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(Image above) The best of the best: this year’s Eastern (top) and Western (bottom) Conference All-Star starters (Photo courtesy of NBA)

The National Basketball Association has a grueling season. For 169 days, teams compete against each other for a position in the playoffs and the chance to win the NBA championship. However, every year, from February 17 to February 19, some of the biggest stars of the association come together to entertain fans worldwide during All-Star weekend. For example, this year’s dunk contests features last year’s runner up Aaron Gordon while Klay Thompson will defend his 3-point contest championship. Ultimately, these events and contests are preliminaries for the main event: The NBA All-Star Game.

Dating all the way back to 1951, the All-Star game is probably the most anticipated event of the entire weekend. There is only one time during the year in which NBA fans around the world can watch the top 12 players in the East scrimmage against the top 12 players in the West.

This year, the Eastern Conference starters comprise of two Cleveland Cavalier players in Kyrie Irving and LeBron James. Former All-Star MVP Irving is scoring a career high 23.8 points per game while one of the best all-around players in the game, and soon to be 14-time All-Star, in James is averaging 25.6 points, 8.3 assists, and 7.7 rebounds per game. Other than the two Cavalier’s, the rest will be making their first appearance as starters in the All-Star game. DeMar DeRozan and Jimmy Butler are both averaging career-highs in points per game with 28.0 and 24.7 respectively. Meanwhile, Giannis Antetokounmpo, also known as “The Greek Freak”, is having a breakout year with 23.5 points, 5.5 assists, and 8.8 rebounds per game.

On the other side of the country, the Western Conference is highlighted by two Golden State Warrior players in Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. Curry, the reigning MVP, is scoring 24.6 points per game while 8-time All-Star Durant is averaging 26.3 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. Accompanying them will be one of the top candidates for the MVP of the 2016-17 NBA season: James Harden, who is having 28.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, and a league leading 11.6 assists per game. Last but not least, defensive juggernaut Kawhi Leonard averages 25.8 points and nearly 2.0 steals per game while first time All-Star starter Anthony Davis is scoring 28.6 points and grabbing 12.0 points per game.

An interesting story that developed was the unlikely rise of Zaza Pachulia in the voting polls. Hailing from the Republic of Georgia, Pachulia averages a mere 5.5 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. Yet, the 6’11 center finished 2nd in the fan voting among frontcourt players, finishing in front of this years starters such as Anthony Davis and Kawhi Leonard. Whether his placing was the result of internet trolls or the collective effort of his home country, this years new voting system (fans (50%), players (25%) and media (25%)) prevented the veteran from suiting up for the contest as players and media members did not join in on the support.

However, while Pachulia climbed the ranks of the voting polls, Russell Westbrook slipped down the voting polls. Currently, Westbrook leads the league in points per game with 30.6, while dishing 10.4 assists and grabbing 10.6 rebounds per game. Despite averaging a triple-double, being the All-Star MVP for the previous two years, and being a favorite for the MVP of this season, Westbrook was snubbed from the starting lineup this year. The interest around Westbrook continues as for the first time since former teammate Kevin Durant signed with the Golden State Warriors, the two superstars will be playing together once again. When asked whether Westbrook was on speaking terms with this former teammate he answered bluntly, “nah”. The reunion of the two players alone will be an interesting dynamic to observe during the All-Star game.

Last but not least, this year’s 1st time All-Stars consists of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kemba Walker, Gordon Hayward and DeAndre Jordan. However, due to the limited number of superstars who are able to participate in the All-Star game, every year there are deserving players who are kept out of the game. For the first time in 8 years, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul are all not part of this years selection. Meanwhile, rookie sensation Joel Embiid and two former Rookie of the Year winners in Karl-Anthony Towns and Damian Lillard were not voted on to or chosen for the All-Star game.

Despite the exclusion of some players, this year’s star-studded weekend of basketball will be a fun one to watch.


Schedule: Taiwan Time

Feb 18 (Saturday, 8 AM): NBA Celebrity Game, Rising Stars Challenge

Feb 19 (Sunday, 9:30 AM): All Star Saturday Night

Feb 20 (Monday, 9 AM): 66th NBA All-Star Game

You can watch these events on Videoland

Eastern Conference All-Star Starters: Kyrie Irving, DeMar DeRozan, Jimmy Butler, Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James

Eastern Conference Reserves: Paul George, Kevin Love, Kyle Lowry, Paul Millsap, Isaiah Thomas, Kemba Walker, John Wall

Western Conference All-Star Starters: Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis

Western Conference Reserves: DeMarcus Cousins, Marc Gasol, Draymond Green, Gordon Hayward, DeAndre Jordan, Klay Thompson, Russell Westbrook

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