most all time (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has 19 appearances, Kobe Bryant 18). LeBron also has been a captain every year there has been teams chosen in this pick-your-team style.

• The All-Star day in Atlanta will feature a skills competition and three-point contest before the game, with a dunk contest at halftime. The game will have the Elam Ending used last year, where a final target score is set rather than having a timed fourth quarter.