On Tuesday, the NBA announced that the teams in the All-Star Game would no longer be decided by conference, but rather by team captains. Note that there will still be twelve All-Stars from each conference, only that they will be divided between two teams for the game. The team captains will be the All-Stars from each conference who garner the most fan votes.
This may seem like a small change, and it in fact could be inconsequential. But the simple act of choosing teams could both reveal and intensify friendships and rivalries between the NBA stars.
In the age of superteams, these relationships are significant. At the 2010 World Championships, Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, and Kevin Durant became good friends playing for Team USA, hanging out and going to chapel together. Without that experience, it’s possible neither Iguodala or Durant join the Warriors in free agency, and the Warriors superteam is never formed.
This offseason had a ridiculous number of big-name players change teams, many choosing to play with their close friends. James Harden was able to convince his pal Chris Paul to join the Rockets, and Dwyane Wade reunited with his old comrade LeBron James in Cleveland.
Even when prior relationships didn’t exist, star power brought personalities together. Carmelo Anthony waived his no-trade clause to team up with Russell Westbrook and Paul George in Oklahoma City, a location never on his radar. The NBA is a star’s league, and everything else revolves around them.
LeBron James will almost assuredly be the team captain from the Eastern Conference. Stephen Curry is likely to be the other, but Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, or even Kawhi Leonard could receive the most fan votes from the West.
James will likely not spend a high pick on Kyrie Irving, who bolted from the Cavaliers in search for a bigger spotlight. He might try to bring the Banana Boat together, but Chris Paul is the only probable All-Star of the bunch; Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade likely won’t make the All-Star team.
If a Warrior becomes team captain, they’ll likely spend high picks on other Warriors. They’ll probably shun Russell Westbrook, a chief rival whose likely to be picked early by LeBron. Maybe, in picking a young star like Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, or Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Warriors could set in motion a reunion far in the future.
Don’t underestimate the feelings of appreciation and slight the All-Star Game draft can cause. The relationships between star players are maybe the most important factors in the rise of superteams. At the very least, it’ll be dramatic and fun as hell for us fans to dissect the two All-Star teams this year.