Team Giannis Shoots for the (All-)Stars


Ja Morant reaches for the stars on February 19 at Vivint Arena. (Source: August Miller @ Getty Images)

On February 19th, the National Basketball Association (NBA) All-Star Game was hosted in Salt Lake City, Utah, showcasing 24 star players of the league. Two of Boston Celtics stars, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, as well as the Celtics’ coaches, led by Joe Mazzulla, headed off to Utah. NBA superstars, Lebron James of the Los Angeles Lakers and Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, were chosen as captains. Ultimately, Team Giannis triumphed over Team Lebron in a close score of 184-175, ending James’s winning streak of five consecutive All-Star Games. How did this all happen? Why was there some controversy this weekend? Let’s find out.

Every year, players who are voted in as All-Stars are drafted by the two captains. This year, however, the NBA tried something new — captains James and Antetokounmpo took turns drafting players just before the game started.

Coached by Michael Malone from the Nuggets, Team Lebron’s starters consisted of James, Luka Doncic, Joel Embiid, Kyrie Irving and Nikola Jokic, with Jaylen Brown being drafted second as a reserve on James’s team.

Celtics Head Coach Joe Mazzula led Team Giannis, whose starters consisted of Antetokounmpo, Ja Morant, Donovan Mitchell, Lauri Markkanen and Tatum.

Antetokounmpo’s move to acquire Tatum proved to be a great decision. In his first ever All-Star Game, Tatum scored 55 points in 35 minutes, making history by breaking the previous point-record held by Anthony Davis, who had scored 52 points in 2017. Tatum also put up ten rebounds and six assists, scoring ten three-pointers out of 18 shots attempted. Therefore, it was no surprise when nine media members unanimously voted him to be the Most Valuable Player.

“It means the world,” expresses Tatum after hoisting the Kobe Bryant MVP award over his head, with a big smile on his face. “You think of all the legends and great players that have played this game. In all honesty, records are made to be broken. I’ll hold it as long as I can, but I’m certain somebody will come along in a couple years and try to break it.”

Jaylen Brown also showed up, scoring 35 points to put Team Lebron in the lead. In one of the most notable highlights of the game, around the end of the third quarter, Brown and Tatum went head-to-head in a one-versus-one. With their teammates standing off to the side, the battle ended in Brown’s favor, winning 5-3. “Going up against my brother [Tatum], going back and forth, it was like nobody was in [the arena] at all, just me and him,” says Brown.

Many believe, however, that the Celtics teammates’ exchange was the only exciting part of the night. With the lowest viewership and ratings in two decades, viewers complained that this year’s All-Star Game was boring. Many players had opted out of the games due to injuries, contributing to this alleged dullness.

Among them, beloved superstars Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and Zion Williamson were ruled out. Furthermore, captains Antetokounmpo and James were also taken out very early in the game due to small injuries. Their positions as franchise sensations bring countless fans to the All-Star game every year, and without them playing, not as many people tuned in.

Another explanation for fans’ disinterest relates to the game itself. Without any incentive to win the game, besides bragging rights, the All-Star Game is considered far less competitive. Especially in the past few years, little to no defense has been played, which has made the game less enjoyable to watch. 

“The problem is the risk of injury,” explains Boston Latin School boys’ varsity basketball player Luke Fredericks (II). “Each of these players are crucial to their team, and if they were to get injured in a non-vital game, it would be detrimental to their franchise. I think the best solution is to go back to the way the game was before, with all the players from the Eastern conference playing those from the Western. The winner of the game would get home court advantage in the finals.”

As controversial as this year’s All-Star Game may have been, it continues to serve as a huge inspiration to many young basketball players. This event brings together the current best basketball players and pits them against each other. The sheer display of skill — in shooting, handles or passing — demonstrates players’ passion and dedication for the sport.

Fredericks expresses admiration for one of the All-Star players, saying, All-Star players, saying, “De’Aaron Fox inspires me the most out of this year’s All-Stars. Last year, he was one of the worst fourth quarter performers. He would often make terrible decisions late in games, costing his team the win. This year, he is second in the league in fourth quarter points and has had a lot of clutch performances while he led the Kings to a win. Thanks to his talents this year, the Kings are in third place in the West and are going to make the playoffs for the first time in 16 seasons. As someone who is constantly looking to improve, Fox is a great example to follow.”

Next year’s All-Star Game will be held in Indianapolis, Indiana. Hosted by the Pacers, star-studded teams will be battling again, entertaining and inspiring millions.