As has become tradition the last few years, NBA heads have been dissecting the All-Star draft to find any subtle (or blatant) shade being thrown at players by the two captains (the leading vote-getters of each conference). This year, the two captains were Kevin Durant (his first selection as a captain) and LeBron James, who has been a captain every year since the inception of the All-Star draft.
Beyond the seemingly coordinated faze-out of the two Utah Jazz stars, who were the last two players to be selected despite having the best record in the NBA, another potentially scandalous moment came when James selected Clippers Forward Paul George with his fifth pick of the reserves. The Lakers star gave an interesting preface before selecting him.
"This is the only time I’ll root for this guy or team because we are enemies," James said with a smile and a chuckle. “Nah, I’m just making fun of it,” he quickly clarified.
It’s endearing to see James play into the perceived animosity between the Lakers and Clippers. The two teams have yet to meet in a playoff series—the Lakers held up their end of the bargain last year, but the Clippers missed their Conference Finals appointment for already-known reasons. Fans and media want so badly for these crosstown rivals to despise each other, but the two teams have shown nothing but respect for one another on and off the court.
James has expressed his admiration for George specifically as well, going back to the early 2010’s when James’ Heat would face off against George’s Pacers in the playoffs.
Until these two teams actually match up in the postseason, viewers will continue to make mountains out of these sorts of good-natured molehills. Who knows—if they do play, perhaps a true rivalry will be born.