Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant

<p>When the Warriors make their lone trip to Washington D.C. this season, they will spend time with local kids at an event that will be closed to media since the team is no longer invited to the White House, Chris Haynes and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com <a href="http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/22535866/with-no-trip-white-house-planned-golden-state-warriors-spend-part-dc-trip-local-kids" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:report" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">report</a>.</p><p>Golden State coach Steve Kerr told ESPN that he let the players decide how they wanted to spend their time since they wouldn&#39;t have a White House trip, and they selected a venue where the kids would join them to spend some time during the day.</p><p>The team considered other options for how to spend that time, according to ESPN, including visiting Kevin Durant&#39;s hometown of Seat Pleasant, Md. Additionally, Washington D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi invited the team to the US Capitol, but the Warriors declined to avoid making it seem like they were politicizing the event by meeting with two Democrats, Haynes and Shelburne report.</p><p>&quot;At the end of the day, it&#39;s about us celebrating a championship so there&#39;s no point in getting into the political stuff and all that,&quot; Draymond Green told ESPN. &quot;It&#39;s about something we did great. Why make it about [politics]?&quot;</p><p>This all stems from when in September, Steph Curry said <a href="https://www.si.com/nba/2017/09/22/stephen-curry-warriors-white-house-visit-no-vote" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:he hoped the team could make a statement by not going to the White House" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">he hoped the team could make a statement by not going to the White House</a>. Soon after, Donald Trump <a href="https://www.si.com/nba/2017/09/23/donald-trump-warriors-white-house-stephen-curry-tweet" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:tweeted that he would no longer invite the team to the White House" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">tweeted that he would no longer invite the team to the White House</a>, however, <a href="https://www.si.com/nba/2017/09/23/steve-kerr-warriors-white-house-donald-trump-stephen-curry-reaction" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:it didn&#39;t seem to mean much to the team" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">it didn&#39;t seem to mean much to the team</a>, especially considering they were planning to vote against going to the White House before the invitation was revoked, Haynes and Shelburne report.</p><p>Recently, Durant has been in the news for <a href="https://www.si.com/nba/2018/02/15/lebron-james-donald-trump-comments" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:comments he and LeBron James made about Trump" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">comments he and LeBron James made about Trump</a> while in conversation with ESPN&#39;s Cari Champion on a project for the UNINTERRUPTED. The remarks led to Laura Ingraham of Fox News telling the two MVPs to &quot;shut up and dribble,&quot; a comment <a href="https://www.si.com/nba/2018/02/17/lebron-james-kevin-durant-laura-ingraham-comments" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Durant and James both responded" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Durant and James both responded</a> to.</p><p>While in D.C., the Warriors will face the Wizards Feb. 28.</p>
Report: Warriors Will Spend Time With Local D.C. Kids Instead of White House Visit

When the Warriors make their lone trip to Washington D.C. this season, they will spend time with local kids at an event that will be closed to media since the team is no longer invited to the White House, Chris Haynes and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com report.

Golden State coach Steve Kerr told ESPN that he let the players decide how they wanted to spend their time since they wouldn't have a White House trip, and they selected a venue where the kids would join them to spend some time during the day.

The team considered other options for how to spend that time, according to ESPN, including visiting Kevin Durant's hometown of Seat Pleasant, Md. Additionally, Washington D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi invited the team to the US Capitol, but the Warriors declined to avoid making it seem like they were politicizing the event by meeting with two Democrats, Haynes and Shelburne report.

"At the end of the day, it's about us celebrating a championship so there's no point in getting into the political stuff and all that," Draymond Green told ESPN. "It's about something we did great. Why make it about [politics]?"

This all stems from when in September, Steph Curry said he hoped the team could make a statement by not going to the White House. Soon after, Donald Trump tweeted that he would no longer invite the team to the White House, however, it didn't seem to mean much to the team, especially considering they were planning to vote against going to the White House before the invitation was revoked, Haynes and Shelburne report.

Recently, Durant has been in the news for comments he and LeBron James made about Trump while in conversation with ESPN's Cari Champion on a project for the UNINTERRUPTED. The remarks led to Laura Ingraham of Fox News telling the two MVPs to "shut up and dribble," a comment Durant and James both responded to.

While in D.C., the Warriors will face the Wizards Feb. 28.

Kevin Durant back in Seattle against team that almost moved there
Report: Seattle hosting Kings-Warriors preseason game
Kevin Durant back in Seattle against team that almost moved there
Kevin Durant back in Seattle against team that almost moved there
Report: Seattle hosting Kings-Warriors preseason game
Kevin Durant back in Seattle against team that almost moved there
<p>Kevin Durant will return to Seattle for the first time since the end of the 2007-08 season when the Warriors play host to the Kings at Key Arena Oct. 6 for a preseason game, Ailene Voisin of <em>The Sacramento Bee</em> <a href="http://www.sacbee.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/ailene-voisin/article201424674.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:reports" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">reports</a>.</p><p>Voisin adds that the contract for the game has not been signed yet, but that is just a formality.</p><p>There has not been an NBA game in Seattle since the SuperSonics&#39; home finale for the 2007-08 season, when they defeated the Mavericks 99-95 April 13, 2008. In that game, a rookie Durant put up 19 points, five rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal for the home team.</p><p>Durant, and the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City the following season and became the Thunder. In his one year as a Sonic, Durant won Rookie of the Year while averaging 20.3 points and 4.4 rebounds.</p><p>The Kings were nearly moved to Seattle in 2013. Now-Clippers owner Steve Ballmer and Chris Hansen attempted to buy the Kings with the intent to move them to Seattle, but then-NBA commissioner David Stern gave Sacramento a chance to put together a group of investors to match the sales price.</p>
Report: Kevin Durant, Warriors to Play Preseason Game in Seattle vs. Kings

Kevin Durant will return to Seattle for the first time since the end of the 2007-08 season when the Warriors play host to the Kings at Key Arena Oct. 6 for a preseason game, Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee reports.

Voisin adds that the contract for the game has not been signed yet, but that is just a formality.

There has not been an NBA game in Seattle since the SuperSonics' home finale for the 2007-08 season, when they defeated the Mavericks 99-95 April 13, 2008. In that game, a rookie Durant put up 19 points, five rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal for the home team.

Durant, and the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City the following season and became the Thunder. In his one year as a Sonic, Durant won Rookie of the Year while averaging 20.3 points and 4.4 rebounds.

The Kings were nearly moved to Seattle in 2013. Now-Clippers owner Steve Ballmer and Chris Hansen attempted to buy the Kings with the intent to move them to Seattle, but then-NBA commissioner David Stern gave Sacramento a chance to put together a group of investors to match the sales price.

<p>With the NCAA tournament around the corner, NBA GM’s and sneaker brands are already deep in the process of evaluating top prospects. March Madness is a time for evaluators to watch the next generation of NBA superstars and the 2018 NBA draft is loaded with star potential at the top. While NBA front offices might have their sights on how these players will translate to the next level, it is also worth noting that brands are looking for guys who can sell sneakers down the road.</p><p>The relationship between the NCAA and sneaker brands has always been complicated, as we have seen how shady the business can get with the <a href="https://www.si.com/college-basketball/2017/12/30/college-corruption-louisville-rick-pitino-lawsuit-defendant-argument-adidas" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Louisville and Adidas recruiting" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Louisville and Adidas recruiting</a> scandal. The <em>One &#38; Done </em>documentary featuring Ben Simmons provides viewers with a firsthand account of how brands court players throughout the NCAA season—sometimes with sneaker reps moving to the city where these prospects play.</p><p>Most brands have been recruiting these prospects since they were freshmen in high school, and maybe even earlier. For most players, their first professional contract is not an NBA one but a sneaker deal. So which top college basketball prospects are on brands’ radars? The Crossover explores.</p><h3><strong>Trae Young, Oklahoma</strong></h3><p>Trae Young has been this year&#39;s biggest college basketball star. It is hard to turn on <em>Sportscenter</em> without catching a segment about his game or whether he is the next Stephen Curry. Young’s approach fits the modern NBA perhaps more than any other player in the draft aside from DeAndre Ayton. Young possesses video-game like ability and has fans showing up hours in advance to watch him shoot before games. <a href="https://www.si.com/nba/2016/03/14/stephen-curry-golden-state-warriors-bruce-fraser-steve-kerr-shot" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Sounds familiar?" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Sounds familiar?</a></p><p>He already sports a cool 587K followers on Instagram and 114K on Twitter, and has the likes of LeBron and Steph <a href="https://fansided.com/2018/02/13/lebron-james-career-advice-trae-young/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:praising his play" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">praising his play</a> this season. Brands love stories like Young’s. Despite being a five-star prospect and a McDonald’s All-American, Young flew under the radar after committing to Oklahoma. He is also not the most physically imposing athlete and that has worked out in his favor because he relates to regular people. Young broke out during the PK80 Invitational in front of the tournaments’ namesake, Nike chairman Phil Knight, and has played on the Nike hoops circuit since AAU. It would be surprising if the Swoosh can’t land one of the draft’s best prospects—a player who has performed in a pair of Nike&#39;s for most of his basketball years. They wouldn’t want to make the <a href="http://fortune.com/2016/03/23/nike-stephen-curry-under-armour/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:same mistake" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">same mistake</a> they made with Curry and lose a guy with his ability.</p><h3><strong>Michael Porter Jr., Missouri</strong></h3><p>Porter Jr. has <a href="https://www.si.com/college-basketball/2017/11/21/michael-porter-jr-injury-surgery-missouri-ncaa-tournament-hopes" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:been out the majority of the year" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">been out the majority of the year</a> with a back injury but is still considered one of the top prospects in the draft. The Missouri forward is built in the mold of Kevin Durant, and if you dig into his highlight archive, it is easy to see why he gets those comparisons. A former teammate of Trae Young&#39;s on the AAU circuit with the Nike-sponsored Mokan Elite, Porter Jr. might have the highest ceiling when it comes to marketability. He checks most of the boxes brands look for in a basketball player, as he&#39;s a highly confident wing player from a <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/BZwyClEjFU8/?taken-by=mpj" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:great basketball family" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">great basketball family</a>.</p><p>Porter Jr. is well aware of his brand and prior to Missouri—which is a Nike-sponsored school—he flooded his Instagram page with images from different branded events such as <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/BclKC6gj-8-/?taken-by=mpj" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Under Armour" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Under Armour </a>with Stephen Curry, <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/BXZFJMNjn9_/?taken-by=mpj" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Adidas" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Adidas</a> with James Harden and of course Nike. It looks like all fun and games but in reality it&#39;s an audition. Porter Jr. will for sure ignite a bidding war.</p><h3><strong>Marvin Bagley, Duke</strong></h3><p>Marvin Bagley III is technically supposed to be a senior in high school and has more than lived up to the hype at Duke. The 6’10” forward out of Tempe, Arizona, is one of the most unique players in the draft. It&#39;s clear he has the tools to become a star on the next level, but at the same time it is hard to tell what position he will play in the NBA. Bagley III is closely linked to Nike and has played on the swooshes’ AAU Circuit, is a mainstay at the Nike sponsored Drew League, Sierra Canyon [Calif.] High School and now Duke.</p><p>To get a hint of Bagley’s popularity, his father <a href="http://www.newsobserver.com/sports/college/acc/duke/duke-now/article195480224.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:created T-shirts" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">created T-shirts</a> with his sons’ future logo and had to threaten outsiders to keep them from using the image. The elder Bagley is not LaVar but has been steady on building his sons’ brand off the court with his own Twitter page, “Team Bagley,&quot; which is a source of information about everything Bagley does. He is also <a href="https://soundcloud.com/3five_sierracanyon/mb3five-breathe" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:an aspiring rapper" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">an aspiring rapper</a>, following other west coast products like Damian Lillard and Lonzo Ball.</p><h3><strong>Luka Doncic, Real Madrid</strong></h3><p>The blueprint for success in today’s NBA for incoming international players is Kristaps Porzingis. The Knicks took a chance on the forward from Latvia and found a star. Porzingis has shattered expectations and recently signed a mega deal with Adidas.</p><p>The 18-year-old Doncic is already one of the most decorated international prospects and plays for Real Madrid of the Liga ACB and EuroLeague. He also plays alongside Goran Dragic on the Slovenian national team. Doncic stands at 6’8”, possesses strong playmaking skills and a polished offensive game. Real Madrid is sponsored by Adidas, and with the three-stripes&#39; European dominance, it would be hard seeing them lose out on him.</p><h3><strong>DeAndre Ayton, Arizona</strong></h3><p>Forget unicorns, DeAndre Ayton is a thoroughbred playing in the NCAA. The 7’0” and 260 pound freshman at Arizona is a transcendent talent and possesses a great combination of athleticism and skills. I can easily see Ayton joining the line of generational talents such as DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Karl Anthony-Towns and Joel Embiid. If you are only counting the three major brands, no big man in the NBA possesses a signature sneaker. Davis has been in talks with Nike about a signature model but it remains to be seen. That fact still hasn’t stopped brands from shelling out the money and providing some great marketing opportunities off the court.</p><p>SI ran a <a href="https://www.si.com/college-basketball/2016/06/22/why-top-college-recruits-are-forgoing-traditional-high-schools-powerhouses" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:feature on Ayton’s brand relationships" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">feature on Ayton’s brand relationships</a> throughout high school and how he avoided the traditional system by playing at brand-sponsored pop-up schools. Ayton bounced around a bit from Under Armour’s Balboa City to the Nike sponsored Hillcrest Prep. UA put a lot of money in funding the school centered around Ayton’s ability, but he transferred so it will be interesting to see how his sneaker opportunities play out in the future.</p>
Trae Young, Marvin Bagley and Basketball's Next Sneaker Stars

With the NCAA tournament around the corner, NBA GM’s and sneaker brands are already deep in the process of evaluating top prospects. March Madness is a time for evaluators to watch the next generation of NBA superstars and the 2018 NBA draft is loaded with star potential at the top. While NBA front offices might have their sights on how these players will translate to the next level, it is also worth noting that brands are looking for guys who can sell sneakers down the road.

The relationship between the NCAA and sneaker brands has always been complicated, as we have seen how shady the business can get with the Louisville and Adidas recruiting scandal. The One & Done documentary featuring Ben Simmons provides viewers with a firsthand account of how brands court players throughout the NCAA season—sometimes with sneaker reps moving to the city where these prospects play.

Most brands have been recruiting these prospects since they were freshmen in high school, and maybe even earlier. For most players, their first professional contract is not an NBA one but a sneaker deal. So which top college basketball prospects are on brands’ radars? The Crossover explores.

Trae Young, Oklahoma

Trae Young has been this year's biggest college basketball star. It is hard to turn on Sportscenter without catching a segment about his game or whether he is the next Stephen Curry. Young’s approach fits the modern NBA perhaps more than any other player in the draft aside from DeAndre Ayton. Young possesses video-game like ability and has fans showing up hours in advance to watch him shoot before games. Sounds familiar?

He already sports a cool 587K followers on Instagram and 114K on Twitter, and has the likes of LeBron and Steph praising his play this season. Brands love stories like Young’s. Despite being a five-star prospect and a McDonald’s All-American, Young flew under the radar after committing to Oklahoma. He is also not the most physically imposing athlete and that has worked out in his favor because he relates to regular people. Young broke out during the PK80 Invitational in front of the tournaments’ namesake, Nike chairman Phil Knight, and has played on the Nike hoops circuit since AAU. It would be surprising if the Swoosh can’t land one of the draft’s best prospects—a player who has performed in a pair of Nike's for most of his basketball years. They wouldn’t want to make the same mistake they made with Curry and lose a guy with his ability.

Michael Porter Jr., Missouri

Porter Jr. has been out the majority of the year with a back injury but is still considered one of the top prospects in the draft. The Missouri forward is built in the mold of Kevin Durant, and if you dig into his highlight archive, it is easy to see why he gets those comparisons. A former teammate of Trae Young's on the AAU circuit with the Nike-sponsored Mokan Elite, Porter Jr. might have the highest ceiling when it comes to marketability. He checks most of the boxes brands look for in a basketball player, as he's a highly confident wing player from a great basketball family.

Porter Jr. is well aware of his brand and prior to Missouri—which is a Nike-sponsored school—he flooded his Instagram page with images from different branded events such as Under Armour with Stephen Curry, Adidas with James Harden and of course Nike. It looks like all fun and games but in reality it's an audition. Porter Jr. will for sure ignite a bidding war.

Marvin Bagley, Duke

Marvin Bagley III is technically supposed to be a senior in high school and has more than lived up to the hype at Duke. The 6’10” forward out of Tempe, Arizona, is one of the most unique players in the draft. It's clear he has the tools to become a star on the next level, but at the same time it is hard to tell what position he will play in the NBA. Bagley III is closely linked to Nike and has played on the swooshes’ AAU Circuit, is a mainstay at the Nike sponsored Drew League, Sierra Canyon [Calif.] High School and now Duke.

To get a hint of Bagley’s popularity, his father created T-shirts with his sons’ future logo and had to threaten outsiders to keep them from using the image. The elder Bagley is not LaVar but has been steady on building his sons’ brand off the court with his own Twitter page, “Team Bagley," which is a source of information about everything Bagley does. He is also an aspiring rapper, following other west coast products like Damian Lillard and Lonzo Ball.

Luka Doncic, Real Madrid

The blueprint for success in today’s NBA for incoming international players is Kristaps Porzingis. The Knicks took a chance on the forward from Latvia and found a star. Porzingis has shattered expectations and recently signed a mega deal with Adidas.

The 18-year-old Doncic is already one of the most decorated international prospects and plays for Real Madrid of the Liga ACB and EuroLeague. He also plays alongside Goran Dragic on the Slovenian national team. Doncic stands at 6’8”, possesses strong playmaking skills and a polished offensive game. Real Madrid is sponsored by Adidas, and with the three-stripes' European dominance, it would be hard seeing them lose out on him.

DeAndre Ayton, Arizona

Forget unicorns, DeAndre Ayton is a thoroughbred playing in the NCAA. The 7’0” and 260 pound freshman at Arizona is a transcendent talent and possesses a great combination of athleticism and skills. I can easily see Ayton joining the line of generational talents such as DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Karl Anthony-Towns and Joel Embiid. If you are only counting the three major brands, no big man in the NBA possesses a signature sneaker. Davis has been in talks with Nike about a signature model but it remains to be seen. That fact still hasn’t stopped brands from shelling out the money and providing some great marketing opportunities off the court.

SI ran a feature on Ayton’s brand relationships throughout high school and how he avoided the traditional system by playing at brand-sponsored pop-up schools. Ayton bounced around a bit from Under Armour’s Balboa City to the Nike sponsored Hillcrest Prep. UA put a lot of money in funding the school centered around Ayton’s ability, but he transferred so it will be interesting to see how his sneaker opportunities play out in the future.

<p>With the NCAA tournament around the corner, NBA GM’s and sneaker brands are already deep in the process of evaluating top prospects. March Madness is a time for evaluators to watch the next generation of NBA superstars and the 2018 NBA draft is loaded with star potential at the top. While NBA front offices might have their sights on how these players will translate to the next level, it is also worth noting that brands are looking for guys who can sell sneakers down the road.</p><p>The relationship between the NCAA and sneaker brands has always been complicated, as we have seen how shady the business can get with the <a href="https://www.si.com/college-basketball/2017/12/30/college-corruption-louisville-rick-pitino-lawsuit-defendant-argument-adidas" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Louisville and Adidas recruiting" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Louisville and Adidas recruiting</a> scandal. The <em>One &#38; Done </em>documentary featuring Ben Simmons provides viewers with a firsthand account of how brands court players throughout the NCAA season—sometimes with sneaker reps moving to the city where these prospects play.</p><p>Most brands have been recruiting these prospects since they were freshmen in high school, and maybe even earlier. For most players, their first professional contract is not an NBA one but a sneaker deal. So which top college basketball prospects are on brands’ radars? The Crossover explores.</p><h3><strong>Trae Young, Oklahoma</strong></h3><p>Trae Young has been this year&#39;s biggest college basketball star. It is hard to turn on <em>Sportscenter</em> without catching a segment about his game or whether he is the next Stephen Curry. Young’s approach fits the modern NBA perhaps more than any other player in the draft aside from DeAndre Ayton. Young possesses video-game like ability and has fans showing up hours in advance to watch him shoot before games. <a href="https://www.si.com/nba/2016/03/14/stephen-curry-golden-state-warriors-bruce-fraser-steve-kerr-shot" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Sounds familiar?" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Sounds familiar?</a></p><p>He already sports a cool 587K followers on Instagram and 114K on Twitter, and has the likes of LeBron and Steph <a href="https://fansided.com/2018/02/13/lebron-james-career-advice-trae-young/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:praising his play" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">praising his play</a> this season. Brands love stories like Young’s. Despite being a five-star prospect and a McDonald’s All-American, Young flew under the radar after committing to Oklahoma. He is also not the most physically imposing athlete and that has worked out in his favor because he relates to regular people. Young broke out during the PK80 Invitational in front of the tournaments’ namesake, Nike chairman Phil Knight, and has played on the Nike hoops circuit since AAU. It would be surprising if the Swoosh can’t land one of the draft’s best prospects—a player who has performed in a pair of Nike&#39;s for most of his basketball years. They wouldn’t want to make the <a href="http://fortune.com/2016/03/23/nike-stephen-curry-under-armour/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:same mistake" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">same mistake</a> they made with Curry and lose a guy with his ability.</p><h3><strong>Michael Porter Jr., Missouri</strong></h3><p>Porter Jr. has <a href="https://www.si.com/college-basketball/2017/11/21/michael-porter-jr-injury-surgery-missouri-ncaa-tournament-hopes" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:been out the majority of the year" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">been out the majority of the year</a> with a back injury but is still considered one of the top prospects in the draft. The Missouri forward is built in the mold of Kevin Durant, and if you dig into his highlight archive, it is easy to see why he gets those comparisons. A former teammate of Trae Young&#39;s on the AAU circuit with the Nike-sponsored Mokan Elite, Porter Jr. might have the highest ceiling when it comes to marketability. He checks most of the boxes brands look for in a basketball player, as he&#39;s a highly confident wing player from a <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/BZwyClEjFU8/?taken-by=mpj" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:great basketball family" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">great basketball family</a>.</p><p>Porter Jr. is well aware of his brand and prior to Missouri—which is a Nike-sponsored school—he flooded his Instagram page with images from different branded events such as <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/BclKC6gj-8-/?taken-by=mpj" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Under Armour" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Under Armour </a>with Stephen Curry, <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/BXZFJMNjn9_/?taken-by=mpj" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Adidas" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Adidas</a> with James Harden and of course Nike. It looks like all fun and games but in reality it&#39;s an audition. Porter Jr. will for sure ignite a bidding war.</p><h3><strong>Marvin Bagley, Duke</strong></h3><p>Marvin Bagley III is technically supposed to be a senior in high school and has more than lived up to the hype at Duke. The 6’10” forward out of Tempe, Arizona, is one of the most unique players in the draft. It&#39;s clear he has the tools to become a star on the next level, but at the same time it is hard to tell what position he will play in the NBA. Bagley III is closely linked to Nike and has played on the swooshes’ AAU Circuit, is a mainstay at the Nike sponsored Drew League, Sierra Canyon [Calif.] High School and now Duke.</p><p>To get a hint of Bagley’s popularity, his father <a href="http://www.newsobserver.com/sports/college/acc/duke/duke-now/article195480224.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:created T-shirts" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">created T-shirts</a> with his sons’ future logo and had to threaten outsiders to keep them from using the image. The elder Bagley is not LaVar but has been steady on building his sons’ brand off the court with his own Twitter page, “Team Bagley,&quot; which is a source of information about everything Bagley does. He is also <a href="https://soundcloud.com/3five_sierracanyon/mb3five-breathe" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:an aspiring rapper" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">an aspiring rapper</a>, following other west coast products like Damian Lillard and Lonzo Ball.</p><h3><strong>Luka Doncic, Real Madrid</strong></h3><p>The blueprint for success in today’s NBA for incoming international players is Kristaps Porzingis. The Knicks took a chance on the forward from Latvia and found a star. Porzingis has shattered expectations and recently signed a mega deal with Adidas.</p><p>The 18-year-old Doncic is already one of the most decorated international prospects and plays for Real Madrid of the Liga ACB and EuroLeague. He also plays alongside Goran Dragic on the Slovenian national team. Doncic stands at 6’8”, possesses strong playmaking skills and a polished offensive game. Real Madrid is sponsored by Adidas, and with the three-stripes&#39; European dominance, it would be hard seeing them lose out on him.</p><h3><strong>DeAndre Ayton, Arizona</strong></h3><p>Forget unicorns, DeAndre Ayton is a thoroughbred playing in the NCAA. The 7’0” and 260 pound freshman at Arizona is a transcendent talent and possesses a great combination of athleticism and skills. I can easily see Ayton joining the line of generational talents such as DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Karl Anthony-Towns and Joel Embiid. If you are only counting the three major brands, no big man in the NBA possesses a signature sneaker. Davis has been in talks with Nike about a signature model but it remains to be seen. That fact still hasn’t stopped brands from shelling out the money and providing some great marketing opportunities off the court.</p><p>SI ran a <a href="https://www.si.com/college-basketball/2016/06/22/why-top-college-recruits-are-forgoing-traditional-high-schools-powerhouses" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:feature on Ayton’s brand relationships" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">feature on Ayton’s brand relationships</a> throughout high school and how he avoided the traditional system by playing at brand-sponsored pop-up schools. Ayton bounced around a bit from Under Armour’s Balboa City to the Nike sponsored Hillcrest Prep. UA put a lot of money in funding the school centered around Ayton’s ability, but he transferred so it will be interesting to see how his sneaker opportunities play out in the future.</p>
Trae Young, Marvin Bagley and Basketball's Next Sneaker Stars

With the NCAA tournament around the corner, NBA GM’s and sneaker brands are already deep in the process of evaluating top prospects. March Madness is a time for evaluators to watch the next generation of NBA superstars and the 2018 NBA draft is loaded with star potential at the top. While NBA front offices might have their sights on how these players will translate to the next level, it is also worth noting that brands are looking for guys who can sell sneakers down the road.

The relationship between the NCAA and sneaker brands has always been complicated, as we have seen how shady the business can get with the Louisville and Adidas recruiting scandal. The One & Done documentary featuring Ben Simmons provides viewers with a firsthand account of how brands court players throughout the NCAA season—sometimes with sneaker reps moving to the city where these prospects play.

Most brands have been recruiting these prospects since they were freshmen in high school, and maybe even earlier. For most players, their first professional contract is not an NBA one but a sneaker deal. So which top college basketball prospects are on brands’ radars? The Crossover explores.

Trae Young, Oklahoma

Trae Young has been this year's biggest college basketball star. It is hard to turn on Sportscenter without catching a segment about his game or whether he is the next Stephen Curry. Young’s approach fits the modern NBA perhaps more than any other player in the draft aside from DeAndre Ayton. Young possesses video-game like ability and has fans showing up hours in advance to watch him shoot before games. Sounds familiar?

He already sports a cool 587K followers on Instagram and 114K on Twitter, and has the likes of LeBron and Steph praising his play this season. Brands love stories like Young’s. Despite being a five-star prospect and a McDonald’s All-American, Young flew under the radar after committing to Oklahoma. He is also not the most physically imposing athlete and that has worked out in his favor because he relates to regular people. Young broke out during the PK80 Invitational in front of the tournaments’ namesake, Nike chairman Phil Knight, and has played on the Nike hoops circuit since AAU. It would be surprising if the Swoosh can’t land one of the draft’s best prospects—a player who has performed in a pair of Nike's for most of his basketball years. They wouldn’t want to make the same mistake they made with Curry and lose a guy with his ability.

Michael Porter Jr., Missouri

Porter Jr. has been out the majority of the year with a back injury but is still considered one of the top prospects in the draft. The Missouri forward is built in the mold of Kevin Durant, and if you dig into his highlight archive, it is easy to see why he gets those comparisons. A former teammate of Trae Young's on the AAU circuit with the Nike-sponsored Mokan Elite, Porter Jr. might have the highest ceiling when it comes to marketability. He checks most of the boxes brands look for in a basketball player, as he's a highly confident wing player from a great basketball family.

Porter Jr. is well aware of his brand and prior to Missouri—which is a Nike-sponsored school—he flooded his Instagram page with images from different branded events such as Under Armour with Stephen Curry, Adidas with James Harden and of course Nike. It looks like all fun and games but in reality it's an audition. Porter Jr. will for sure ignite a bidding war.

Marvin Bagley, Duke

Marvin Bagley III is technically supposed to be a senior in high school and has more than lived up to the hype at Duke. The 6’10” forward out of Tempe, Arizona, is one of the most unique players in the draft. It's clear he has the tools to become a star on the next level, but at the same time it is hard to tell what position he will play in the NBA. Bagley III is closely linked to Nike and has played on the swooshes’ AAU Circuit, is a mainstay at the Nike sponsored Drew League, Sierra Canyon [Calif.] High School and now Duke.

To get a hint of Bagley’s popularity, his father created T-shirts with his sons’ future logo and had to threaten outsiders to keep them from using the image. The elder Bagley is not LaVar but has been steady on building his sons’ brand off the court with his own Twitter page, “Team Bagley," which is a source of information about everything Bagley does. He is also an aspiring rapper, following other west coast products like Damian Lillard and Lonzo Ball.

Luka Doncic, Real Madrid

The blueprint for success in today’s NBA for incoming international players is Kristaps Porzingis. The Knicks took a chance on the forward from Latvia and found a star. Porzingis has shattered expectations and recently signed a mega deal with Adidas.

The 18-year-old Doncic is already one of the most decorated international prospects and plays for Real Madrid of the Liga ACB and EuroLeague. He also plays alongside Goran Dragic on the Slovenian national team. Doncic stands at 6’8”, possesses strong playmaking skills and a polished offensive game. Real Madrid is sponsored by Adidas, and with the three-stripes' European dominance, it would be hard seeing them lose out on him.

DeAndre Ayton, Arizona

Forget unicorns, DeAndre Ayton is a thoroughbred playing in the NCAA. The 7’0” and 260 pound freshman at Arizona is a transcendent talent and possesses a great combination of athleticism and skills. I can easily see Ayton joining the line of generational talents such as DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Karl Anthony-Towns and Joel Embiid. If you are only counting the three major brands, no big man in the NBA possesses a signature sneaker. Davis has been in talks with Nike about a signature model but it remains to be seen. That fact still hasn’t stopped brands from shelling out the money and providing some great marketing opportunities off the court.

SI ran a feature on Ayton’s brand relationships throughout high school and how he avoided the traditional system by playing at brand-sponsored pop-up schools. Ayton bounced around a bit from Under Armour’s Balboa City to the Nike sponsored Hillcrest Prep. UA put a lot of money in funding the school centered around Ayton’s ability, but he transferred so it will be interesting to see how his sneaker opportunities play out in the future.

<p>With the NCAA tournament around the corner, NBA GM’s and sneaker brands are already deep in the process of evaluating top prospects. March Madness is a time for evaluators to watch the next generation of NBA superstars and the 2018 NBA draft is loaded with star potential at the top. While NBA front offices might have their sights on how these players will translate to the next level, it is also worth noting that brands are looking for guys who can sell sneakers down the road.</p><p>The relationship between the NCAA and sneaker brands has always been complicated, as we have seen how shady the business can get with the <a href="https://www.si.com/college-basketball/2017/12/30/college-corruption-louisville-rick-pitino-lawsuit-defendant-argument-adidas" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Louisville and Adidas recruiting" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Louisville and Adidas recruiting</a> scandal. The <em>One &#38; Done </em>documentary featuring Ben Simmons provides viewers with a firsthand account of how brands court players throughout the NCAA season—sometimes with sneaker reps moving to the city where these prospects play.</p><p>Most brands have been recruiting these prospects since they were freshmen in high school, and maybe even earlier. For most players, their first professional contract is not an NBA one but a sneaker deal. So which top college basketball prospects are on brands’ radars? The Crossover explores.</p><h3><strong>Trae Young, Oklahoma</strong></h3><p>Trae Young has been this year&#39;s biggest college basketball star. It is hard to turn on <em>Sportscenter</em> without catching a segment about his game or whether he is the next Stephen Curry. Young’s approach fits the modern NBA perhaps more than any other player in the draft aside from DeAndre Ayton. Young possesses video-game like ability and has fans showing up hours in advance to watch him shoot before games. <a href="https://www.si.com/nba/2016/03/14/stephen-curry-golden-state-warriors-bruce-fraser-steve-kerr-shot" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Sounds familiar?" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Sounds familiar?</a></p><p>He already sports a cool 587K followers on Instagram and 114K on Twitter, and has the likes of LeBron and Steph <a href="https://fansided.com/2018/02/13/lebron-james-career-advice-trae-young/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:praising his play" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">praising his play</a> this season. Brands love stories like Young’s. Despite being a five-star prospect and a McDonald’s All-American, Young flew under the radar after committing to Oklahoma. He is also not the most physically imposing athlete and that has worked out in his favor because he relates to regular people. Young broke out during the PK80 Invitational in front of the tournaments’ namesake, Nike chairman Phil Knight, and has played on the Nike hoops circuit since AAU. It would be surprising if the Swoosh can’t land one of the draft’s best prospects—a player who has performed in a pair of Nike&#39;s for most of his basketball years. They wouldn’t want to make the <a href="http://fortune.com/2016/03/23/nike-stephen-curry-under-armour/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:same mistake" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">same mistake</a> they made with Curry and lose a guy with his ability.</p><h3><strong>Michael Porter Jr., Missouri</strong></h3><p>Porter Jr. has <a href="https://www.si.com/college-basketball/2017/11/21/michael-porter-jr-injury-surgery-missouri-ncaa-tournament-hopes" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:been out the majority of the year" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">been out the majority of the year</a> with a back injury but is still considered one of the top prospects in the draft. The Missouri forward is built in the mold of Kevin Durant, and if you dig into his highlight archive, it is easy to see why he gets those comparisons. A former teammate of Trae Young&#39;s on the AAU circuit with the Nike-sponsored Mokan Elite, Porter Jr. might have the highest ceiling when it comes to marketability. He checks most of the boxes brands look for in a basketball player, as he&#39;s a highly confident wing player from a <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/BZwyClEjFU8/?taken-by=mpj" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:great basketball family" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">great basketball family</a>.</p><p>Porter Jr. is well aware of his brand and prior to Missouri—which is a Nike-sponsored school—he flooded his Instagram page with images from different branded events such as <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/BclKC6gj-8-/?taken-by=mpj" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Under Armour" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Under Armour </a>with Stephen Curry, <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/BXZFJMNjn9_/?taken-by=mpj" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Adidas" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Adidas</a> with James Harden and of course Nike. It looks like all fun and games but in reality it&#39;s an audition. Porter Jr. will for sure ignite a bidding war.</p><h3><strong>Marvin Bagley, Duke</strong></h3><p>Marvin Bagley III is technically supposed to be a senior in high school and has more than lived up to the hype at Duke. The 6’10” forward out of Tempe, Arizona, is one of the most unique players in the draft. It&#39;s clear he has the tools to become a star on the next level, but at the same time it is hard to tell what position he will play in the NBA. Bagley III is closely linked to Nike and has played on the swooshes’ AAU Circuit, is a mainstay at the Nike sponsored Drew League, Sierra Canyon [Calif.] High School and now Duke.</p><p>To get a hint of Bagley’s popularity, his father <a href="http://www.newsobserver.com/sports/college/acc/duke/duke-now/article195480224.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:created T-shirts" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">created T-shirts</a> with his sons’ future logo and had to threaten outsiders to keep them from using the image. The elder Bagley is not LaVar but has been steady on building his sons’ brand off the court with his own Twitter page, “Team Bagley,&quot; which is a source of information about everything Bagley does. He is also <a href="https://soundcloud.com/3five_sierracanyon/mb3five-breathe" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:an aspiring rapper" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">an aspiring rapper</a>, following other west coast products like Damian Lillard and Lonzo Ball.</p><h3><strong>Luka Doncic, Real Madrid</strong></h3><p>The blueprint for success in today’s NBA for incoming international players is Kristaps Porzingis. The Knicks took a chance on the forward from Latvia and found a star. Porzingis has shattered expectations and recently signed a mega deal with Adidas.</p><p>The 18-year-old Doncic is already one of the most decorated international prospects and plays for Real Madrid of the Liga ACB and EuroLeague. He also plays alongside Goran Dragic on the Slovenian national team. Doncic stands at 6’8”, possesses strong playmaking skills and a polished offensive game. Real Madrid is sponsored by Adidas, and with the three-stripes&#39; European dominance, it would be hard seeing them lose out on him.</p><h3><strong>DeAndre Ayton, Arizona</strong></h3><p>Forget unicorns, DeAndre Ayton is a thoroughbred playing in the NCAA. The 7’0” and 260 pound freshman at Arizona is a transcendent talent and possesses a great combination of athleticism and skills. I can easily see Ayton joining the line of generational talents such as DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Karl Anthony-Towns and Joel Embiid. If you are only counting the three major brands, no big man in the NBA possesses a signature sneaker. Davis has been in talks with Nike about a signature model but it remains to be seen. That fact still hasn’t stopped brands from shelling out the money and providing some great marketing opportunities off the court.</p><p>SI ran a <a href="https://www.si.com/college-basketball/2016/06/22/why-top-college-recruits-are-forgoing-traditional-high-schools-powerhouses" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:feature on Ayton’s brand relationships" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">feature on Ayton’s brand relationships</a> throughout high school and how he avoided the traditional system by playing at brand-sponsored pop-up schools. Ayton bounced around a bit from Under Armour’s Balboa City to the Nike sponsored Hillcrest Prep. UA put a lot of money in funding the school centered around Ayton’s ability, but he transferred so it will be interesting to see how his sneaker opportunities play out in the future.</p>
Trae Young, Marvin Bagley and Basketball's Next Sneaker Stars

With the NCAA tournament around the corner, NBA GM’s and sneaker brands are already deep in the process of evaluating top prospects. March Madness is a time for evaluators to watch the next generation of NBA superstars and the 2018 NBA draft is loaded with star potential at the top. While NBA front offices might have their sights on how these players will translate to the next level, it is also worth noting that brands are looking for guys who can sell sneakers down the road.

The relationship between the NCAA and sneaker brands has always been complicated, as we have seen how shady the business can get with the Louisville and Adidas recruiting scandal. The One & Done documentary featuring Ben Simmons provides viewers with a firsthand account of how brands court players throughout the NCAA season—sometimes with sneaker reps moving to the city where these prospects play.

Most brands have been recruiting these prospects since they were freshmen in high school, and maybe even earlier. For most players, their first professional contract is not an NBA one but a sneaker deal. So which top college basketball prospects are on brands’ radars? The Crossover explores.

Trae Young, Oklahoma

Trae Young has been this year's biggest college basketball star. It is hard to turn on Sportscenter without catching a segment about his game or whether he is the next Stephen Curry. Young’s approach fits the modern NBA perhaps more than any other player in the draft aside from DeAndre Ayton. Young possesses video-game like ability and has fans showing up hours in advance to watch him shoot before games. Sounds familiar?

He already sports a cool 587K followers on Instagram and 114K on Twitter, and has the likes of LeBron and Steph praising his play this season. Brands love stories like Young’s. Despite being a five-star prospect and a McDonald’s All-American, Young flew under the radar after committing to Oklahoma. He is also not the most physically imposing athlete and that has worked out in his favor because he relates to regular people. Young broke out during the PK80 Invitational in front of the tournaments’ namesake, Nike chairman Phil Knight, and has played on the Nike hoops circuit since AAU. It would be surprising if the Swoosh can’t land one of the draft’s best prospects—a player who has performed in a pair of Nike's for most of his basketball years. They wouldn’t want to make the same mistake they made with Curry and lose a guy with his ability.

Michael Porter Jr., Missouri

Porter Jr. has been out the majority of the year with a back injury but is still considered one of the top prospects in the draft. The Missouri forward is built in the mold of Kevin Durant, and if you dig into his highlight archive, it is easy to see why he gets those comparisons. A former teammate of Trae Young's on the AAU circuit with the Nike-sponsored Mokan Elite, Porter Jr. might have the highest ceiling when it comes to marketability. He checks most of the boxes brands look for in a basketball player, as he's a highly confident wing player from a great basketball family.

Porter Jr. is well aware of his brand and prior to Missouri—which is a Nike-sponsored school—he flooded his Instagram page with images from different branded events such as Under Armour with Stephen Curry, Adidas with James Harden and of course Nike. It looks like all fun and games but in reality it's an audition. Porter Jr. will for sure ignite a bidding war.

Marvin Bagley, Duke

Marvin Bagley III is technically supposed to be a senior in high school and has more than lived up to the hype at Duke. The 6’10” forward out of Tempe, Arizona, is one of the most unique players in the draft. It's clear he has the tools to become a star on the next level, but at the same time it is hard to tell what position he will play in the NBA. Bagley III is closely linked to Nike and has played on the swooshes’ AAU Circuit, is a mainstay at the Nike sponsored Drew League, Sierra Canyon [Calif.] High School and now Duke.

To get a hint of Bagley’s popularity, his father created T-shirts with his sons’ future logo and had to threaten outsiders to keep them from using the image. The elder Bagley is not LaVar but has been steady on building his sons’ brand off the court with his own Twitter page, “Team Bagley," which is a source of information about everything Bagley does. He is also an aspiring rapper, following other west coast products like Damian Lillard and Lonzo Ball.

Luka Doncic, Real Madrid

The blueprint for success in today’s NBA for incoming international players is Kristaps Porzingis. The Knicks took a chance on the forward from Latvia and found a star. Porzingis has shattered expectations and recently signed a mega deal with Adidas.

The 18-year-old Doncic is already one of the most decorated international prospects and plays for Real Madrid of the Liga ACB and EuroLeague. He also plays alongside Goran Dragic on the Slovenian national team. Doncic stands at 6’8”, possesses strong playmaking skills and a polished offensive game. Real Madrid is sponsored by Adidas, and with the three-stripes' European dominance, it would be hard seeing them lose out on him.

DeAndre Ayton, Arizona

Forget unicorns, DeAndre Ayton is a thoroughbred playing in the NCAA. The 7’0” and 260 pound freshman at Arizona is a transcendent talent and possesses a great combination of athleticism and skills. I can easily see Ayton joining the line of generational talents such as DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Karl Anthony-Towns and Joel Embiid. If you are only counting the three major brands, no big man in the NBA possesses a signature sneaker. Davis has been in talks with Nike about a signature model but it remains to be seen. That fact still hasn’t stopped brands from shelling out the money and providing some great marketing opportunities off the court.

SI ran a feature on Ayton’s brand relationships throughout high school and how he avoided the traditional system by playing at brand-sponsored pop-up schools. Ayton bounced around a bit from Under Armour’s Balboa City to the Nike sponsored Hillcrest Prep. UA put a lot of money in funding the school centered around Ayton’s ability, but he transferred so it will be interesting to see how his sneaker opportunities play out in the future.

Team Stephen&#39;s DeMar Derozan, left, of the Toronto Raptors, shoots as Team LeBron&#39;s Kevin Durant, second from left, of the Golden State Warriors, Kyrie Irving, second from right, of the Boston Celtics, and Russell Westbrook, of the Oklahoma City Thunder, defend during the second half of an NBA All-Star basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Team Stephen's DeMar Derozan, left, of the Toronto Raptors, shoots as Team LeBron's Kevin Durant, second from left, of the Golden State Warriors, Kyrie Irving, second from right, of the Boston Celtics, and Russell Westbrook, of the Oklahoma City Thunder, defend during the second half of an NBA All-Star basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Team Stephen's DeMar Derozan, left, of the Toronto Raptors, shoots as Team LeBron's Kevin Durant, second from left, of the Golden State Warriors, Kyrie Irving, second from right, of the Boston Celtics, and Russell Westbrook, of the Oklahoma City Thunder, defend during the second half of an NBA All-Star basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Team LeBron&#39;s Kevin Durant, right, of the Golden State Warriors, shoots as Team Stephen&#39;s James Harden, of the Houston Rockets, defends during the first half of an NBA All-Star basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
Team LeBron's Kevin Durant, right, of the Golden State Warriors, shoots as Team Stephen's James Harden, of the Houston Rockets, defends during the first half of an NBA All-Star basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
Team LeBron's Kevin Durant, right, of the Golden State Warriors, shoots as Team Stephen's James Harden, of the Houston Rockets, defends during the first half of an NBA All-Star basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
<p>LeBron James dominated All-Star Weekend in his 15th season, dropping knowledge off the court and taking home hardware at the big game. After a long weekend in Los Angeles, Andrew Sharp and Ben Golliver gathered on the <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/open-floor-sis-nba-show/id1050847009?mt=2" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:latest episode of the Open Floor podcast" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">latest episode of the Open Floor podcast</a> to discuss the improved All-Star Game, LeBron&#39;s latest milestone and Stephen Curry&#39;s voting process. </p><p><a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/open-floor-sis-nba-show/id1050847009?mt=2" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Check out the full episode here and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Check out the full episode here and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes</a>. (The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity).</p><p><strong>Ben Golliver:</strong> We had some pretty extended, ongoing debates about the All-Star teams, Team LeBron, Team Steph and we all saw what happened on the court tonight. So do you want to run down what happened? Or maybe I should do that? </p><p><strong>Andrew Sharp:</strong> You&#39;re patting yourself on the back. You&#39;re congratulating yourself for your class, and I almost responded to somebody on Twitter who was wondering why you weren&#39;t gloating more. And I said, &#39;Look, Ben is a follower of the Spurs&#39; way. It&#39;s not in his nature to gloat.&#39; But I want you to know that I&#39;m also taking the high road here. If we&#39;re really breaking down the game, if we really want to take it seriously, Team Steph was by far the superior squad but for one detail. Did you happen to notice James Harden&#39;s entry in the box score? </p><p><strong>Golliver: </strong>You&#39;re not going to do this. You&#39;re not going to pin the whole thing on Harden. First of all, you said the best GM was Steph. He picked this underrated, amazing roster full of three-point shooters, and for a decent amount of the game that looked like the way it was going to go. Unfortunately, team-wide collapse in the fourth quarter, Steph Curry nowhere to be found, and I think really what you saw was talent winning out, right? The two best players in the league, Kevin Durant and LeBron James, they just took over and they got serious.</p><p>And on the crucial possession of the game, Stephen curry got lost like a 4-year-old in a sleeping bag. He had no daylight, he didn&#39;t know where he was, he couldn&#39;t get a shot off. As Kevin Durant said, it spoiled their whole possession. They couldn&#39;t even bail out to a guy in the corner. So right now what I&#39;m saying is you can&#39;t scapegoat James Harden in this situation, because not only did Curry pick Harden for his team, but he was also the guy with the ball in his hands with the game in his hands. </p><p><strong>Sharp:</strong> On the last possession, Stephen Curry, the second-best player in the world, was blanketed by the best player in the world, LeBron James, and the third-best player in the world, Kevin Durant. I&#39;m not going to kill him too much for failing to get a shot off. I will grant you that Steph&#39;s greatest mistake was putting his faith in Harden, and I have good friends of mind who have made the same mistake in the past year. So I can&#39;t really blame him, I don&#39;t want to crush him for that. But 5-of-19, 2-of-13 from three-point, it was a rough night for our guy James Harden. </p><p><strong>Golliver:</strong> I think you&#39;re doing too much. You&#39;re doing way too much here. Let&#39;s give credit where it&#39;s due. LeBron was sensational down the stretch when he wanted to be. When they come out and they have that quick bang-bang-bang pass play with all the motion to set up the hoop for him, that was awesome. The rolling back to his left three-pointer than you still don&#39;t want him to shoot because he&#39;s not that good of a three-pointer shooter, and yet when he needs to hit that deep look over Embiid he drains it. On the clutch possession, I was right there with him. I was in the huddle saying foul up three like the biggest nerd of all-time at an All-Star Game. And LeBron said trust that we can get a stop. LeBron is a thinker, he knew Curry&#39;s tendency, he knew Curry was going to want to over dribble and try to find a window to get a shot off and LeBron and Durant were right there to shut him down when they needed to. From that standpoint, as a backer of Team LeBron, it&#39;s just really nice to be on this side of the result. </p><p><strong>Sharp:</strong> You make an interesting point, because I was watching and thinking the exact same thing. The All-Star Game is more competitive than it&#39;s been in years, and we&#39;ll really know it&#39;s real if they start intentional fouling down the stretch, and we were very, very close. So apart from our internal bickering and our ongoing feud, I had a lot of fun watch that game. I&#39;m not sure how it translated on television, and I haven&#39;t checked Twitter reactions, but I really feel like the new format and whatever changed worked—whether it was putting up money for the players, whether it was putting pride on the line for someone like LeBron, who looked like he really set the tone for everybody. This was a lot more fun than I expected, and that&#39;s partly because I came in with rock-bottom expectations, but I think it&#39;s a win for the league. </p><p><strong>Golliver: </strong>?During that first quarter, it started pretty slow and it was pretty dead in the building and I was starting to regret the three straight &#39;Where are all the defense&#39; columns that I&#39;ve written. They were kind of playing defense, they were playing harder and they were not giving up the free blow-by layups and the wide open dunks. I was thinking, &#39;Oh, no, did we just suck all the fun out of this game? Now it&#39;s going to turn into a rock fest.&#39;</p><p><strong>Sharp:</strong> That was the funniest part, because people adjusted on defense but no one really adjusted the offense. They were still trying to throw passes off the backboard and do all the crazy All-Star s--- they always did. But everybody kind of fell into a rhythm after that first quarter, and my No. 1 takeaway was that I was blown away by LeBron still doing this at 33 years old. And in basketball years, he&#39;s probably like 35 or 36 because he&#39;s paying nine months per year every single season. A guy is not supposed to be on the throne for this long, and he should&#39;ve passed the torch to someone like KD and Steph is in the mix and Giannis is coming up. Next to all those guys, LeBron was on another level the entire time. </p><p><strong>Golliver:</strong> Couple thoughts: First of all, his third MVP at the All-Star Game, he&#39;s now one of six players to get three. The amazing stat backing up what you just said—it&#39;s been a decade since he won his last one. And I was spending a good portion of the second quarter trying to figure out how many guys have won All-Star MVP at an older age than LeBron. I came up with Shaquille O&#39;Neal when he got that fake shared MVP with Kobe Bryant and then I came up with Michael Jordan. I don&#39;t know if there are others. It&#39;s a very short list already, and LeBron could have another MVP in him three years down the line. </p><p>The second thing you said, it&#39;s a win in general because of how exciting this game is compared to previous games. Couple statistical notes for perspective here: This year there were 293 points scored. That is down from 374 last year. So we&#39;re talking about basically 81 points fewer than last year in a one-year correction, so clearly something changed. And I think there&#39;s a debate about what changed, though. Was it the money like you said, was it mixing up the teams so the Western Conference&#39;s more talented roster was spread out, forcing the game to be tighter, or was it the players kind of looking themselves in the mirror and realizing that things have gotten completely out of hand.</p><p>Personally, I believe it was the last one, and you heard Dwane Casey allude to it. They wanted to change the narrative that no one cares about the All-Star Game, you heard KD repeat that mantra, you heard LeBron say something along those lines. I think that&#39;s a complicated way of saying, &#39;Look, we got sick of how ugly the All-Star Game was these last couple years, we just decided to play hard again. And I put up a tweet if people want to look at it in terms of how many points have been scored in the last 10 All-Star Games, and what you see is it really was basically a two-year blip. Basically Toronto and New Orleans were out of control. Everyone decided not to try at all those two years. The rest of them were more reasonable. I think for whatever reason, they had the right powwow. Everybody decided to have pride against this year for the first after basically taking the last two off, and that was the difference.</p>
The Longstanding Dominance of LeBron James Continues at All-Star Weekend

LeBron James dominated All-Star Weekend in his 15th season, dropping knowledge off the court and taking home hardware at the big game. After a long weekend in Los Angeles, Andrew Sharp and Ben Golliver gathered on the latest episode of the Open Floor podcast to discuss the improved All-Star Game, LeBron's latest milestone and Stephen Curry's voting process.

Check out the full episode here and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. (The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity).

Ben Golliver: We had some pretty extended, ongoing debates about the All-Star teams, Team LeBron, Team Steph and we all saw what happened on the court tonight. So do you want to run down what happened? Or maybe I should do that?

Andrew Sharp: You're patting yourself on the back. You're congratulating yourself for your class, and I almost responded to somebody on Twitter who was wondering why you weren't gloating more. And I said, 'Look, Ben is a follower of the Spurs' way. It's not in his nature to gloat.' But I want you to know that I'm also taking the high road here. If we're really breaking down the game, if we really want to take it seriously, Team Steph was by far the superior squad but for one detail. Did you happen to notice James Harden's entry in the box score?

Golliver: You're not going to do this. You're not going to pin the whole thing on Harden. First of all, you said the best GM was Steph. He picked this underrated, amazing roster full of three-point shooters, and for a decent amount of the game that looked like the way it was going to go. Unfortunately, team-wide collapse in the fourth quarter, Steph Curry nowhere to be found, and I think really what you saw was talent winning out, right? The two best players in the league, Kevin Durant and LeBron James, they just took over and they got serious.

And on the crucial possession of the game, Stephen curry got lost like a 4-year-old in a sleeping bag. He had no daylight, he didn't know where he was, he couldn't get a shot off. As Kevin Durant said, it spoiled their whole possession. They couldn't even bail out to a guy in the corner. So right now what I'm saying is you can't scapegoat James Harden in this situation, because not only did Curry pick Harden for his team, but he was also the guy with the ball in his hands with the game in his hands.

Sharp: On the last possession, Stephen Curry, the second-best player in the world, was blanketed by the best player in the world, LeBron James, and the third-best player in the world, Kevin Durant. I'm not going to kill him too much for failing to get a shot off. I will grant you that Steph's greatest mistake was putting his faith in Harden, and I have good friends of mind who have made the same mistake in the past year. So I can't really blame him, I don't want to crush him for that. But 5-of-19, 2-of-13 from three-point, it was a rough night for our guy James Harden.

Golliver: I think you're doing too much. You're doing way too much here. Let's give credit where it's due. LeBron was sensational down the stretch when he wanted to be. When they come out and they have that quick bang-bang-bang pass play with all the motion to set up the hoop for him, that was awesome. The rolling back to his left three-pointer than you still don't want him to shoot because he's not that good of a three-pointer shooter, and yet when he needs to hit that deep look over Embiid he drains it. On the clutch possession, I was right there with him. I was in the huddle saying foul up three like the biggest nerd of all-time at an All-Star Game. And LeBron said trust that we can get a stop. LeBron is a thinker, he knew Curry's tendency, he knew Curry was going to want to over dribble and try to find a window to get a shot off and LeBron and Durant were right there to shut him down when they needed to. From that standpoint, as a backer of Team LeBron, it's just really nice to be on this side of the result.

Sharp: You make an interesting point, because I was watching and thinking the exact same thing. The All-Star Game is more competitive than it's been in years, and we'll really know it's real if they start intentional fouling down the stretch, and we were very, very close. So apart from our internal bickering and our ongoing feud, I had a lot of fun watch that game. I'm not sure how it translated on television, and I haven't checked Twitter reactions, but I really feel like the new format and whatever changed worked—whether it was putting up money for the players, whether it was putting pride on the line for someone like LeBron, who looked like he really set the tone for everybody. This was a lot more fun than I expected, and that's partly because I came in with rock-bottom expectations, but I think it's a win for the league.

Golliver: ?During that first quarter, it started pretty slow and it was pretty dead in the building and I was starting to regret the three straight 'Where are all the defense' columns that I've written. They were kind of playing defense, they were playing harder and they were not giving up the free blow-by layups and the wide open dunks. I was thinking, 'Oh, no, did we just suck all the fun out of this game? Now it's going to turn into a rock fest.'

Sharp: That was the funniest part, because people adjusted on defense but no one really adjusted the offense. They were still trying to throw passes off the backboard and do all the crazy All-Star s--- they always did. But everybody kind of fell into a rhythm after that first quarter, and my No. 1 takeaway was that I was blown away by LeBron still doing this at 33 years old. And in basketball years, he's probably like 35 or 36 because he's paying nine months per year every single season. A guy is not supposed to be on the throne for this long, and he should've passed the torch to someone like KD and Steph is in the mix and Giannis is coming up. Next to all those guys, LeBron was on another level the entire time.

Golliver: Couple thoughts: First of all, his third MVP at the All-Star Game, he's now one of six players to get three. The amazing stat backing up what you just said—it's been a decade since he won his last one. And I was spending a good portion of the second quarter trying to figure out how many guys have won All-Star MVP at an older age than LeBron. I came up with Shaquille O'Neal when he got that fake shared MVP with Kobe Bryant and then I came up with Michael Jordan. I don't know if there are others. It's a very short list already, and LeBron could have another MVP in him three years down the line.

The second thing you said, it's a win in general because of how exciting this game is compared to previous games. Couple statistical notes for perspective here: This year there were 293 points scored. That is down from 374 last year. So we're talking about basically 81 points fewer than last year in a one-year correction, so clearly something changed. And I think there's a debate about what changed, though. Was it the money like you said, was it mixing up the teams so the Western Conference's more talented roster was spread out, forcing the game to be tighter, or was it the players kind of looking themselves in the mirror and realizing that things have gotten completely out of hand.

Personally, I believe it was the last one, and you heard Dwane Casey allude to it. They wanted to change the narrative that no one cares about the All-Star Game, you heard KD repeat that mantra, you heard LeBron say something along those lines. I think that's a complicated way of saying, 'Look, we got sick of how ugly the All-Star Game was these last couple years, we just decided to play hard again. And I put up a tweet if people want to look at it in terms of how many points have been scored in the last 10 All-Star Games, and what you see is it really was basically a two-year blip. Basically Toronto and New Orleans were out of control. Everyone decided not to try at all those two years. The rest of them were more reasonable. I think for whatever reason, they had the right powwow. Everybody decided to have pride against this year for the first after basically taking the last two off, and that was the difference.

<p>LeBron James dominated All-Star Weekend in his 15th season, dropping knowledge off the court and taking home hardware at the big game. After a long weekend in Los Angeles, Andrew Sharp and Ben Golliver gathered on the <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/open-floor-sis-nba-show/id1050847009?mt=2" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:latest episode of the Open Floor podcast" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">latest episode of the Open Floor podcast</a> to discuss the improved All-Star Game, LeBron&#39;s latest milestone and Stephen Curry&#39;s voting process. </p><p><a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/open-floor-sis-nba-show/id1050847009?mt=2" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Check out the full episode here and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Check out the full episode here and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes</a>. (The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity).</p><p><strong>Ben Golliver:</strong> We had some pretty extended, ongoing debates about the All-Star teams, Team LeBron, Team Steph and we all saw what happened on the court tonight. So do you want to run down what happened? Or maybe I should do that? </p><p><strong>Andrew Sharp:</strong> You&#39;re patting yourself on the back. You&#39;re congratulating yourself for your class, and I almost responded to somebody on Twitter who was wondering why you weren&#39;t gloating more. And I said, &#39;Look, Ben is a follower of the Spurs&#39; way. It&#39;s not in his nature to gloat.&#39; But I want you to know that I&#39;m also taking the high road here. If we&#39;re really breaking down the game, if we really want to take it seriously, Team Steph was by far the superior squad but for one detail. Did you happen to notice James Harden&#39;s entry in the box score? </p><p><strong>Golliver: </strong>You&#39;re not going to do this. You&#39;re not going to pin the whole thing on Harden. First of all, you said the best GM was Steph. He picked this underrated, amazing roster full of three-point shooters, and for a decent amount of the game that looked like the way it was going to go. Unfortunately, team-wide collapse in the fourth quarter, Steph Curry nowhere to be found, and I think really what you saw was talent winning out, right? The two best players in the league, Kevin Durant and LeBron James, they just took over and they got serious.</p><p>And on the crucial possession of the game, Stephen curry got lost like a 4-year-old in a sleeping bag. He had no daylight, he didn&#39;t know where he was, he couldn&#39;t get a shot off. As Kevin Durant said, it spoiled their whole possession. They couldn&#39;t even bail out to a guy in the corner. So right now what I&#39;m saying is you can&#39;t scapegoat James Harden in this situation, because not only did Curry pick Harden for his team, but he was also the guy with the ball in his hands with the game in his hands. </p><p><strong>Sharp:</strong> On the last possession, Stephen Curry, the second-best player in the world, was blanketed by the best player in the world, LeBron James, and the third-best player in the world, Kevin Durant. I&#39;m not going to kill him too much for failing to get a shot off. I will grant you that Steph&#39;s greatest mistake was putting his faith in Harden, and I have good friends of mind who have made the same mistake in the past year. So I can&#39;t really blame him, I don&#39;t want to crush him for that. But 5-of-19, 2-of-13 from three-point, it was a rough night for our guy James Harden. </p><p><strong>Golliver:</strong> I think you&#39;re doing too much. You&#39;re doing way too much here. Let&#39;s give credit where it&#39;s due. LeBron was sensational down the stretch when he wanted to be. When they come out and they have that quick bang-bang-bang pass play with all the motion to set up the hoop for him, that was awesome. The rolling back to his left three-pointer than you still don&#39;t want him to shoot because he&#39;s not that good of a three-pointer shooter, and yet when he needs to hit that deep look over Embiid he drains it. On the clutch possession, I was right there with him. I was in the huddle saying foul up three like the biggest nerd of all-time at an All-Star Game. And LeBron said trust that we can get a stop. LeBron is a thinker, he knew Curry&#39;s tendency, he knew Curry was going to want to over dribble and try to find a window to get a shot off and LeBron and Durant were right there to shut him down when they needed to. From that standpoint, as a backer of Team LeBron, it&#39;s just really nice to be on this side of the result. </p><p><strong>Sharp:</strong> You make an interesting point, because I was watching and thinking the exact same thing. The All-Star Game is more competitive than it&#39;s been in years, and we&#39;ll really know it&#39;s real if they start intentional fouling down the stretch, and we were very, very close. So apart from our internal bickering and our ongoing feud, I had a lot of fun watch that game. I&#39;m not sure how it translated on television, and I haven&#39;t checked Twitter reactions, but I really feel like the new format and whatever changed worked—whether it was putting up money for the players, whether it was putting pride on the line for someone like LeBron, who looked like he really set the tone for everybody. This was a lot more fun than I expected, and that&#39;s partly because I came in with rock-bottom expectations, but I think it&#39;s a win for the league. </p><p><strong>Golliver: </strong>?During that first quarter, it started pretty slow and it was pretty dead in the building and I was starting to regret the three straight &#39;Where are all the defense&#39; columns that I&#39;ve written. They were kind of playing defense, they were playing harder and they were not giving up the free blow-by layups and the wide open dunks. I was thinking, &#39;Oh, no, did we just suck all the fun out of this game? Now it&#39;s going to turn into a rock fest.&#39;</p><p><strong>Sharp:</strong> That was the funniest part, because people adjusted on defense but no one really adjusted the offense. They were still trying to throw passes off the backboard and do all the crazy All-Star s--- they always did. But everybody kind of fell into a rhythm after that first quarter, and my No. 1 takeaway was that I was blown away by LeBron still doing this at 33 years old. And in basketball years, he&#39;s probably like 35 or 36 because he&#39;s paying nine months per year every single season. A guy is not supposed to be on the throne for this long, and he should&#39;ve passed the torch to someone like KD and Steph is in the mix and Giannis is coming up. Next to all those guys, LeBron was on another level the entire time. </p><p><strong>Golliver:</strong> Couple thoughts: First of all, his third MVP at the All-Star Game, he&#39;s now one of six players to get three. The amazing stat backing up what you just said—it&#39;s been a decade since he won his last one. And I was spending a good portion of the second quarter trying to figure out how many guys have won All-Star MVP at an older age than LeBron. I came up with Shaquille O&#39;Neal when he got that fake shared MVP with Kobe Bryant and then I came up with Michael Jordan. I don&#39;t know if there are others. It&#39;s a very short list already, and LeBron could have another MVP in him three years down the line. </p><p>The second thing you said, it&#39;s a win in general because of how exciting this game is compared to previous games. Couple statistical notes for perspective here: This year there were 293 points scored. That is down from 374 last year. So we&#39;re talking about basically 81 points fewer than last year in a one-year correction, so clearly something changed. And I think there&#39;s a debate about what changed, though. Was it the money like you said, was it mixing up the teams so the Western Conference&#39;s more talented roster was spread out, forcing the game to be tighter, or was it the players kind of looking themselves in the mirror and realizing that things have gotten completely out of hand.</p><p>Personally, I believe it was the last one, and you heard Dwane Casey allude to it. They wanted to change the narrative that no one cares about the All-Star Game, you heard KD repeat that mantra, you heard LeBron say something along those lines. I think that&#39;s a complicated way of saying, &#39;Look, we got sick of how ugly the All-Star Game was these last couple years, we just decided to play hard again. And I put up a tweet if people want to look at it in terms of how many points have been scored in the last 10 All-Star Games, and what you see is it really was basically a two-year blip. Basically Toronto and New Orleans were out of control. Everyone decided not to try at all those two years. The rest of them were more reasonable. I think for whatever reason, they had the right powwow. Everybody decided to have pride against this year for the first after basically taking the last two off, and that was the difference.</p>
The Longstanding Dominance of LeBron James Continues at All-Star Weekend

LeBron James dominated All-Star Weekend in his 15th season, dropping knowledge off the court and taking home hardware at the big game. After a long weekend in Los Angeles, Andrew Sharp and Ben Golliver gathered on the latest episode of the Open Floor podcast to discuss the improved All-Star Game, LeBron's latest milestone and Stephen Curry's voting process.

Check out the full episode here and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. (The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity).

Ben Golliver: We had some pretty extended, ongoing debates about the All-Star teams, Team LeBron, Team Steph and we all saw what happened on the court tonight. So do you want to run down what happened? Or maybe I should do that?

Andrew Sharp: You're patting yourself on the back. You're congratulating yourself for your class, and I almost responded to somebody on Twitter who was wondering why you weren't gloating more. And I said, 'Look, Ben is a follower of the Spurs' way. It's not in his nature to gloat.' But I want you to know that I'm also taking the high road here. If we're really breaking down the game, if we really want to take it seriously, Team Steph was by far the superior squad but for one detail. Did you happen to notice James Harden's entry in the box score?

Golliver: You're not going to do this. You're not going to pin the whole thing on Harden. First of all, you said the best GM was Steph. He picked this underrated, amazing roster full of three-point shooters, and for a decent amount of the game that looked like the way it was going to go. Unfortunately, team-wide collapse in the fourth quarter, Steph Curry nowhere to be found, and I think really what you saw was talent winning out, right? The two best players in the league, Kevin Durant and LeBron James, they just took over and they got serious.

And on the crucial possession of the game, Stephen curry got lost like a 4-year-old in a sleeping bag. He had no daylight, he didn't know where he was, he couldn't get a shot off. As Kevin Durant said, it spoiled their whole possession. They couldn't even bail out to a guy in the corner. So right now what I'm saying is you can't scapegoat James Harden in this situation, because not only did Curry pick Harden for his team, but he was also the guy with the ball in his hands with the game in his hands.

Sharp: On the last possession, Stephen Curry, the second-best player in the world, was blanketed by the best player in the world, LeBron James, and the third-best player in the world, Kevin Durant. I'm not going to kill him too much for failing to get a shot off. I will grant you that Steph's greatest mistake was putting his faith in Harden, and I have good friends of mind who have made the same mistake in the past year. So I can't really blame him, I don't want to crush him for that. But 5-of-19, 2-of-13 from three-point, it was a rough night for our guy James Harden.

Golliver: I think you're doing too much. You're doing way too much here. Let's give credit where it's due. LeBron was sensational down the stretch when he wanted to be. When they come out and they have that quick bang-bang-bang pass play with all the motion to set up the hoop for him, that was awesome. The rolling back to his left three-pointer than you still don't want him to shoot because he's not that good of a three-pointer shooter, and yet when he needs to hit that deep look over Embiid he drains it. On the clutch possession, I was right there with him. I was in the huddle saying foul up three like the biggest nerd of all-time at an All-Star Game. And LeBron said trust that we can get a stop. LeBron is a thinker, he knew Curry's tendency, he knew Curry was going to want to over dribble and try to find a window to get a shot off and LeBron and Durant were right there to shut him down when they needed to. From that standpoint, as a backer of Team LeBron, it's just really nice to be on this side of the result.

Sharp: You make an interesting point, because I was watching and thinking the exact same thing. The All-Star Game is more competitive than it's been in years, and we'll really know it's real if they start intentional fouling down the stretch, and we were very, very close. So apart from our internal bickering and our ongoing feud, I had a lot of fun watch that game. I'm not sure how it translated on television, and I haven't checked Twitter reactions, but I really feel like the new format and whatever changed worked—whether it was putting up money for the players, whether it was putting pride on the line for someone like LeBron, who looked like he really set the tone for everybody. This was a lot more fun than I expected, and that's partly because I came in with rock-bottom expectations, but I think it's a win for the league.

Golliver: ?During that first quarter, it started pretty slow and it was pretty dead in the building and I was starting to regret the three straight 'Where are all the defense' columns that I've written. They were kind of playing defense, they were playing harder and they were not giving up the free blow-by layups and the wide open dunks. I was thinking, 'Oh, no, did we just suck all the fun out of this game? Now it's going to turn into a rock fest.'

Sharp: That was the funniest part, because people adjusted on defense but no one really adjusted the offense. They were still trying to throw passes off the backboard and do all the crazy All-Star s--- they always did. But everybody kind of fell into a rhythm after that first quarter, and my No. 1 takeaway was that I was blown away by LeBron still doing this at 33 years old. And in basketball years, he's probably like 35 or 36 because he's paying nine months per year every single season. A guy is not supposed to be on the throne for this long, and he should've passed the torch to someone like KD and Steph is in the mix and Giannis is coming up. Next to all those guys, LeBron was on another level the entire time.

Golliver: Couple thoughts: First of all, his third MVP at the All-Star Game, he's now one of six players to get three. The amazing stat backing up what you just said—it's been a decade since he won his last one. And I was spending a good portion of the second quarter trying to figure out how many guys have won All-Star MVP at an older age than LeBron. I came up with Shaquille O'Neal when he got that fake shared MVP with Kobe Bryant and then I came up with Michael Jordan. I don't know if there are others. It's a very short list already, and LeBron could have another MVP in him three years down the line.

The second thing you said, it's a win in general because of how exciting this game is compared to previous games. Couple statistical notes for perspective here: This year there were 293 points scored. That is down from 374 last year. So we're talking about basically 81 points fewer than last year in a one-year correction, so clearly something changed. And I think there's a debate about what changed, though. Was it the money like you said, was it mixing up the teams so the Western Conference's more talented roster was spread out, forcing the game to be tighter, or was it the players kind of looking themselves in the mirror and realizing that things have gotten completely out of hand.

Personally, I believe it was the last one, and you heard Dwane Casey allude to it. They wanted to change the narrative that no one cares about the All-Star Game, you heard KD repeat that mantra, you heard LeBron say something along those lines. I think that's a complicated way of saying, 'Look, we got sick of how ugly the All-Star Game was these last couple years, we just decided to play hard again. And I put up a tweet if people want to look at it in terms of how many points have been scored in the last 10 All-Star Games, and what you see is it really was basically a two-year blip. Basically Toronto and New Orleans were out of control. Everyone decided not to try at all those two years. The rest of them were more reasonable. I think for whatever reason, they had the right powwow. Everybody decided to have pride against this year for the first after basically taking the last two off, and that was the difference.

<p>LeBron James dominated All-Star Weekend in his 15th season, dropping knowledge off the court and taking home hardware at the big game. After a long weekend in Los Angeles, Andrew Sharp and Ben Golliver gathered on the <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/open-floor-sis-nba-show/id1050847009?mt=2" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:latest episode of the Open Floor podcast" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">latest episode of the Open Floor podcast</a> to discuss the improved All-Star Game, LeBron&#39;s latest milestone and Stephen Curry&#39;s voting process. </p><p><a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/open-floor-sis-nba-show/id1050847009?mt=2" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Check out the full episode here and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Check out the full episode here and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes</a>. (The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity).</p><p><strong>Ben Golliver:</strong> We had some pretty extended, ongoing debates about the All-Star teams, Team LeBron, Team Steph and we all saw what happened on the court tonight. So do you want to run down what happened? Or maybe I should do that? </p><p><strong>Andrew Sharp:</strong> You&#39;re patting yourself on the back. You&#39;re congratulating yourself for your class, and I almost responded to somebody on Twitter who was wondering why you weren&#39;t gloating more. And I said, &#39;Look, Ben is a follower of the Spurs&#39; way. It&#39;s not in his nature to gloat.&#39; But I want you to know that I&#39;m also taking the high road here. If we&#39;re really breaking down the game, if we really want to take it seriously, Team Steph was by far the superior squad but for one detail. Did you happen to notice James Harden&#39;s entry in the box score? </p><p><strong>Golliver: </strong>You&#39;re not going to do this. You&#39;re not going to pin the whole thing on Harden. First of all, you said the best GM was Steph. He picked this underrated, amazing roster full of three-point shooters, and for a decent amount of the game that looked like the way it was going to go. Unfortunately, team-wide collapse in the fourth quarter, Steph Curry nowhere to be found, and I think really what you saw was talent winning out, right? The two best players in the league, Kevin Durant and LeBron James, they just took over and they got serious.</p><p>And on the crucial possession of the game, Stephen curry got lost like a 4-year-old in a sleeping bag. He had no daylight, he didn&#39;t know where he was, he couldn&#39;t get a shot off. As Kevin Durant said, it spoiled their whole possession. They couldn&#39;t even bail out to a guy in the corner. So right now what I&#39;m saying is you can&#39;t scapegoat James Harden in this situation, because not only did Curry pick Harden for his team, but he was also the guy with the ball in his hands with the game in his hands. </p><p><strong>Sharp:</strong> On the last possession, Stephen Curry, the second-best player in the world, was blanketed by the best player in the world, LeBron James, and the third-best player in the world, Kevin Durant. I&#39;m not going to kill him too much for failing to get a shot off. I will grant you that Steph&#39;s greatest mistake was putting his faith in Harden, and I have good friends of mind who have made the same mistake in the past year. So I can&#39;t really blame him, I don&#39;t want to crush him for that. But 5-of-19, 2-of-13 from three-point, it was a rough night for our guy James Harden. </p><p><strong>Golliver:</strong> I think you&#39;re doing too much. You&#39;re doing way too much here. Let&#39;s give credit where it&#39;s due. LeBron was sensational down the stretch when he wanted to be. When they come out and they have that quick bang-bang-bang pass play with all the motion to set up the hoop for him, that was awesome. The rolling back to his left three-pointer than you still don&#39;t want him to shoot because he&#39;s not that good of a three-pointer shooter, and yet when he needs to hit that deep look over Embiid he drains it. On the clutch possession, I was right there with him. I was in the huddle saying foul up three like the biggest nerd of all-time at an All-Star Game. And LeBron said trust that we can get a stop. LeBron is a thinker, he knew Curry&#39;s tendency, he knew Curry was going to want to over dribble and try to find a window to get a shot off and LeBron and Durant were right there to shut him down when they needed to. From that standpoint, as a backer of Team LeBron, it&#39;s just really nice to be on this side of the result. </p><p><strong>Sharp:</strong> You make an interesting point, because I was watching and thinking the exact same thing. The All-Star Game is more competitive than it&#39;s been in years, and we&#39;ll really know it&#39;s real if they start intentional fouling down the stretch, and we were very, very close. So apart from our internal bickering and our ongoing feud, I had a lot of fun watch that game. I&#39;m not sure how it translated on television, and I haven&#39;t checked Twitter reactions, but I really feel like the new format and whatever changed worked—whether it was putting up money for the players, whether it was putting pride on the line for someone like LeBron, who looked like he really set the tone for everybody. This was a lot more fun than I expected, and that&#39;s partly because I came in with rock-bottom expectations, but I think it&#39;s a win for the league. </p><p><strong>Golliver: </strong>?During that first quarter, it started pretty slow and it was pretty dead in the building and I was starting to regret the three straight &#39;Where are all the defense&#39; columns that I&#39;ve written. They were kind of playing defense, they were playing harder and they were not giving up the free blow-by layups and the wide open dunks. I was thinking, &#39;Oh, no, did we just suck all the fun out of this game? Now it&#39;s going to turn into a rock fest.&#39;</p><p><strong>Sharp:</strong> That was the funniest part, because people adjusted on defense but no one really adjusted the offense. They were still trying to throw passes off the backboard and do all the crazy All-Star s--- they always did. But everybody kind of fell into a rhythm after that first quarter, and my No. 1 takeaway was that I was blown away by LeBron still doing this at 33 years old. And in basketball years, he&#39;s probably like 35 or 36 because he&#39;s paying nine months per year every single season. A guy is not supposed to be on the throne for this long, and he should&#39;ve passed the torch to someone like KD and Steph is in the mix and Giannis is coming up. Next to all those guys, LeBron was on another level the entire time. </p><p><strong>Golliver:</strong> Couple thoughts: First of all, his third MVP at the All-Star Game, he&#39;s now one of six players to get three. The amazing stat backing up what you just said—it&#39;s been a decade since he won his last one. And I was spending a good portion of the second quarter trying to figure out how many guys have won All-Star MVP at an older age than LeBron. I came up with Shaquille O&#39;Neal when he got that fake shared MVP with Kobe Bryant and then I came up with Michael Jordan. I don&#39;t know if there are others. It&#39;s a very short list already, and LeBron could have another MVP in him three years down the line. </p><p>The second thing you said, it&#39;s a win in general because of how exciting this game is compared to previous games. Couple statistical notes for perspective here: This year there were 293 points scored. That is down from 374 last year. So we&#39;re talking about basically 81 points fewer than last year in a one-year correction, so clearly something changed. And I think there&#39;s a debate about what changed, though. Was it the money like you said, was it mixing up the teams so the Western Conference&#39;s more talented roster was spread out, forcing the game to be tighter, or was it the players kind of looking themselves in the mirror and realizing that things have gotten completely out of hand.</p><p>Personally, I believe it was the last one, and you heard Dwane Casey allude to it. They wanted to change the narrative that no one cares about the All-Star Game, you heard KD repeat that mantra, you heard LeBron say something along those lines. I think that&#39;s a complicated way of saying, &#39;Look, we got sick of how ugly the All-Star Game was these last couple years, we just decided to play hard again. And I put up a tweet if people want to look at it in terms of how many points have been scored in the last 10 All-Star Games, and what you see is it really was basically a two-year blip. Basically Toronto and New Orleans were out of control. Everyone decided not to try at all those two years. The rest of them were more reasonable. I think for whatever reason, they had the right powwow. Everybody decided to have pride against this year for the first after basically taking the last two off, and that was the difference.</p>
The Longstanding Dominance of LeBron James Continues at All-Star Weekend

LeBron James dominated All-Star Weekend in his 15th season, dropping knowledge off the court and taking home hardware at the big game. After a long weekend in Los Angeles, Andrew Sharp and Ben Golliver gathered on the latest episode of the Open Floor podcast to discuss the improved All-Star Game, LeBron's latest milestone and Stephen Curry's voting process.

Check out the full episode here and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. (The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity).

Ben Golliver: We had some pretty extended, ongoing debates about the All-Star teams, Team LeBron, Team Steph and we all saw what happened on the court tonight. So do you want to run down what happened? Or maybe I should do that?

Andrew Sharp: You're patting yourself on the back. You're congratulating yourself for your class, and I almost responded to somebody on Twitter who was wondering why you weren't gloating more. And I said, 'Look, Ben is a follower of the Spurs' way. It's not in his nature to gloat.' But I want you to know that I'm also taking the high road here. If we're really breaking down the game, if we really want to take it seriously, Team Steph was by far the superior squad but for one detail. Did you happen to notice James Harden's entry in the box score?

Golliver: You're not going to do this. You're not going to pin the whole thing on Harden. First of all, you said the best GM was Steph. He picked this underrated, amazing roster full of three-point shooters, and for a decent amount of the game that looked like the way it was going to go. Unfortunately, team-wide collapse in the fourth quarter, Steph Curry nowhere to be found, and I think really what you saw was talent winning out, right? The two best players in the league, Kevin Durant and LeBron James, they just took over and they got serious.

And on the crucial possession of the game, Stephen curry got lost like a 4-year-old in a sleeping bag. He had no daylight, he didn't know where he was, he couldn't get a shot off. As Kevin Durant said, it spoiled their whole possession. They couldn't even bail out to a guy in the corner. So right now what I'm saying is you can't scapegoat James Harden in this situation, because not only did Curry pick Harden for his team, but he was also the guy with the ball in his hands with the game in his hands.

Sharp: On the last possession, Stephen Curry, the second-best player in the world, was blanketed by the best player in the world, LeBron James, and the third-best player in the world, Kevin Durant. I'm not going to kill him too much for failing to get a shot off. I will grant you that Steph's greatest mistake was putting his faith in Harden, and I have good friends of mind who have made the same mistake in the past year. So I can't really blame him, I don't want to crush him for that. But 5-of-19, 2-of-13 from three-point, it was a rough night for our guy James Harden.

Golliver: I think you're doing too much. You're doing way too much here. Let's give credit where it's due. LeBron was sensational down the stretch when he wanted to be. When they come out and they have that quick bang-bang-bang pass play with all the motion to set up the hoop for him, that was awesome. The rolling back to his left three-pointer than you still don't want him to shoot because he's not that good of a three-pointer shooter, and yet when he needs to hit that deep look over Embiid he drains it. On the clutch possession, I was right there with him. I was in the huddle saying foul up three like the biggest nerd of all-time at an All-Star Game. And LeBron said trust that we can get a stop. LeBron is a thinker, he knew Curry's tendency, he knew Curry was going to want to over dribble and try to find a window to get a shot off and LeBron and Durant were right there to shut him down when they needed to. From that standpoint, as a backer of Team LeBron, it's just really nice to be on this side of the result.

Sharp: You make an interesting point, because I was watching and thinking the exact same thing. The All-Star Game is more competitive than it's been in years, and we'll really know it's real if they start intentional fouling down the stretch, and we were very, very close. So apart from our internal bickering and our ongoing feud, I had a lot of fun watch that game. I'm not sure how it translated on television, and I haven't checked Twitter reactions, but I really feel like the new format and whatever changed worked—whether it was putting up money for the players, whether it was putting pride on the line for someone like LeBron, who looked like he really set the tone for everybody. This was a lot more fun than I expected, and that's partly because I came in with rock-bottom expectations, but I think it's a win for the league.

Golliver: ?During that first quarter, it started pretty slow and it was pretty dead in the building and I was starting to regret the three straight 'Where are all the defense' columns that I've written. They were kind of playing defense, they were playing harder and they were not giving up the free blow-by layups and the wide open dunks. I was thinking, 'Oh, no, did we just suck all the fun out of this game? Now it's going to turn into a rock fest.'

Sharp: That was the funniest part, because people adjusted on defense but no one really adjusted the offense. They were still trying to throw passes off the backboard and do all the crazy All-Star s--- they always did. But everybody kind of fell into a rhythm after that first quarter, and my No. 1 takeaway was that I was blown away by LeBron still doing this at 33 years old. And in basketball years, he's probably like 35 or 36 because he's paying nine months per year every single season. A guy is not supposed to be on the throne for this long, and he should've passed the torch to someone like KD and Steph is in the mix and Giannis is coming up. Next to all those guys, LeBron was on another level the entire time.

Golliver: Couple thoughts: First of all, his third MVP at the All-Star Game, he's now one of six players to get three. The amazing stat backing up what you just said—it's been a decade since he won his last one. And I was spending a good portion of the second quarter trying to figure out how many guys have won All-Star MVP at an older age than LeBron. I came up with Shaquille O'Neal when he got that fake shared MVP with Kobe Bryant and then I came up with Michael Jordan. I don't know if there are others. It's a very short list already, and LeBron could have another MVP in him three years down the line.

The second thing you said, it's a win in general because of how exciting this game is compared to previous games. Couple statistical notes for perspective here: This year there were 293 points scored. That is down from 374 last year. So we're talking about basically 81 points fewer than last year in a one-year correction, so clearly something changed. And I think there's a debate about what changed, though. Was it the money like you said, was it mixing up the teams so the Western Conference's more talented roster was spread out, forcing the game to be tighter, or was it the players kind of looking themselves in the mirror and realizing that things have gotten completely out of hand.

Personally, I believe it was the last one, and you heard Dwane Casey allude to it. They wanted to change the narrative that no one cares about the All-Star Game, you heard KD repeat that mantra, you heard LeBron say something along those lines. I think that's a complicated way of saying, 'Look, we got sick of how ugly the All-Star Game was these last couple years, we just decided to play hard again. And I put up a tweet if people want to look at it in terms of how many points have been scored in the last 10 All-Star Games, and what you see is it really was basically a two-year blip. Basically Toronto and New Orleans were out of control. Everyone decided not to try at all those two years. The rest of them were more reasonable. I think for whatever reason, they had the right powwow. Everybody decided to have pride against this year for the first after basically taking the last two off, and that was the difference.

The HOLDAT Podcasts' Nate Robinson and Carlos Boozer ask Warriors All-Star Kevin Durant how he felt after the Sonics relocated to Oklahoma City.
Kevin Durant: 'It Would Have Been Cool to Grow Up As a Player' in Seattle
The HOLDAT Podcasts' Nate Robinson and Carlos Boozer ask Warriors All-Star Kevin Durant how he felt after the Sonics relocated to Oklahoma City.
File-This Nov. 24, 2015, file photo shows Rev. Jesse Jackson speaking to the media during a vigil for 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was fatally shot and killed Oct. 20, 2014 in Chicago. Jackson says he’s deeply insulted by a Fox News host’s “attack” on Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James. Political commentator Laura Ingraham criticized the three-time NBA champion for his recent comments about social issues, suggesting he should “shut up and dribble.” Jackson says it’s important for James, Stephen (STEH&#39;-fehn) Curry, Kevin Durant and other NBA players to keep speaking out against injustice and the behavior of President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty, File)
File-This Nov. 24, 2015, file photo shows Rev. Jesse Jackson speaking to the media during a vigil for 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was fatally shot and killed Oct. 20, 2014 in Chicago. Jackson says he’s deeply insulted by a Fox News host’s “attack” on Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James. Political commentator Laura Ingraham criticized the three-time NBA champion for his recent comments about social issues, suggesting he should “shut up and dribble.” Jackson says it’s important for James, Stephen (STEH'-fehn) Curry, Kevin Durant and other NBA players to keep speaking out against injustice and the behavior of President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty, File)
File-This Nov. 24, 2015, file photo shows Rev. Jesse Jackson speaking to the media during a vigil for 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was fatally shot and killed Oct. 20, 2014 in Chicago. Jackson says he’s deeply insulted by a Fox News host’s “attack” on Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James. Political commentator Laura Ingraham criticized the three-time NBA champion for his recent comments about social issues, suggesting he should “shut up and dribble.” Jackson says it’s important for James, Stephen (STEH'-fehn) Curry, Kevin Durant and other NBA players to keep speaking out against injustice and the behavior of President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty, File)
<p>LOS ANGELES — NBA All-Star Weekend is essentially a massive basketball business convention. This is the best way to appreciate it. At its worst, as a televised sporting event, All-Star Weekend can look like a mess of manufactured drama and unfunny jokes, every inch of it branded and sold, to the point where the whole experience kind of deadens your soul a little bit.</p><p>That&#39;s a valid interpretation. Definitely. But as someone who&#39;s come to stupidly love this weekend every year, I think that worrying about its entertainment value or artistic integrity is beside the point. The weekend works best as a window into all the different economies that make basketball weirder and more interesting than any sport on the planet.</p><p>So with that in mind, and to commemorate another successful All-Star Weekend, here are a handful of snapshots from the past 96 hours in Los Angeles.</p><p><strong>Across the street from Staples Center, the weekend began with the TV partners. </strong>The NBA has been in business with TNT for as long as I&#39;ve been alive, and as the league becomes more popular, it only gets funnier that the most prominent voices in basketball refuse to take any of this too seriously. &quot;Dude, we&#39;re on television from 8 o&#39;clock at night to 2 o&#39;clock in the morning,&quot; Charles Barkley said on Thursday afternoon. &quot;Nobody want us to be serious. First of all, we have a lot of shitty games. If we&#39;re going to be on from 8 to 2, we gotta make sure people have fun.&quot; </p><p>Barkley and Kenny Smith tend to drive basketball Twitter insane, but I will always be loyal. Together they combine genuine, lifelong love for basketball with the relentless sarcasm and skepticism that actually makes the game fun to follow. So, yes, of course I was down to begin my weekend with Chuck and Kenny and some old man takes.</p><p><em>Sample #1:</em> &quot;The things that guys get away with now,&quot; Kenny Smith said of today&#39;s guards, &quot;I would have had to fight in the locker room. If I came in and took 22 shots as a point guard, I would&#39;ve had to fight every single player on my team. ... Different era. Because you can be a specialist now, whereas then, the term &#39;two-way player&#39; didn&#39;t exist. Like, what do you mean? You can&#39;t play D? How can you play in the league? Now guys get credit for being two-way guys... It&#39;s much better game to watch, I like watching it more, but it&#39;s easier to play.&quot;</p><p><em>Sample #2:</em> &quot;Listen,&quot; Barkley said of the NBA&#39;s new emphasis on rest, &quot;if Bill Russell and Dr. J and those guys could play three games in three nights in the worst tennis shoes ever invented, and fly commercial or ride a bus, I think these guys can be inconvenienced a couple days a year to make $30 million and ride a private jet. All of a sudden guys start making money... I wish guys would tell the truth and say, &#39;I don&#39;t want to play back-to-backs so that I can lengthen my career and make more money.&#39; Just tell the truth. When I first came into the NBA we flew commercial. I know what it&#39;s fuckin&#39; like to get up at 5 o&#39;clock in the morning, fly three hours and play a basketball game that same night. These guys after the game, they get a nice hot meal, they fly private... So come on, let&#39;s make it easier for &#39;em.&quot;</p><p>And then, the first of a hundred conversations about LeBron&#39;s free agency throughout the weekend. &quot;If LeBron goes to Golden State,&quot; Smith said, &quot;I&#39;m gonna start calling soccer.&quot; And Barkley: &quot;I hope he stays in Cleveland. I don&#39;t know what&#39;s going on in his head, but I think it&#39;d be a great way to end his career.&quot; But, Smith added, &quot;I don&#39;t put anything past Magic. You know, Magic might&#39;ve been setting this up 20 years ago. He went to see LeBron in high school, he might&#39;ve been setting this up then. Collusion 20 years ago. Pay that bill.&quot; </p><p><strong>On Friday morning at the Beverly Hills Hilton, </strong>Magic Johnson was one of dozens of executives on hand to participate in the NBA&#39;s annual tech summit. Jeannie Buss was on a panel, too, and so was Kobe Bryant. The event draws on leaders in the tech space, culture, and the league itself to create a day full of panels on the future of business as it relates to basketball. It&#39;s fairly exclusive. &quot;This has been a tougher ticket than the All-Star Game itself,&quot; Adam Silver told us as it concluded. </p><p>While the panels aren&#39;t necessarily dispensing priceless wisdom if you&#39;ve been following technology closely over the past few years, the convergence of sponsors, innovators, and obscenely wealthy owners offers a great snapshot of NBA business at the macro level. On a ride over to the hotel, I sat behind two attendees who were comparing the LIBOR interest rate to the 10-year treasury rate—a slight variation on the weekend of LeBron free agency smalltalk.</p><p>The event is strictly off the record, but I can report that Chadwick Boseman paired with Adam Silver to welcome us to the Summit. Ahmad Rashad was an excellent, self-deprecating MC throughout the day. Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Issa Rae, and Steve Ballmer were among the panelists for a discussion on The Future of Storytelling. Magic and Mark Cuban chipped in to help discuss The Connected Game. Jeannie Buss, James Dolan, Steve Stoute, and Kevin Plank teamed for a panel on managing through disruption. </p><p>The day&#39;s hottest topics included E-Sports, Snapchat, long-form vs. short-form, wearable player-tracking technology, machine learning, artificial intelligence refs, and more. The panels at this event were sometimes funny, sometimes unintentionally funny, and sometimes insightful, but more than anything, they&#39;re a testament to an ambition and curiosity that doesn&#39;t really exist among management regimes in other sports.</p><p><strong>Over in Hollywood, at the London Hotel, </strong>the NBA Players Association had set up camp and hosted players for the weekend. When I approached the door on Friday afternoon I was greeted by JaVale McGee, who was in the middle of interviewing Timofey Mozgov for a YouTube show. &quot;It&#39;s your boy JaVale McGee,&quot; he said, &quot;Here with my Russian brother Timofey Mozgov. He just happens to have a Gucci fanny pack, too. Great minds think alike.&quot; Indeed, both seven-footers were coincidentally wearing Gucci fanny packs.</p><p>This was for a show that&#39;s part of Kevin Durant&#39;s burgeoning YouTube channel (as mentioned in the Future of Storytelling panel!), and it was just one of a dozen pieces of content being filmed on the premises. There were other videos filmed on the back porch, print interviews were conducted in a quiet room next to the elevator banks, while Lou Williams held court with a TV station in the lobby. All of this happened at the same hotel because the NBA Players Association wanted to provide a home base for its players.</p><p>Just as the owners congregated at the Beverly Hills Hilton, when I visited Saturday afternoon the London was hosting everyone from Chris Paul and his parents, to Karl Towns, to fringe players like Mozgov and McGee. They were all in an environment that was off-limits to the public and hospitable to brands and media looking to promote NBA athletes. Between specially-commissioned art for the weekend (a stack of gilded basketballs was a centerpiece in one room), the luxury of a five-star hotel, and free XBoxes and/or headphones in the hands of at least half the players I saw while I was there, it was a fairly impressive display of random perks and amenities.</p><p>What the the NBPA is really doing is looking to establish and maintain is a consistent presence and corporate identity between CBA negotiations. That&#39;s a dynamic that has never really emerged under regimes of the past, and it&#39;ll take time to build it across various arenas. But in the same way that the Tech Summit is a testament to the grander ambitions in the league office, the players&#39; hotel speaks to broader goals for the NBPA.</p><p><strong>Back in Beverly Hills, on the 9th Floor of an office building, </strong>there&#39;s one business that works with owners and players alike. Jason of Beverly Hills is the jewelry company responsible for crafting the last two Warriors championship rings, and when they&#39;re not working with owners on designing title rings—they&#39;ve also designed championship rings for the Lakers and Chelsea—they also work with an estimated 200 players around the NBA. &quot;The championship rings sort of happened organically,&quot; said COO and co-founder Brandt Branand. After launching the business in 2004, Branand and his co-founder Jason Arasheben eventually became the jewelers for various members of the Buss family, including Dr. Buss. &quot;When they won in &#39;09,&quot; Branand explained, &quot;Dr. Buss was like, &#39;Do you guys want to throw your hat in and give it a try?&#39;&quot; That&#39;s how the ring business began.</p><p>The growth among players has been a different story, but it&#39;s no less organic. &quot;The first NBA guy was Anthony Mason,&quot; Branand said. &quot;Jason went to him as this young kid, he showed him this design of a bracelet. He had no inventory or anything. But [Mason] was like, &#39;Cool, I like it.&#39; So Mason gave him a 50% deposit, barely enough for him to scrape by and finish the piece, and he delivered it. Mason again was like, &#39;Cool, I like it.&#39; And that was it. And then a while later one of his teammates came on. And then DeShawn Stevenson, and Drew Gooden, Carlos Boozer... It was all word of mouth. And then guys get traded, and there are more locker rooms, more people hear about it.&quot;</p><p>Over 14 years, thanks in part to those early breaks around the NBA, the business has grown to include stores in L.A., Miami, Las Vegas, and Tokyo. But this weekend they hosted players in their executive offices on the ninth floor, a hidden store that&#39;s typically reserved for big-spending clients seeking privacy. &quot;Players, celebrities, the Rihannas of the world,&quot; the COO said. &quot;People who don&#39;t want to be photographed. They come up here so they can hang out, shop, and not have somebody counting how much money they&#39;re spending or what they&#39;re getting for who.&quot; The goal was to provide players with a place to escape for a few minutes as the rest of the weekend got increasingly crowded and hectic.</p><p>As for any uptick in business for the NBA&#39;s most notable jewelers on a weekend when half the league comes to L.A., there&#39;s less of a boom than you might think, in part because everyone is so busy. &quot;Normally, when it&#39;s in a different city,&quot; Branand explains, &quot;We&#39;re at the players hotel, dealing with stylists and assistants, helping get guys dressed. There&#39;s some transactions, and we&#39;ve had big All-Star Weekends some years. But really it&#39;s just like the agent world—you have a few big, important transactions, and in the middle you spend time maintaining the relationship.&quot; Later Friday evening, that meant hosting a low-key private party at the office with one of this year&#39;s All-Stars. Afterward, they all went to dinner with that player and his family, maintaining another relationship.</p><p><strong>On Friday night, after the Team World defeated Team USA, 155-124,</strong> Joel Embiid was in a good mood. &quot;Well, it&#39;s world domination,&quot; he said, &quot;We coming. Basketball is growing all over the place and it&#39;s great to see. When we come to this type of stuff we represent the whole world. And you want to grow the game, man. People outside of the States, when they see this, they&#39;re going to want to be here.&quot;</p><p>A few miles away, in El Segundo at the Lakers practice facility, the NBA spent the weekend building on that theme. As part of its annual Basketball Without Borders summit at All-Star Weekend, the league welcomed 67 standout teenage basketball players from 36 countries around the world to train for three days in front of NBA scouts and work with visiting NBA players. &quot;Some kids haven&#39;t worked this hard,&quot; Domantas Sabonis said on Sunday, &quot;until they come to this camp, and they&#39;re like, &#39;Oh I need to get to another level.&#39;&quot;</p><p>This is an extension of <a href="https://www.si.com/longform/2018/nba-international-oral-history/index.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the NBA&#39;s investment in global development" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the NBA&#39;s investment in global development</a>. Last year&#39;s camp featured superstar Canadian guard R.J. Barrett—headed to Duke next year—while this year&#39;s biggest names were Luka Samanic of Croatia and MVP Charles Bassey of Nigeria. All of it is a reminder that the game is growing abroad, and as the NBA continues to double down around the world, the growth isn&#39;t an accident.</p><p><strong>On Saturday morning I was lost. </strong>Adidas rented out multiple buildings and several blocks worth of downtown real estate, where the brand hosted nightly concerts (N.E.R.D, Kid Cudi, and many more artists performed). The set-up included a full size basketball court, design laboratories, retail space, and just enough room for me to spend almost 45 minutes wandering around looking like an idiot. The sneaker wars have been well-documented by many—including the FBI!—but it bears mentioning that the most absurd battleground of all comes every year at All-Star Weekend. Adidas basically built its own self-sustaining community this weekend, fueled by rap music and color-coded wristbands and teenagers desperate <a href="https://www.highsnobiety.com/p/adidas-dame-4-bape/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:for the Bape Dames" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">for the Bape Dames</a>.</p><p>For its part, Nike introduced something called <a href="https://twitter.com/J23app/status/964205876901953537" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Hydro-dipping" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Hydro-dipping</a> for custom-made shoe designs. The Nike HQ hosted an interview in which Jalen Rose and Kobe Bryant discussing the 81-point game, while Kendrick Lamar played a show for them on Friday. The space itself had a full-length court hosting games all weekend, grayscale portraits of every Nike All-Star, plus at least one Kobe poem/bible scripture (sample: &quot;Just as much artist as athlete ... A maker in every sense of the word.&quot;). </p><p>Alas, this weekend in L.A. did not belong to Kobe.</p><p><strong>All weekend long, LeBron dominated.</strong> Outside Staples Center Sunday afternoon in L.A., fans were selling &quot;LeBron to L.A.&quot; bootleg t-shirts. Inside Staples, LeBron played his best All-Star Game in a decade, and by actually playing hard, he helped set the tone for the entire game. Earlier in the weekend he&#39;d been attacked by a Fox News host in a dog whistling play for attention, and by Saturday LeBron had responded with an effortless, pitch perfect blend of disgust and indifference.</p><p>LeBron has been more than a basketball player for a long time, and he really doesn&#39;t need to explain himself to anyone who&#39;s too lazy to appreciate what he&#39;s accomplished. He&#39;s helped financed several successful businesses, he&#39;s been the beneficiary of wildly lucrative endorsements and <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/06/12/report-lebron-james-set-for-30-million-profit-on-apple-beats-deal/?utm_term=.b06fa32777b0" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:long-term investments" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">long-term investments</a>, and in turn, he&#39;s been <a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nba/2018/02/18/lebron-james-fox-news-shut-up-and-dribbled/349637002/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the benefactor for more than 1,200 kids" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the benefactor for more than 1,200 kids</a> who have been helped by his &quot;I Promise&quot; foundation. He&#39;s taken natural talent and worked to master his craft, empower friends, broaden his horizons, and improve the lives of kids in his hometown. That news host lamented the idea that there were kids out there following LeBron&#39;s example, but her lazy pandering aside, it&#39;s objectively difficult to imagine many more compelling examples of success anywhere in public life.</p><p><br></p>
NBA All-Star Weekend: The Best and Weirdest Business Convention in the World

LOS ANGELES — NBA All-Star Weekend is essentially a massive basketball business convention. This is the best way to appreciate it. At its worst, as a televised sporting event, All-Star Weekend can look like a mess of manufactured drama and unfunny jokes, every inch of it branded and sold, to the point where the whole experience kind of deadens your soul a little bit.

That's a valid interpretation. Definitely. But as someone who's come to stupidly love this weekend every year, I think that worrying about its entertainment value or artistic integrity is beside the point. The weekend works best as a window into all the different economies that make basketball weirder and more interesting than any sport on the planet.

So with that in mind, and to commemorate another successful All-Star Weekend, here are a handful of snapshots from the past 96 hours in Los Angeles.

Across the street from Staples Center, the weekend began with the TV partners. The NBA has been in business with TNT for as long as I've been alive, and as the league becomes more popular, it only gets funnier that the most prominent voices in basketball refuse to take any of this too seriously. "Dude, we're on television from 8 o'clock at night to 2 o'clock in the morning," Charles Barkley said on Thursday afternoon. "Nobody want us to be serious. First of all, we have a lot of shitty games. If we're going to be on from 8 to 2, we gotta make sure people have fun."

Barkley and Kenny Smith tend to drive basketball Twitter insane, but I will always be loyal. Together they combine genuine, lifelong love for basketball with the relentless sarcasm and skepticism that actually makes the game fun to follow. So, yes, of course I was down to begin my weekend with Chuck and Kenny and some old man takes.

Sample #1: "The things that guys get away with now," Kenny Smith said of today's guards, "I would have had to fight in the locker room. If I came in and took 22 shots as a point guard, I would've had to fight every single player on my team. ... Different era. Because you can be a specialist now, whereas then, the term 'two-way player' didn't exist. Like, what do you mean? You can't play D? How can you play in the league? Now guys get credit for being two-way guys... It's much better game to watch, I like watching it more, but it's easier to play."

Sample #2: "Listen," Barkley said of the NBA's new emphasis on rest, "if Bill Russell and Dr. J and those guys could play three games in three nights in the worst tennis shoes ever invented, and fly commercial or ride a bus, I think these guys can be inconvenienced a couple days a year to make $30 million and ride a private jet. All of a sudden guys start making money... I wish guys would tell the truth and say, 'I don't want to play back-to-backs so that I can lengthen my career and make more money.' Just tell the truth. When I first came into the NBA we flew commercial. I know what it's fuckin' like to get up at 5 o'clock in the morning, fly three hours and play a basketball game that same night. These guys after the game, they get a nice hot meal, they fly private... So come on, let's make it easier for 'em."

And then, the first of a hundred conversations about LeBron's free agency throughout the weekend. "If LeBron goes to Golden State," Smith said, "I'm gonna start calling soccer." And Barkley: "I hope he stays in Cleveland. I don't know what's going on in his head, but I think it'd be a great way to end his career." But, Smith added, "I don't put anything past Magic. You know, Magic might've been setting this up 20 years ago. He went to see LeBron in high school, he might've been setting this up then. Collusion 20 years ago. Pay that bill."

On Friday morning at the Beverly Hills Hilton, Magic Johnson was one of dozens of executives on hand to participate in the NBA's annual tech summit. Jeannie Buss was on a panel, too, and so was Kobe Bryant. The event draws on leaders in the tech space, culture, and the league itself to create a day full of panels on the future of business as it relates to basketball. It's fairly exclusive. "This has been a tougher ticket than the All-Star Game itself," Adam Silver told us as it concluded.

While the panels aren't necessarily dispensing priceless wisdom if you've been following technology closely over the past few years, the convergence of sponsors, innovators, and obscenely wealthy owners offers a great snapshot of NBA business at the macro level. On a ride over to the hotel, I sat behind two attendees who were comparing the LIBOR interest rate to the 10-year treasury rate—a slight variation on the weekend of LeBron free agency smalltalk.

The event is strictly off the record, but I can report that Chadwick Boseman paired with Adam Silver to welcome us to the Summit. Ahmad Rashad was an excellent, self-deprecating MC throughout the day. Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Issa Rae, and Steve Ballmer were among the panelists for a discussion on The Future of Storytelling. Magic and Mark Cuban chipped in to help discuss The Connected Game. Jeannie Buss, James Dolan, Steve Stoute, and Kevin Plank teamed for a panel on managing through disruption.

The day's hottest topics included E-Sports, Snapchat, long-form vs. short-form, wearable player-tracking technology, machine learning, artificial intelligence refs, and more. The panels at this event were sometimes funny, sometimes unintentionally funny, and sometimes insightful, but more than anything, they're a testament to an ambition and curiosity that doesn't really exist among management regimes in other sports.

Over in Hollywood, at the London Hotel, the NBA Players Association had set up camp and hosted players for the weekend. When I approached the door on Friday afternoon I was greeted by JaVale McGee, who was in the middle of interviewing Timofey Mozgov for a YouTube show. "It's your boy JaVale McGee," he said, "Here with my Russian brother Timofey Mozgov. He just happens to have a Gucci fanny pack, too. Great minds think alike." Indeed, both seven-footers were coincidentally wearing Gucci fanny packs.

This was for a show that's part of Kevin Durant's burgeoning YouTube channel (as mentioned in the Future of Storytelling panel!), and it was just one of a dozen pieces of content being filmed on the premises. There were other videos filmed on the back porch, print interviews were conducted in a quiet room next to the elevator banks, while Lou Williams held court with a TV station in the lobby. All of this happened at the same hotel because the NBA Players Association wanted to provide a home base for its players.

Just as the owners congregated at the Beverly Hills Hilton, when I visited Saturday afternoon the London was hosting everyone from Chris Paul and his parents, to Karl Towns, to fringe players like Mozgov and McGee. They were all in an environment that was off-limits to the public and hospitable to brands and media looking to promote NBA athletes. Between specially-commissioned art for the weekend (a stack of gilded basketballs was a centerpiece in one room), the luxury of a five-star hotel, and free XBoxes and/or headphones in the hands of at least half the players I saw while I was there, it was a fairly impressive display of random perks and amenities.

What the the NBPA is really doing is looking to establish and maintain is a consistent presence and corporate identity between CBA negotiations. That's a dynamic that has never really emerged under regimes of the past, and it'll take time to build it across various arenas. But in the same way that the Tech Summit is a testament to the grander ambitions in the league office, the players' hotel speaks to broader goals for the NBPA.

Back in Beverly Hills, on the 9th Floor of an office building, there's one business that works with owners and players alike. Jason of Beverly Hills is the jewelry company responsible for crafting the last two Warriors championship rings, and when they're not working with owners on designing title rings—they've also designed championship rings for the Lakers and Chelsea—they also work with an estimated 200 players around the NBA. "The championship rings sort of happened organically," said COO and co-founder Brandt Branand. After launching the business in 2004, Branand and his co-founder Jason Arasheben eventually became the jewelers for various members of the Buss family, including Dr. Buss. "When they won in '09," Branand explained, "Dr. Buss was like, 'Do you guys want to throw your hat in and give it a try?'" That's how the ring business began.

The growth among players has been a different story, but it's no less organic. "The first NBA guy was Anthony Mason," Branand said. "Jason went to him as this young kid, he showed him this design of a bracelet. He had no inventory or anything. But [Mason] was like, 'Cool, I like it.' So Mason gave him a 50% deposit, barely enough for him to scrape by and finish the piece, and he delivered it. Mason again was like, 'Cool, I like it.' And that was it. And then a while later one of his teammates came on. And then DeShawn Stevenson, and Drew Gooden, Carlos Boozer... It was all word of mouth. And then guys get traded, and there are more locker rooms, more people hear about it."

Over 14 years, thanks in part to those early breaks around the NBA, the business has grown to include stores in L.A., Miami, Las Vegas, and Tokyo. But this weekend they hosted players in their executive offices on the ninth floor, a hidden store that's typically reserved for big-spending clients seeking privacy. "Players, celebrities, the Rihannas of the world," the COO said. "People who don't want to be photographed. They come up here so they can hang out, shop, and not have somebody counting how much money they're spending or what they're getting for who." The goal was to provide players with a place to escape for a few minutes as the rest of the weekend got increasingly crowded and hectic.

As for any uptick in business for the NBA's most notable jewelers on a weekend when half the league comes to L.A., there's less of a boom than you might think, in part because everyone is so busy. "Normally, when it's in a different city," Branand explains, "We're at the players hotel, dealing with stylists and assistants, helping get guys dressed. There's some transactions, and we've had big All-Star Weekends some years. But really it's just like the agent world—you have a few big, important transactions, and in the middle you spend time maintaining the relationship." Later Friday evening, that meant hosting a low-key private party at the office with one of this year's All-Stars. Afterward, they all went to dinner with that player and his family, maintaining another relationship.

On Friday night, after the Team World defeated Team USA, 155-124, Joel Embiid was in a good mood. "Well, it's world domination," he said, "We coming. Basketball is growing all over the place and it's great to see. When we come to this type of stuff we represent the whole world. And you want to grow the game, man. People outside of the States, when they see this, they're going to want to be here."

A few miles away, in El Segundo at the Lakers practice facility, the NBA spent the weekend building on that theme. As part of its annual Basketball Without Borders summit at All-Star Weekend, the league welcomed 67 standout teenage basketball players from 36 countries around the world to train for three days in front of NBA scouts and work with visiting NBA players. "Some kids haven't worked this hard," Domantas Sabonis said on Sunday, "until they come to this camp, and they're like, 'Oh I need to get to another level.'"

This is an extension of the NBA's investment in global development. Last year's camp featured superstar Canadian guard R.J. Barrett—headed to Duke next year—while this year's biggest names were Luka Samanic of Croatia and MVP Charles Bassey of Nigeria. All of it is a reminder that the game is growing abroad, and as the NBA continues to double down around the world, the growth isn't an accident.

On Saturday morning I was lost. Adidas rented out multiple buildings and several blocks worth of downtown real estate, where the brand hosted nightly concerts (N.E.R.D, Kid Cudi, and many more artists performed). The set-up included a full size basketball court, design laboratories, retail space, and just enough room for me to spend almost 45 minutes wandering around looking like an idiot. The sneaker wars have been well-documented by many—including the FBI!—but it bears mentioning that the most absurd battleground of all comes every year at All-Star Weekend. Adidas basically built its own self-sustaining community this weekend, fueled by rap music and color-coded wristbands and teenagers desperate for the Bape Dames.

For its part, Nike introduced something called Hydro-dipping for custom-made shoe designs. The Nike HQ hosted an interview in which Jalen Rose and Kobe Bryant discussing the 81-point game, while Kendrick Lamar played a show for them on Friday. The space itself had a full-length court hosting games all weekend, grayscale portraits of every Nike All-Star, plus at least one Kobe poem/bible scripture (sample: "Just as much artist as athlete ... A maker in every sense of the word.").

Alas, this weekend in L.A. did not belong to Kobe.

All weekend long, LeBron dominated. Outside Staples Center Sunday afternoon in L.A., fans were selling "LeBron to L.A." bootleg t-shirts. Inside Staples, LeBron played his best All-Star Game in a decade, and by actually playing hard, he helped set the tone for the entire game. Earlier in the weekend he'd been attacked by a Fox News host in a dog whistling play for attention, and by Saturday LeBron had responded with an effortless, pitch perfect blend of disgust and indifference.

LeBron has been more than a basketball player for a long time, and he really doesn't need to explain himself to anyone who's too lazy to appreciate what he's accomplished. He's helped financed several successful businesses, he's been the beneficiary of wildly lucrative endorsements and long-term investments, and in turn, he's been the benefactor for more than 1,200 kids who have been helped by his "I Promise" foundation. He's taken natural talent and worked to master his craft, empower friends, broaden his horizons, and improve the lives of kids in his hometown. That news host lamented the idea that there were kids out there following LeBron's example, but her lazy pandering aside, it's objectively difficult to imagine many more compelling examples of success anywhere in public life.


<p>LOS ANGELES — NBA All-Star Weekend is essentially a massive basketball business convention. This is the best way to appreciate it. At its worst, as a televised sporting event, All-Star Weekend can look like a mess of manufactured drama and unfunny jokes, every inch of it branded and sold, to the point where the whole experience kind of deadens your soul a little bit.</p><p>That&#39;s a valid interpretation. Definitely. But as someone who&#39;s come to stupidly love this weekend every year, I think that worrying about its entertainment value or artistic integrity is beside the point. The weekend works best as a window into all the different economies that make basketball weirder and more interesting than any sport on the planet.</p><p>So with that in mind, and to commemorate another successful All-Star Weekend, here are a handful of snapshots from the past 96 hours in Los Angeles.</p><p><strong>Across the street from Staples Center, the weekend began with the TV partners. </strong>The NBA has been in business with TNT for as long as I&#39;ve been alive, and as the league becomes more popular, it only gets funnier that the most prominent voices in basketball refuse to take any of this too seriously. &quot;Dude, we&#39;re on television from 8 o&#39;clock at night to 2 o&#39;clock in the morning,&quot; Charles Barkley said on Thursday afternoon. &quot;Nobody want us to be serious. First of all, we have a lot of shitty games. If we&#39;re going to be on from 8 to 2, we gotta make sure people have fun.&quot; </p><p>Barkley and Kenny Smith tend to drive basketball Twitter insane, but I will always be loyal. Together they combine genuine, lifelong love for basketball with the relentless sarcasm and skepticism that actually makes the game fun to follow. So, yes, of course I was down to begin my weekend with Chuck and Kenny and some old man takes.</p><p><em>Sample #1:</em> &quot;The things that guys get away with now,&quot; Kenny Smith said of today&#39;s guards, &quot;I would have had to fight in the locker room. If I came in and took 22 shots as a point guard, I would&#39;ve had to fight every single player on my team. ... Different era. Because you can be a specialist now, whereas then, the term &#39;two-way player&#39; didn&#39;t exist. Like, what do you mean? You can&#39;t play D? How can you play in the league? Now guys get credit for being two-way guys... It&#39;s much better game to watch, I like watching it more, but it&#39;s easier to play.&quot;</p><p><em>Sample #2:</em> &quot;Listen,&quot; Barkley said of the NBA&#39;s new emphasis on rest, &quot;if Bill Russell and Dr. J and those guys could play three games in three nights in the worst tennis shoes ever invented, and fly commercial or ride a bus, I think these guys can be inconvenienced a couple days a year to make $30 million and ride a private jet. All of a sudden guys start making money... I wish guys would tell the truth and say, &#39;I don&#39;t want to play back-to-backs so that I can lengthen my career and make more money.&#39; Just tell the truth. When I first came into the NBA we flew commercial. I know what it&#39;s fuckin&#39; like to get up at 5 o&#39;clock in the morning, fly three hours and play a basketball game that same night. These guys after the game, they get a nice hot meal, they fly private... So come on, let&#39;s make it easier for &#39;em.&quot;</p><p>And then, the first of a hundred conversations about LeBron&#39;s free agency throughout the weekend. &quot;If LeBron goes to Golden State,&quot; Smith said, &quot;I&#39;m gonna start calling soccer.&quot; And Barkley: &quot;I hope he stays in Cleveland. I don&#39;t know what&#39;s going on in his head, but I think it&#39;d be a great way to end his career.&quot; But, Smith added, &quot;I don&#39;t put anything past Magic. You know, Magic might&#39;ve been setting this up 20 years ago. He went to see LeBron in high school, he might&#39;ve been setting this up then. Collusion 20 years ago. Pay that bill.&quot; </p><p><strong>On Friday morning at the Beverly Hills Hilton, </strong>Magic Johnson was one of dozens of executives on hand to participate in the NBA&#39;s annual tech summit. Jeannie Buss was on a panel, too, and so was Kobe Bryant. The event draws on leaders in the tech space, culture, and the league itself to create a day full of panels on the future of business as it relates to basketball. It&#39;s fairly exclusive. &quot;This has been a tougher ticket than the All-Star Game itself,&quot; Adam Silver told us as it concluded. </p><p>While the panels aren&#39;t necessarily dispensing priceless wisdom if you&#39;ve been following technology closely over the past few years, the convergence of sponsors, innovators, and obscenely wealthy owners offers a great snapshot of NBA business at the macro level. On a ride over to the hotel, I sat behind two attendees who were comparing the LIBOR interest rate to the 10-year treasury rate—a slight variation on the weekend of LeBron free agency smalltalk.</p><p>The event is strictly off the record, but I can report that Chadwick Boseman paired with Adam Silver to welcome us to the Summit. Ahmad Rashad was an excellent, self-deprecating MC throughout the day. Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Issa Rae, and Steve Ballmer were among the panelists for a discussion on The Future of Storytelling. Magic and Mark Cuban chipped in to help discuss The Connected Game. Jeannie Buss, James Dolan, Steve Stoute, and Kevin Plank teamed for a panel on managing through disruption. </p><p>The day&#39;s hottest topics included E-Sports, Snapchat, long-form vs. short-form, wearable player-tracking technology, machine learning, artificial intelligence refs, and more. The panels at this event were sometimes funny, sometimes unintentionally funny, and sometimes insightful, but more than anything, they&#39;re a testament to an ambition and curiosity that doesn&#39;t really exist among management regimes in other sports.</p><p><strong>Over in Hollywood, at the London Hotel, </strong>the NBA Players Association had set up camp and hosted players for the weekend. When I approached the door on Friday afternoon I was greeted by JaVale McGee, who was in the middle of interviewing Timofey Mozgov for a YouTube show. &quot;It&#39;s your boy JaVale McGee,&quot; he said, &quot;Here with my Russian brother Timofey Mozgov. He just happens to have a Gucci fanny pack, too. Great minds think alike.&quot; Indeed, both seven-footers were coincidentally wearing Gucci fanny packs.</p><p>This was for a show that&#39;s part of Kevin Durant&#39;s burgeoning YouTube channel (as mentioned in the Future of Storytelling panel!), and it was just one of a dozen pieces of content being filmed on the premises. There were other videos filmed on the back porch, print interviews were conducted in a quiet room next to the elevator banks, while Lou Williams held court with a TV station in the lobby. All of this happened at the same hotel because the NBA Players Association wanted to provide a home base for its players.</p><p>Just as the owners congregated at the Beverly Hills Hilton, when I visited Saturday afternoon the London was hosting everyone from Chris Paul and his parents, to Karl Towns, to fringe players like Mozgov and McGee. They were all in an environment that was off-limits to the public and hospitable to brands and media looking to promote NBA athletes. Between specially-commissioned art for the weekend (a stack of gilded basketballs was a centerpiece in one room), the luxury of a five-star hotel, and free XBoxes and/or headphones in the hands of at least half the players I saw while I was there, it was a fairly impressive display of random perks and amenities.</p><p>What the the NBPA is really doing is looking to establish and maintain is a consistent presence and corporate identity between CBA negotiations. That&#39;s a dynamic that has never really emerged under regimes of the past, and it&#39;ll take time to build it across various arenas. But in the same way that the Tech Summit is a testament to the grander ambitions in the league office, the players&#39; hotel speaks to broader goals for the NBPA.</p><p><strong>Back in Beverly Hills, on the 9th Floor of an office building, </strong>there&#39;s one business that works with owners and players alike. Jason of Beverly Hills is the jewelry company responsible for crafting the last two Warriors championship rings, and when they&#39;re not working with owners on designing title rings—they&#39;ve also designed championship rings for the Lakers and Chelsea—they also work with an estimated 200 players around the NBA. &quot;The championship rings sort of happened organically,&quot; said COO and co-founder Brandt Branand. After launching the business in 2004, Branand and his co-founder Jason Arasheben eventually became the jewelers for various members of the Buss family, including Dr. Buss. &quot;When they won in &#39;09,&quot; Branand explained, &quot;Dr. Buss was like, &#39;Do you guys want to throw your hat in and give it a try?&#39;&quot; That&#39;s how the ring business began.</p><p>The growth among players has been a different story, but it&#39;s no less organic. &quot;The first NBA guy was Anthony Mason,&quot; Branand said. &quot;Jason went to him as this young kid, he showed him this design of a bracelet. He had no inventory or anything. But [Mason] was like, &#39;Cool, I like it.&#39; So Mason gave him a 50% deposit, barely enough for him to scrape by and finish the piece, and he delivered it. Mason again was like, &#39;Cool, I like it.&#39; And that was it. And then a while later one of his teammates came on. And then DeShawn Stevenson, and Drew Gooden, Carlos Boozer... It was all word of mouth. And then guys get traded, and there are more locker rooms, more people hear about it.&quot;</p><p>Over 14 years, thanks in part to those early breaks around the NBA, the business has grown to include stores in L.A., Miami, Las Vegas, and Tokyo. But this weekend they hosted players in their executive offices on the ninth floor, a hidden store that&#39;s typically reserved for big-spending clients seeking privacy. &quot;Players, celebrities, the Rihannas of the world,&quot; the COO said. &quot;People who don&#39;t want to be photographed. They come up here so they can hang out, shop, and not have somebody counting how much money they&#39;re spending or what they&#39;re getting for who.&quot; The goal was to provide players with a place to escape for a few minutes as the rest of the weekend got increasingly crowded and hectic.</p><p>As for any uptick in business for the NBA&#39;s most notable jewelers on a weekend when half the league comes to L.A., there&#39;s less of a boom than you might think, in part because everyone is so busy. &quot;Normally, when it&#39;s in a different city,&quot; Branand explains, &quot;We&#39;re at the players hotel, dealing with stylists and assistants, helping get guys dressed. There&#39;s some transactions, and we&#39;ve had big All-Star Weekends some years. But really it&#39;s just like the agent world—you have a few big, important transactions, and in the middle you spend time maintaining the relationship.&quot; Later Friday evening, that meant hosting a low-key private party at the office with one of this year&#39;s All-Stars. Afterward, they all went to dinner with that player and his family, maintaining another relationship.</p><p><strong>On Friday night, after the Team World defeated Team USA, 155-124,</strong> Joel Embiid was in a good mood. &quot;Well, it&#39;s world domination,&quot; he said, &quot;We coming. Basketball is growing all over the place and it&#39;s great to see. When we come to this type of stuff we represent the whole world. And you want to grow the game, man. People outside of the States, when they see this, they&#39;re going to want to be here.&quot;</p><p>A few miles away, in El Segundo at the Lakers practice facility, the NBA spent the weekend building on that theme. As part of its annual Basketball Without Borders summit at All-Star Weekend, the league welcomed 67 standout teenage basketball players from 36 countries around the world to train for three days in front of NBA scouts and work with visiting NBA players. &quot;Some kids haven&#39;t worked this hard,&quot; Domantas Sabonis said on Sunday, &quot;until they come to this camp, and they&#39;re like, &#39;Oh I need to get to another level.&#39;&quot;</p><p>This is an extension of <a href="https://www.si.com/longform/2018/nba-international-oral-history/index.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the NBA&#39;s investment in global development" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the NBA&#39;s investment in global development</a>. Last year&#39;s camp featured superstar Canadian guard R.J. Barrett—headed to Duke next year—while this year&#39;s biggest names were Luka Samanic of Croatia and MVP Charles Bassey of Nigeria. All of it is a reminder that the game is growing abroad, and as the NBA continues to double down around the world, the growth isn&#39;t an accident.</p><p><strong>On Saturday morning I was lost. </strong>Adidas rented out multiple buildings and several blocks worth of downtown real estate, where the brand hosted nightly concerts (N.E.R.D, Kid Cudi, and many more artists performed). The set-up included a full size basketball court, design laboratories, retail space, and just enough room for me to spend almost 45 minutes wandering around looking like an idiot. The sneaker wars have been well-documented by many—including the FBI!—but it bears mentioning that the most absurd battleground of all comes every year at All-Star Weekend. Adidas basically built its own self-sustaining community this weekend, fueled by rap music and color-coded wristbands and teenagers desperate <a href="https://www.highsnobiety.com/p/adidas-dame-4-bape/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:for the Bape Dames" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">for the Bape Dames</a>.</p><p>For its part, Nike introduced something called <a href="https://twitter.com/J23app/status/964205876901953537" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Hydro-dipping" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Hydro-dipping</a> for custom-made shoe designs. The Nike HQ hosted an interview in which Jalen Rose and Kobe Bryant discussing the 81-point game, while Kendrick Lamar played a show for them on Friday. The space itself had a full-length court hosting games all weekend, grayscale portraits of every Nike All-Star, plus at least one Kobe poem/bible scripture (sample: &quot;Just as much artist as athlete ... A maker in every sense of the word.&quot;). </p><p>Alas, this weekend in L.A. did not belong to Kobe.</p><p><strong>All weekend long, LeBron dominated.</strong> Outside Staples Center Sunday afternoon in L.A., fans were selling &quot;LeBron to L.A.&quot; bootleg t-shirts. Inside Staples, LeBron played his best All-Star Game in a decade, and by actually playing hard, he helped set the tone for the entire game. Earlier in the weekend he&#39;d been attacked by a Fox News host in a dog whistling play for attention, and by Saturday LeBron had responded with an effortless, pitch perfect blend of disgust and indifference.</p><p>LeBron has been more than a basketball player for a long time, and he really doesn&#39;t need to explain himself to anyone who&#39;s too lazy to appreciate what he&#39;s accomplished. He&#39;s helped financed several successful businesses, he&#39;s been the beneficiary of wildly lucrative endorsements and <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/06/12/report-lebron-james-set-for-30-million-profit-on-apple-beats-deal/?utm_term=.b06fa32777b0" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:long-term investments" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">long-term investments</a>, and in turn, he&#39;s been <a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nba/2018/02/18/lebron-james-fox-news-shut-up-and-dribbled/349637002/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the benefactor for more than 1,200 kids" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the benefactor for more than 1,200 kids</a> who have been helped by his &quot;I Promise&quot; foundation. He&#39;s taken natural talent and worked to master his craft, empower friends, broaden his horizons, and improve the lives of kids in his hometown. That news host lamented the idea that there were kids out there following LeBron&#39;s example, but her lazy pandering aside, it&#39;s objectively difficult to imagine many more compelling examples of success anywhere in public life.</p><p><br></p>
NBA All-Star Weekend: The Best and Weirdest Business Convention in the World

LOS ANGELES — NBA All-Star Weekend is essentially a massive basketball business convention. This is the best way to appreciate it. At its worst, as a televised sporting event, All-Star Weekend can look like a mess of manufactured drama and unfunny jokes, every inch of it branded and sold, to the point where the whole experience kind of deadens your soul a little bit.

That's a valid interpretation. Definitely. But as someone who's come to stupidly love this weekend every year, I think that worrying about its entertainment value or artistic integrity is beside the point. The weekend works best as a window into all the different economies that make basketball weirder and more interesting than any sport on the planet.

So with that in mind, and to commemorate another successful All-Star Weekend, here are a handful of snapshots from the past 96 hours in Los Angeles.

Across the street from Staples Center, the weekend began with the TV partners. The NBA has been in business with TNT for as long as I've been alive, and as the league becomes more popular, it only gets funnier that the most prominent voices in basketball refuse to take any of this too seriously. "Dude, we're on television from 8 o'clock at night to 2 o'clock in the morning," Charles Barkley said on Thursday afternoon. "Nobody want us to be serious. First of all, we have a lot of shitty games. If we're going to be on from 8 to 2, we gotta make sure people have fun."

Barkley and Kenny Smith tend to drive basketball Twitter insane, but I will always be loyal. Together they combine genuine, lifelong love for basketball with the relentless sarcasm and skepticism that actually makes the game fun to follow. So, yes, of course I was down to begin my weekend with Chuck and Kenny and some old man takes.

Sample #1: "The things that guys get away with now," Kenny Smith said of today's guards, "I would have had to fight in the locker room. If I came in and took 22 shots as a point guard, I would've had to fight every single player on my team. ... Different era. Because you can be a specialist now, whereas then, the term 'two-way player' didn't exist. Like, what do you mean? You can't play D? How can you play in the league? Now guys get credit for being two-way guys... It's much better game to watch, I like watching it more, but it's easier to play."

Sample #2: "Listen," Barkley said of the NBA's new emphasis on rest, "if Bill Russell and Dr. J and those guys could play three games in three nights in the worst tennis shoes ever invented, and fly commercial or ride a bus, I think these guys can be inconvenienced a couple days a year to make $30 million and ride a private jet. All of a sudden guys start making money... I wish guys would tell the truth and say, 'I don't want to play back-to-backs so that I can lengthen my career and make more money.' Just tell the truth. When I first came into the NBA we flew commercial. I know what it's fuckin' like to get up at 5 o'clock in the morning, fly three hours and play a basketball game that same night. These guys after the game, they get a nice hot meal, they fly private... So come on, let's make it easier for 'em."

And then, the first of a hundred conversations about LeBron's free agency throughout the weekend. "If LeBron goes to Golden State," Smith said, "I'm gonna start calling soccer." And Barkley: "I hope he stays in Cleveland. I don't know what's going on in his head, but I think it'd be a great way to end his career." But, Smith added, "I don't put anything past Magic. You know, Magic might've been setting this up 20 years ago. He went to see LeBron in high school, he might've been setting this up then. Collusion 20 years ago. Pay that bill."

On Friday morning at the Beverly Hills Hilton, Magic Johnson was one of dozens of executives on hand to participate in the NBA's annual tech summit. Jeannie Buss was on a panel, too, and so was Kobe Bryant. The event draws on leaders in the tech space, culture, and the league itself to create a day full of panels on the future of business as it relates to basketball. It's fairly exclusive. "This has been a tougher ticket than the All-Star Game itself," Adam Silver told us as it concluded.

While the panels aren't necessarily dispensing priceless wisdom if you've been following technology closely over the past few years, the convergence of sponsors, innovators, and obscenely wealthy owners offers a great snapshot of NBA business at the macro level. On a ride over to the hotel, I sat behind two attendees who were comparing the LIBOR interest rate to the 10-year treasury rate—a slight variation on the weekend of LeBron free agency smalltalk.

The event is strictly off the record, but I can report that Chadwick Boseman paired with Adam Silver to welcome us to the Summit. Ahmad Rashad was an excellent, self-deprecating MC throughout the day. Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Issa Rae, and Steve Ballmer were among the panelists for a discussion on The Future of Storytelling. Magic and Mark Cuban chipped in to help discuss The Connected Game. Jeannie Buss, James Dolan, Steve Stoute, and Kevin Plank teamed for a panel on managing through disruption.

The day's hottest topics included E-Sports, Snapchat, long-form vs. short-form, wearable player-tracking technology, machine learning, artificial intelligence refs, and more. The panels at this event were sometimes funny, sometimes unintentionally funny, and sometimes insightful, but more than anything, they're a testament to an ambition and curiosity that doesn't really exist among management regimes in other sports.

Over in Hollywood, at the London Hotel, the NBA Players Association had set up camp and hosted players for the weekend. When I approached the door on Friday afternoon I was greeted by JaVale McGee, who was in the middle of interviewing Timofey Mozgov for a YouTube show. "It's your boy JaVale McGee," he said, "Here with my Russian brother Timofey Mozgov. He just happens to have a Gucci fanny pack, too. Great minds think alike." Indeed, both seven-footers were coincidentally wearing Gucci fanny packs.

This was for a show that's part of Kevin Durant's burgeoning YouTube channel (as mentioned in the Future of Storytelling panel!), and it was just one of a dozen pieces of content being filmed on the premises. There were other videos filmed on the back porch, print interviews were conducted in a quiet room next to the elevator banks, while Lou Williams held court with a TV station in the lobby. All of this happened at the same hotel because the NBA Players Association wanted to provide a home base for its players.

Just as the owners congregated at the Beverly Hills Hilton, when I visited Saturday afternoon the London was hosting everyone from Chris Paul and his parents, to Karl Towns, to fringe players like Mozgov and McGee. They were all in an environment that was off-limits to the public and hospitable to brands and media looking to promote NBA athletes. Between specially-commissioned art for the weekend (a stack of gilded basketballs was a centerpiece in one room), the luxury of a five-star hotel, and free XBoxes and/or headphones in the hands of at least half the players I saw while I was there, it was a fairly impressive display of random perks and amenities.

What the the NBPA is really doing is looking to establish and maintain is a consistent presence and corporate identity between CBA negotiations. That's a dynamic that has never really emerged under regimes of the past, and it'll take time to build it across various arenas. But in the same way that the Tech Summit is a testament to the grander ambitions in the league office, the players' hotel speaks to broader goals for the NBPA.

Back in Beverly Hills, on the 9th Floor of an office building, there's one business that works with owners and players alike. Jason of Beverly Hills is the jewelry company responsible for crafting the last two Warriors championship rings, and when they're not working with owners on designing title rings—they've also designed championship rings for the Lakers and Chelsea—they also work with an estimated 200 players around the NBA. "The championship rings sort of happened organically," said COO and co-founder Brandt Branand. After launching the business in 2004, Branand and his co-founder Jason Arasheben eventually became the jewelers for various members of the Buss family, including Dr. Buss. "When they won in '09," Branand explained, "Dr. Buss was like, 'Do you guys want to throw your hat in and give it a try?'" That's how the ring business began.

The growth among players has been a different story, but it's no less organic. "The first NBA guy was Anthony Mason," Branand said. "Jason went to him as this young kid, he showed him this design of a bracelet. He had no inventory or anything. But [Mason] was like, 'Cool, I like it.' So Mason gave him a 50% deposit, barely enough for him to scrape by and finish the piece, and he delivered it. Mason again was like, 'Cool, I like it.' And that was it. And then a while later one of his teammates came on. And then DeShawn Stevenson, and Drew Gooden, Carlos Boozer... It was all word of mouth. And then guys get traded, and there are more locker rooms, more people hear about it."

Over 14 years, thanks in part to those early breaks around the NBA, the business has grown to include stores in L.A., Miami, Las Vegas, and Tokyo. But this weekend they hosted players in their executive offices on the ninth floor, a hidden store that's typically reserved for big-spending clients seeking privacy. "Players, celebrities, the Rihannas of the world," the COO said. "People who don't want to be photographed. They come up here so they can hang out, shop, and not have somebody counting how much money they're spending or what they're getting for who." The goal was to provide players with a place to escape for a few minutes as the rest of the weekend got increasingly crowded and hectic.

As for any uptick in business for the NBA's most notable jewelers on a weekend when half the league comes to L.A., there's less of a boom than you might think, in part because everyone is so busy. "Normally, when it's in a different city," Branand explains, "We're at the players hotel, dealing with stylists and assistants, helping get guys dressed. There's some transactions, and we've had big All-Star Weekends some years. But really it's just like the agent world—you have a few big, important transactions, and in the middle you spend time maintaining the relationship." Later Friday evening, that meant hosting a low-key private party at the office with one of this year's All-Stars. Afterward, they all went to dinner with that player and his family, maintaining another relationship.

On Friday night, after the Team World defeated Team USA, 155-124, Joel Embiid was in a good mood. "Well, it's world domination," he said, "We coming. Basketball is growing all over the place and it's great to see. When we come to this type of stuff we represent the whole world. And you want to grow the game, man. People outside of the States, when they see this, they're going to want to be here."

A few miles away, in El Segundo at the Lakers practice facility, the NBA spent the weekend building on that theme. As part of its annual Basketball Without Borders summit at All-Star Weekend, the league welcomed 67 standout teenage basketball players from 36 countries around the world to train for three days in front of NBA scouts and work with visiting NBA players. "Some kids haven't worked this hard," Domantas Sabonis said on Sunday, "until they come to this camp, and they're like, 'Oh I need to get to another level.'"

This is an extension of the NBA's investment in global development. Last year's camp featured superstar Canadian guard R.J. Barrett—headed to Duke next year—while this year's biggest names were Luka Samanic of Croatia and MVP Charles Bassey of Nigeria. All of it is a reminder that the game is growing abroad, and as the NBA continues to double down around the world, the growth isn't an accident.

On Saturday morning I was lost. Adidas rented out multiple buildings and several blocks worth of downtown real estate, where the brand hosted nightly concerts (N.E.R.D, Kid Cudi, and many more artists performed). The set-up included a full size basketball court, design laboratories, retail space, and just enough room for me to spend almost 45 minutes wandering around looking like an idiot. The sneaker wars have been well-documented by many—including the FBI!—but it bears mentioning that the most absurd battleground of all comes every year at All-Star Weekend. Adidas basically built its own self-sustaining community this weekend, fueled by rap music and color-coded wristbands and teenagers desperate for the Bape Dames.

For its part, Nike introduced something called Hydro-dipping for custom-made shoe designs. The Nike HQ hosted an interview in which Jalen Rose and Kobe Bryant discussing the 81-point game, while Kendrick Lamar played a show for them on Friday. The space itself had a full-length court hosting games all weekend, grayscale portraits of every Nike All-Star, plus at least one Kobe poem/bible scripture (sample: "Just as much artist as athlete ... A maker in every sense of the word.").

Alas, this weekend in L.A. did not belong to Kobe.

All weekend long, LeBron dominated. Outside Staples Center Sunday afternoon in L.A., fans were selling "LeBron to L.A." bootleg t-shirts. Inside Staples, LeBron played his best All-Star Game in a decade, and by actually playing hard, he helped set the tone for the entire game. Earlier in the weekend he'd been attacked by a Fox News host in a dog whistling play for attention, and by Saturday LeBron had responded with an effortless, pitch perfect blend of disgust and indifference.

LeBron has been more than a basketball player for a long time, and he really doesn't need to explain himself to anyone who's too lazy to appreciate what he's accomplished. He's helped financed several successful businesses, he's been the beneficiary of wildly lucrative endorsements and long-term investments, and in turn, he's been the benefactor for more than 1,200 kids who have been helped by his "I Promise" foundation. He's taken natural talent and worked to master his craft, empower friends, broaden his horizons, and improve the lives of kids in his hometown. That news host lamented the idea that there were kids out there following LeBron's example, but her lazy pandering aside, it's objectively difficult to imagine many more compelling examples of success anywhere in public life.


<p>LOS ANGELES — NBA All-Star Weekend is essentially a massive basketball business convention. This is the best way to appreciate it. At its worst, as a televised sporting event, All-Star Weekend can look like a mess of manufactured drama and unfunny jokes, every inch of it branded and sold, to the point where the whole experience kind of deadens your soul a little bit.</p><p>That&#39;s a valid interpretation. Definitely. But as someone who&#39;s come to stupidly love this weekend every year, I think that worrying about its entertainment value or artistic integrity is beside the point. The weekend works best as a window into all the different economies that make basketball weirder and more interesting than any sport on the planet.</p><p>So with that in mind, and to commemorate another successful All-Star Weekend, here are a handful of snapshots from the past 96 hours in Los Angeles.</p><p><strong>Across the street from Staples Center, the weekend began with the TV partners. </strong>The NBA has been in business with TNT for as long as I&#39;ve been alive, and as the league becomes more popular, it only gets funnier that the most prominent voices in basketball refuse to take any of this too seriously. &quot;Dude, we&#39;re on television from 8 o&#39;clock at night to 2 o&#39;clock in the morning,&quot; Charles Barkley said on Thursday afternoon. &quot;Nobody want us to be serious. First of all, we have a lot of shitty games. If we&#39;re going to be on from 8 to 2, we gotta make sure people have fun.&quot; </p><p>Barkley and Kenny Smith tend to drive basketball Twitter insane, but I will always be loyal. Together they combine genuine, lifelong love for basketball with the relentless sarcasm and skepticism that actually makes the game fun to follow. So, yes, of course I was down to begin my weekend with Chuck and Kenny and some old man takes.</p><p><em>Sample #1:</em> &quot;The things that guys get away with now,&quot; Kenny Smith said of today&#39;s guards, &quot;I would have had to fight in the locker room. If I came in and took 22 shots as a point guard, I would&#39;ve had to fight every single player on my team. ... Different era. Because you can be a specialist now, whereas then, the term &#39;two-way player&#39; didn&#39;t exist. Like, what do you mean? You can&#39;t play D? How can you play in the league? Now guys get credit for being two-way guys... It&#39;s much better game to watch, I like watching it more, but it&#39;s easier to play.&quot;</p><p><em>Sample #2:</em> &quot;Listen,&quot; Barkley said of the NBA&#39;s new emphasis on rest, &quot;if Bill Russell and Dr. J and those guys could play three games in three nights in the worst tennis shoes ever invented, and fly commercial or ride a bus, I think these guys can be inconvenienced a couple days a year to make $30 million and ride a private jet. All of a sudden guys start making money... I wish guys would tell the truth and say, &#39;I don&#39;t want to play back-to-backs so that I can lengthen my career and make more money.&#39; Just tell the truth. When I first came into the NBA we flew commercial. I know what it&#39;s fuckin&#39; like to get up at 5 o&#39;clock in the morning, fly three hours and play a basketball game that same night. These guys after the game, they get a nice hot meal, they fly private... So come on, let&#39;s make it easier for &#39;em.&quot;</p><p>And then, the first of a hundred conversations about LeBron&#39;s free agency throughout the weekend. &quot;If LeBron goes to Golden State,&quot; Smith said, &quot;I&#39;m gonna start calling soccer.&quot; And Barkley: &quot;I hope he stays in Cleveland. I don&#39;t know what&#39;s going on in his head, but I think it&#39;d be a great way to end his career.&quot; But, Smith added, &quot;I don&#39;t put anything past Magic. You know, Magic might&#39;ve been setting this up 20 years ago. He went to see LeBron in high school, he might&#39;ve been setting this up then. Collusion 20 years ago. Pay that bill.&quot; </p><p><strong>On Friday morning at the Beverly Hills Hilton, </strong>Magic Johnson was one of dozens of executives on hand to participate in the NBA&#39;s annual tech summit. Jeannie Buss was on a panel, too, and so was Kobe Bryant. The event draws on leaders in the tech space, culture, and the league itself to create a day full of panels on the future of business as it relates to basketball. It&#39;s fairly exclusive. &quot;This has been a tougher ticket than the All-Star Game itself,&quot; Adam Silver told us as it concluded. </p><p>While the panels aren&#39;t necessarily dispensing priceless wisdom if you&#39;ve been following technology closely over the past few years, the convergence of sponsors, innovators, and obscenely wealthy owners offers a great snapshot of NBA business at the macro level. On a ride over to the hotel, I sat behind two attendees who were comparing the LIBOR interest rate to the 10-year treasury rate—a slight variation on the weekend of LeBron free agency smalltalk.</p><p>The event is strictly off the record, but I can report that Chadwick Boseman paired with Adam Silver to welcome us to the Summit. Ahmad Rashad was an excellent, self-deprecating MC throughout the day. Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Issa Rae, and Steve Ballmer were among the panelists for a discussion on The Future of Storytelling. Magic and Mark Cuban chipped in to help discuss The Connected Game. Jeannie Buss, James Dolan, Steve Stoute, and Kevin Plank teamed for a panel on managing through disruption. </p><p>The day&#39;s hottest topics included E-Sports, Snapchat, long-form vs. short-form, wearable player-tracking technology, machine learning, artificial intelligence refs, and more. The panels at this event were sometimes funny, sometimes unintentionally funny, and sometimes insightful, but more than anything, they&#39;re a testament to an ambition and curiosity that doesn&#39;t really exist among management regimes in other sports.</p><p><strong>Over in Hollywood, at the London Hotel, </strong>the NBA Players Association had set up camp and hosted players for the weekend. When I approached the door on Friday afternoon I was greeted by JaVale McGee, who was in the middle of interviewing Timofey Mozgov for a YouTube show. &quot;It&#39;s your boy JaVale McGee,&quot; he said, &quot;Here with my Russian brother Timofey Mozgov. He just happens to have a Gucci fanny pack, too. Great minds think alike.&quot; Indeed, both seven-footers were coincidentally wearing Gucci fanny packs.</p><p>This was for a show that&#39;s part of Kevin Durant&#39;s burgeoning YouTube channel (as mentioned in the Future of Storytelling panel!), and it was just one of a dozen pieces of content being filmed on the premises. There were other videos filmed on the back porch, print interviews were conducted in a quiet room next to the elevator banks, while Lou Williams held court with a TV station in the lobby. All of this happened at the same hotel because the NBA Players Association wanted to provide a home base for its players.</p><p>Just as the owners congregated at the Beverly Hills Hilton, when I visited Saturday afternoon the London was hosting everyone from Chris Paul and his parents, to Karl Towns, to fringe players like Mozgov and McGee. They were all in an environment that was off-limits to the public and hospitable to brands and media looking to promote NBA athletes. Between specially-commissioned art for the weekend (a stack of gilded basketballs was a centerpiece in one room), the luxury of a five-star hotel, and free XBoxes and/or headphones in the hands of at least half the players I saw while I was there, it was a fairly impressive display of random perks and amenities.</p><p>What the the NBPA is really doing is looking to establish and maintain is a consistent presence and corporate identity between CBA negotiations. That&#39;s a dynamic that has never really emerged under regimes of the past, and it&#39;ll take time to build it across various arenas. But in the same way that the Tech Summit is a testament to the grander ambitions in the league office, the players&#39; hotel speaks to broader goals for the NBPA.</p><p><strong>Back in Beverly Hills, on the 9th Floor of an office building, </strong>there&#39;s one business that works with owners and players alike. Jason of Beverly Hills is the jewelry company responsible for crafting the last two Warriors championship rings, and when they&#39;re not working with owners on designing title rings—they&#39;ve also designed championship rings for the Lakers and Chelsea—they also work with an estimated 200 players around the NBA. &quot;The championship rings sort of happened organically,&quot; said COO and co-founder Brandt Branand. After launching the business in 2004, Branand and his co-founder Jason Arasheben eventually became the jewelers for various members of the Buss family, including Dr. Buss. &quot;When they won in &#39;09,&quot; Branand explained, &quot;Dr. Buss was like, &#39;Do you guys want to throw your hat in and give it a try?&#39;&quot; That&#39;s how the ring business began.</p><p>The growth among players has been a different story, but it&#39;s no less organic. &quot;The first NBA guy was Anthony Mason,&quot; Branand said. &quot;Jason went to him as this young kid, he showed him this design of a bracelet. He had no inventory or anything. But [Mason] was like, &#39;Cool, I like it.&#39; So Mason gave him a 50% deposit, barely enough for him to scrape by and finish the piece, and he delivered it. Mason again was like, &#39;Cool, I like it.&#39; And that was it. And then a while later one of his teammates came on. And then DeShawn Stevenson, and Drew Gooden, Carlos Boozer... It was all word of mouth. And then guys get traded, and there are more locker rooms, more people hear about it.&quot;</p><p>Over 14 years, thanks in part to those early breaks around the NBA, the business has grown to include stores in L.A., Miami, Las Vegas, and Tokyo. But this weekend they hosted players in their executive offices on the ninth floor, a hidden store that&#39;s typically reserved for big-spending clients seeking privacy. &quot;Players, celebrities, the Rihannas of the world,&quot; the COO said. &quot;People who don&#39;t want to be photographed. They come up here so they can hang out, shop, and not have somebody counting how much money they&#39;re spending or what they&#39;re getting for who.&quot; The goal was to provide players with a place to escape for a few minutes as the rest of the weekend got increasingly crowded and hectic.</p><p>As for any uptick in business for the NBA&#39;s most notable jewelers on a weekend when half the league comes to L.A., there&#39;s less of a boom than you might think, in part because everyone is so busy. &quot;Normally, when it&#39;s in a different city,&quot; Branand explains, &quot;We&#39;re at the players hotel, dealing with stylists and assistants, helping get guys dressed. There&#39;s some transactions, and we&#39;ve had big All-Star Weekends some years. But really it&#39;s just like the agent world—you have a few big, important transactions, and in the middle you spend time maintaining the relationship.&quot; Later Friday evening, that meant hosting a low-key private party at the office with one of this year&#39;s All-Stars. Afterward, they all went to dinner with that player and his family, maintaining another relationship.</p><p><strong>On Friday night, after the Team World defeated Team USA, 155-124,</strong> Joel Embiid was in a good mood. &quot;Well, it&#39;s world domination,&quot; he said, &quot;We coming. Basketball is growing all over the place and it&#39;s great to see. When we come to this type of stuff we represent the whole world. And you want to grow the game, man. People outside of the States, when they see this, they&#39;re going to want to be here.&quot;</p><p>A few miles away, in El Segundo at the Lakers practice facility, the NBA spent the weekend building on that theme. As part of its annual Basketball Without Borders summit at All-Star Weekend, the league welcomed 67 standout teenage basketball players from 36 countries around the world to train for three days in front of NBA scouts and work with visiting NBA players. &quot;Some kids haven&#39;t worked this hard,&quot; Domantas Sabonis said on Sunday, &quot;until they come to this camp, and they&#39;re like, &#39;Oh I need to get to another level.&#39;&quot;</p><p>This is an extension of <a href="https://www.si.com/longform/2018/nba-international-oral-history/index.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the NBA&#39;s investment in global development" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the NBA&#39;s investment in global development</a>. Last year&#39;s camp featured superstar Canadian guard R.J. Barrett—headed to Duke next year—while this year&#39;s biggest names were Luka Samanic of Croatia and MVP Charles Bassey of Nigeria. All of it is a reminder that the game is growing abroad, and as the NBA continues to double down around the world, the growth isn&#39;t an accident.</p><p><strong>On Saturday morning I was lost. </strong>Adidas rented out multiple buildings and several blocks worth of downtown real estate, where the brand hosted nightly concerts (N.E.R.D, Kid Cudi, and many more artists performed). The set-up included a full size basketball court, design laboratories, retail space, and just enough room for me to spend almost 45 minutes wandering around looking like an idiot. The sneaker wars have been well-documented by many—including the FBI!—but it bears mentioning that the most absurd battleground of all comes every year at All-Star Weekend. Adidas basically built its own self-sustaining community this weekend, fueled by rap music and color-coded wristbands and teenagers desperate <a href="https://www.highsnobiety.com/p/adidas-dame-4-bape/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:for the Bape Dames" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">for the Bape Dames</a>.</p><p>For its part, Nike introduced something called <a href="https://twitter.com/J23app/status/964205876901953537" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Hydro-dipping" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Hydro-dipping</a> for custom-made shoe designs. The Nike HQ hosted an interview in which Jalen Rose and Kobe Bryant discussing the 81-point game, while Kendrick Lamar played a show for them on Friday. The space itself had a full-length court hosting games all weekend, grayscale portraits of every Nike All-Star, plus at least one Kobe poem/bible scripture (sample: &quot;Just as much artist as athlete ... A maker in every sense of the word.&quot;). </p><p>Alas, this weekend in L.A. did not belong to Kobe.</p><p><strong>All weekend long, LeBron dominated.</strong> Outside Staples Center Sunday afternoon in L.A., fans were selling &quot;LeBron to L.A.&quot; bootleg t-shirts. Inside Staples, LeBron played his best All-Star Game in a decade, and by actually playing hard, he helped set the tone for the entire game. Earlier in the weekend he&#39;d been attacked by a Fox News host in a dog whistling play for attention, and by Saturday LeBron had responded with an effortless, pitch perfect blend of disgust and indifference.</p><p>LeBron has been more than a basketball player for a long time, and he really doesn&#39;t need to explain himself to anyone who&#39;s too lazy to appreciate what he&#39;s accomplished. He&#39;s helped financed several successful businesses, he&#39;s been the beneficiary of wildly lucrative endorsements and <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/06/12/report-lebron-james-set-for-30-million-profit-on-apple-beats-deal/?utm_term=.b06fa32777b0" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:long-term investments" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">long-term investments</a>, and in turn, he&#39;s been <a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nba/2018/02/18/lebron-james-fox-news-shut-up-and-dribbled/349637002/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the benefactor for more than 1,200 kids" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the benefactor for more than 1,200 kids</a> who have been helped by his &quot;I Promise&quot; foundation. He&#39;s taken natural talent and worked to master his craft, empower friends, broaden his horizons, and improve the lives of kids in his hometown. That news host lamented the idea that there were kids out there following LeBron&#39;s example, but her lazy pandering aside, it&#39;s objectively difficult to imagine many more compelling examples of success anywhere in public life.</p><p><br></p>
NBA All-Star Weekend: The Best and Weirdest Business Convention in the World

LOS ANGELES — NBA All-Star Weekend is essentially a massive basketball business convention. This is the best way to appreciate it. At its worst, as a televised sporting event, All-Star Weekend can look like a mess of manufactured drama and unfunny jokes, every inch of it branded and sold, to the point where the whole experience kind of deadens your soul a little bit.

That's a valid interpretation. Definitely. But as someone who's come to stupidly love this weekend every year, I think that worrying about its entertainment value or artistic integrity is beside the point. The weekend works best as a window into all the different economies that make basketball weirder and more interesting than any sport on the planet.

So with that in mind, and to commemorate another successful All-Star Weekend, here are a handful of snapshots from the past 96 hours in Los Angeles.

Across the street from Staples Center, the weekend began with the TV partners. The NBA has been in business with TNT for as long as I've been alive, and as the league becomes more popular, it only gets funnier that the most prominent voices in basketball refuse to take any of this too seriously. "Dude, we're on television from 8 o'clock at night to 2 o'clock in the morning," Charles Barkley said on Thursday afternoon. "Nobody want us to be serious. First of all, we have a lot of shitty games. If we're going to be on from 8 to 2, we gotta make sure people have fun."

Barkley and Kenny Smith tend to drive basketball Twitter insane, but I will always be loyal. Together they combine genuine, lifelong love for basketball with the relentless sarcasm and skepticism that actually makes the game fun to follow. So, yes, of course I was down to begin my weekend with Chuck and Kenny and some old man takes.

Sample #1: "The things that guys get away with now," Kenny Smith said of today's guards, "I would have had to fight in the locker room. If I came in and took 22 shots as a point guard, I would've had to fight every single player on my team. ... Different era. Because you can be a specialist now, whereas then, the term 'two-way player' didn't exist. Like, what do you mean? You can't play D? How can you play in the league? Now guys get credit for being two-way guys... It's much better game to watch, I like watching it more, but it's easier to play."

Sample #2: "Listen," Barkley said of the NBA's new emphasis on rest, "if Bill Russell and Dr. J and those guys could play three games in three nights in the worst tennis shoes ever invented, and fly commercial or ride a bus, I think these guys can be inconvenienced a couple days a year to make $30 million and ride a private jet. All of a sudden guys start making money... I wish guys would tell the truth and say, 'I don't want to play back-to-backs so that I can lengthen my career and make more money.' Just tell the truth. When I first came into the NBA we flew commercial. I know what it's fuckin' like to get up at 5 o'clock in the morning, fly three hours and play a basketball game that same night. These guys after the game, they get a nice hot meal, they fly private... So come on, let's make it easier for 'em."

And then, the first of a hundred conversations about LeBron's free agency throughout the weekend. "If LeBron goes to Golden State," Smith said, "I'm gonna start calling soccer." And Barkley: "I hope he stays in Cleveland. I don't know what's going on in his head, but I think it'd be a great way to end his career." But, Smith added, "I don't put anything past Magic. You know, Magic might've been setting this up 20 years ago. He went to see LeBron in high school, he might've been setting this up then. Collusion 20 years ago. Pay that bill."

On Friday morning at the Beverly Hills Hilton, Magic Johnson was one of dozens of executives on hand to participate in the NBA's annual tech summit. Jeannie Buss was on a panel, too, and so was Kobe Bryant. The event draws on leaders in the tech space, culture, and the league itself to create a day full of panels on the future of business as it relates to basketball. It's fairly exclusive. "This has been a tougher ticket than the All-Star Game itself," Adam Silver told us as it concluded.

While the panels aren't necessarily dispensing priceless wisdom if you've been following technology closely over the past few years, the convergence of sponsors, innovators, and obscenely wealthy owners offers a great snapshot of NBA business at the macro level. On a ride over to the hotel, I sat behind two attendees who were comparing the LIBOR interest rate to the 10-year treasury rate—a slight variation on the weekend of LeBron free agency smalltalk.

The event is strictly off the record, but I can report that Chadwick Boseman paired with Adam Silver to welcome us to the Summit. Ahmad Rashad was an excellent, self-deprecating MC throughout the day. Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Issa Rae, and Steve Ballmer were among the panelists for a discussion on The Future of Storytelling. Magic and Mark Cuban chipped in to help discuss The Connected Game. Jeannie Buss, James Dolan, Steve Stoute, and Kevin Plank teamed for a panel on managing through disruption.

The day's hottest topics included E-Sports, Snapchat, long-form vs. short-form, wearable player-tracking technology, machine learning, artificial intelligence refs, and more. The panels at this event were sometimes funny, sometimes unintentionally funny, and sometimes insightful, but more than anything, they're a testament to an ambition and curiosity that doesn't really exist among management regimes in other sports.

Over in Hollywood, at the London Hotel, the NBA Players Association had set up camp and hosted players for the weekend. When I approached the door on Friday afternoon I was greeted by JaVale McGee, who was in the middle of interviewing Timofey Mozgov for a YouTube show. "It's your boy JaVale McGee," he said, "Here with my Russian brother Timofey Mozgov. He just happens to have a Gucci fanny pack, too. Great minds think alike." Indeed, both seven-footers were coincidentally wearing Gucci fanny packs.

This was for a show that's part of Kevin Durant's burgeoning YouTube channel (as mentioned in the Future of Storytelling panel!), and it was just one of a dozen pieces of content being filmed on the premises. There were other videos filmed on the back porch, print interviews were conducted in a quiet room next to the elevator banks, while Lou Williams held court with a TV station in the lobby. All of this happened at the same hotel because the NBA Players Association wanted to provide a home base for its players.

Just as the owners congregated at the Beverly Hills Hilton, when I visited Saturday afternoon the London was hosting everyone from Chris Paul and his parents, to Karl Towns, to fringe players like Mozgov and McGee. They were all in an environment that was off-limits to the public and hospitable to brands and media looking to promote NBA athletes. Between specially-commissioned art for the weekend (a stack of gilded basketballs was a centerpiece in one room), the luxury of a five-star hotel, and free XBoxes and/or headphones in the hands of at least half the players I saw while I was there, it was a fairly impressive display of random perks and amenities.

What the the NBPA is really doing is looking to establish and maintain is a consistent presence and corporate identity between CBA negotiations. That's a dynamic that has never really emerged under regimes of the past, and it'll take time to build it across various arenas. But in the same way that the Tech Summit is a testament to the grander ambitions in the league office, the players' hotel speaks to broader goals for the NBPA.

Back in Beverly Hills, on the 9th Floor of an office building, there's one business that works with owners and players alike. Jason of Beverly Hills is the jewelry company responsible for crafting the last two Warriors championship rings, and when they're not working with owners on designing title rings—they've also designed championship rings for the Lakers and Chelsea—they also work with an estimated 200 players around the NBA. "The championship rings sort of happened organically," said COO and co-founder Brandt Branand. After launching the business in 2004, Branand and his co-founder Jason Arasheben eventually became the jewelers for various members of the Buss family, including Dr. Buss. "When they won in '09," Branand explained, "Dr. Buss was like, 'Do you guys want to throw your hat in and give it a try?'" That's how the ring business began.

The growth among players has been a different story, but it's no less organic. "The first NBA guy was Anthony Mason," Branand said. "Jason went to him as this young kid, he showed him this design of a bracelet. He had no inventory or anything. But [Mason] was like, 'Cool, I like it.' So Mason gave him a 50% deposit, barely enough for him to scrape by and finish the piece, and he delivered it. Mason again was like, 'Cool, I like it.' And that was it. And then a while later one of his teammates came on. And then DeShawn Stevenson, and Drew Gooden, Carlos Boozer... It was all word of mouth. And then guys get traded, and there are more locker rooms, more people hear about it."

Over 14 years, thanks in part to those early breaks around the NBA, the business has grown to include stores in L.A., Miami, Las Vegas, and Tokyo. But this weekend they hosted players in their executive offices on the ninth floor, a hidden store that's typically reserved for big-spending clients seeking privacy. "Players, celebrities, the Rihannas of the world," the COO said. "People who don't want to be photographed. They come up here so they can hang out, shop, and not have somebody counting how much money they're spending or what they're getting for who." The goal was to provide players with a place to escape for a few minutes as the rest of the weekend got increasingly crowded and hectic.

As for any uptick in business for the NBA's most notable jewelers on a weekend when half the league comes to L.A., there's less of a boom than you might think, in part because everyone is so busy. "Normally, when it's in a different city," Branand explains, "We're at the players hotel, dealing with stylists and assistants, helping get guys dressed. There's some transactions, and we've had big All-Star Weekends some years. But really it's just like the agent world—you have a few big, important transactions, and in the middle you spend time maintaining the relationship." Later Friday evening, that meant hosting a low-key private party at the office with one of this year's All-Stars. Afterward, they all went to dinner with that player and his family, maintaining another relationship.

On Friday night, after the Team World defeated Team USA, 155-124, Joel Embiid was in a good mood. "Well, it's world domination," he said, "We coming. Basketball is growing all over the place and it's great to see. When we come to this type of stuff we represent the whole world. And you want to grow the game, man. People outside of the States, when they see this, they're going to want to be here."

A few miles away, in El Segundo at the Lakers practice facility, the NBA spent the weekend building on that theme. As part of its annual Basketball Without Borders summit at All-Star Weekend, the league welcomed 67 standout teenage basketball players from 36 countries around the world to train for three days in front of NBA scouts and work with visiting NBA players. "Some kids haven't worked this hard," Domantas Sabonis said on Sunday, "until they come to this camp, and they're like, 'Oh I need to get to another level.'"

This is an extension of the NBA's investment in global development. Last year's camp featured superstar Canadian guard R.J. Barrett—headed to Duke next year—while this year's biggest names were Luka Samanic of Croatia and MVP Charles Bassey of Nigeria. All of it is a reminder that the game is growing abroad, and as the NBA continues to double down around the world, the growth isn't an accident.

On Saturday morning I was lost. Adidas rented out multiple buildings and several blocks worth of downtown real estate, where the brand hosted nightly concerts (N.E.R.D, Kid Cudi, and many more artists performed). The set-up included a full size basketball court, design laboratories, retail space, and just enough room for me to spend almost 45 minutes wandering around looking like an idiot. The sneaker wars have been well-documented by many—including the FBI!—but it bears mentioning that the most absurd battleground of all comes every year at All-Star Weekend. Adidas basically built its own self-sustaining community this weekend, fueled by rap music and color-coded wristbands and teenagers desperate for the Bape Dames.

For its part, Nike introduced something called Hydro-dipping for custom-made shoe designs. The Nike HQ hosted an interview in which Jalen Rose and Kobe Bryant discussing the 81-point game, while Kendrick Lamar played a show for them on Friday. The space itself had a full-length court hosting games all weekend, grayscale portraits of every Nike All-Star, plus at least one Kobe poem/bible scripture (sample: "Just as much artist as athlete ... A maker in every sense of the word.").

Alas, this weekend in L.A. did not belong to Kobe.

All weekend long, LeBron dominated. Outside Staples Center Sunday afternoon in L.A., fans were selling "LeBron to L.A." bootleg t-shirts. Inside Staples, LeBron played his best All-Star Game in a decade, and by actually playing hard, he helped set the tone for the entire game. Earlier in the weekend he'd been attacked by a Fox News host in a dog whistling play for attention, and by Saturday LeBron had responded with an effortless, pitch perfect blend of disgust and indifference.

LeBron has been more than a basketball player for a long time, and he really doesn't need to explain himself to anyone who's too lazy to appreciate what he's accomplished. He's helped financed several successful businesses, he's been the beneficiary of wildly lucrative endorsements and long-term investments, and in turn, he's been the benefactor for more than 1,200 kids who have been helped by his "I Promise" foundation. He's taken natural talent and worked to master his craft, empower friends, broaden his horizons, and improve the lives of kids in his hometown. That news host lamented the idea that there were kids out there following LeBron's example, but her lazy pandering aside, it's objectively difficult to imagine many more compelling examples of success anywhere in public life.


<p>LOS ANGELES — NBA All-Star Weekend is essentially a massive basketball business convention. This is the best way to appreciate it. At its worst, as a televised sporting event, All-Star Weekend can look like a mess of manufactured drama and unfunny jokes, every inch of it branded and sold, to the point where the whole experience kind of deadens your soul a little bit.</p><p>That&#39;s a valid interpretation. Definitely. But as someone who&#39;s come to stupidly love this weekend every year, I think that worrying about its entertainment value or artistic integrity is beside the point. The weekend works best as a window into all the different economies that make basketball weirder and more interesting than any sport on the planet.</p><p>So with that in mind, and to commemorate another successful All-Star Weekend, here are a handful of snapshots from the past 96 hours in Los Angeles.</p><p><strong>Across the street from Staples Center, the weekend began with the TV partners. </strong>The NBA has been in business with TNT for as long as I&#39;ve been alive, and as the league becomes more popular, it only gets funnier that the most prominent voices in basketball refuse to take any of this too seriously. &quot;Dude, we&#39;re on television from 8 o&#39;clock at night to 2 o&#39;clock in the morning,&quot; Charles Barkley said on Thursday afternoon. &quot;Nobody want us to be serious. First of all, we have a lot of shitty games. If we&#39;re going to be on from 8 to 2, we gotta make sure people have fun.&quot; </p><p>Barkley and Kenny Smith tend to drive basketball Twitter insane, but I will always be loyal. Together they combine genuine, lifelong love for basketball with the relentless sarcasm and skepticism that actually makes the game fun to follow. So, yes, of course I was down to begin my weekend with Chuck and Kenny and some old man takes.</p><p><em>Sample #1:</em> &quot;The things that guys get away with now,&quot; Kenny Smith said of today&#39;s guards, &quot;I would have had to fight in the locker room. If I came in and took 22 shots as a point guard, I would&#39;ve had to fight every single player on my team. ... Different era. Because you can be a specialist now, whereas then, the term &#39;two-way player&#39; didn&#39;t exist. Like, what do you mean? You can&#39;t play D? How can you play in the league? Now guys get credit for being two-way guys... It&#39;s much better game to watch, I like watching it more, but it&#39;s easier to play.&quot;</p><p><em>Sample #2:</em> &quot;Listen,&quot; Barkley said of the NBA&#39;s new emphasis on rest, &quot;if Bill Russell and Dr. J and those guys could play three games in three nights in the worst tennis shoes ever invented, and fly commercial or ride a bus, I think these guys can be inconvenienced a couple days a year to make $30 million and ride a private jet. All of a sudden guys start making money... I wish guys would tell the truth and say, &#39;I don&#39;t want to play back-to-backs so that I can lengthen my career and make more money.&#39; Just tell the truth. When I first came into the NBA we flew commercial. I know what it&#39;s fuckin&#39; like to get up at 5 o&#39;clock in the morning, fly three hours and play a basketball game that same night. These guys after the game, they get a nice hot meal, they fly private... So come on, let&#39;s make it easier for &#39;em.&quot;</p><p>And then, the first of a hundred conversations about LeBron&#39;s free agency throughout the weekend. &quot;If LeBron goes to Golden State,&quot; Smith said, &quot;I&#39;m gonna start calling soccer.&quot; And Barkley: &quot;I hope he stays in Cleveland. I don&#39;t know what&#39;s going on in his head, but I think it&#39;d be a great way to end his career.&quot; But, Smith added, &quot;I don&#39;t put anything past Magic. You know, Magic might&#39;ve been setting this up 20 years ago. He went to see LeBron in high school, he might&#39;ve been setting this up then. Collusion 20 years ago. Pay that bill.&quot; </p><p><strong>On Friday morning at the Beverly Hills Hilton, </strong>Magic Johnson was one of dozens of executives on hand to participate in the NBA&#39;s annual tech summit. Jeannie Buss was on a panel, too, and so was Kobe Bryant. The event draws on leaders in the tech space, culture, and the league itself to create a day full of panels on the future of business as it relates to basketball. It&#39;s fairly exclusive. &quot;This has been a tougher ticket than the All-Star Game itself,&quot; Adam Silver told us as it concluded. </p><p>While the panels aren&#39;t necessarily dispensing priceless wisdom if you&#39;ve been following technology closely over the past few years, the convergence of sponsors, innovators, and obscenely wealthy owners offers a great snapshot of NBA business at the macro level. On a ride over to the hotel, I sat behind two attendees who were comparing the LIBOR interest rate to the 10-year treasury rate—a slight variation on the weekend of LeBron free agency smalltalk.</p><p>The event is strictly off the record, but I can report that Chadwick Boseman paired with Adam Silver to welcome us to the Summit. Ahmad Rashad was an excellent, self-deprecating MC throughout the day. Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Issa Rae, and Steve Ballmer were among the panelists for a discussion on The Future of Storytelling. Magic and Mark Cuban chipped in to help discuss The Connected Game. Jeannie Buss, James Dolan, Steve Stoute, and Kevin Plank teamed for a panel on managing through disruption. </p><p>The day&#39;s hottest topics included E-Sports, Snapchat, long-form vs. short-form, wearable player-tracking technology, machine learning, artificial intelligence refs, and more. The panels at this event were sometimes funny, sometimes unintentionally funny, and sometimes insightful, but more than anything, they&#39;re a testament to an ambition and curiosity that doesn&#39;t really exist among management regimes in other sports.</p><p><strong>Over in Hollywood, at the London Hotel, </strong>the NBA Players Association had set up camp and hosted players for the weekend. When I approached the door on Friday afternoon I was greeted by JaVale McGee, who was in the middle of interviewing Timofey Mozgov for a YouTube show. &quot;It&#39;s your boy JaVale McGee,&quot; he said, &quot;Here with my Russian brother Timofey Mozgov. He just happens to have a Gucci fanny pack, too. Great minds think alike.&quot; Indeed, both seven-footers were coincidentally wearing Gucci fanny packs.</p><p>This was for a show that&#39;s part of Kevin Durant&#39;s burgeoning YouTube channel (as mentioned in the Future of Storytelling panel!), and it was just one of a dozen pieces of content being filmed on the premises. There were other videos filmed on the back porch, print interviews were conducted in a quiet room next to the elevator banks, while Lou Williams held court with a TV station in the lobby. All of this happened at the same hotel because the NBA Players Association wanted to provide a home base for its players.</p><p>Just as the owners congregated at the Beverly Hills Hilton, when I visited Saturday afternoon the London was hosting everyone from Chris Paul and his parents, to Karl Towns, to fringe players like Mozgov and McGee. They were all in an environment that was off-limits to the public and hospitable to brands and media looking to promote NBA athletes. Between specially-commissioned art for the weekend (a stack of gilded basketballs was a centerpiece in one room), the luxury of a five-star hotel, and free XBoxes and/or headphones in the hands of at least half the players I saw while I was there, it was a fairly impressive display of random perks and amenities.</p><p>What the the NBPA is really doing is looking to establish and maintain is a consistent presence and corporate identity between CBA negotiations. That&#39;s a dynamic that has never really emerged under regimes of the past, and it&#39;ll take time to build it across various arenas. But in the same way that the Tech Summit is a testament to the grander ambitions in the league office, the players&#39; hotel speaks to broader goals for the NBPA.</p><p><strong>Back in Beverly Hills, on the 9th Floor of an office building, </strong>there&#39;s one business that works with owners and players alike. Jason of Beverly Hills is the jewelry company responsible for crafting the last two Warriors championship rings, and when they&#39;re not working with owners on designing title rings—they&#39;ve also designed championship rings for the Lakers and Chelsea—they also work with an estimated 200 players around the NBA. &quot;The championship rings sort of happened organically,&quot; said COO and co-founder Brandt Branand. After launching the business in 2004, Branand and his co-founder Jason Arasheben eventually became the jewelers for various members of the Buss family, including Dr. Buss. &quot;When they won in &#39;09,&quot; Branand explained, &quot;Dr. Buss was like, &#39;Do you guys want to throw your hat in and give it a try?&#39;&quot; That&#39;s how the ring business began.</p><p>The growth among players has been a different story, but it&#39;s no less organic. &quot;The first NBA guy was Anthony Mason,&quot; Branand said. &quot;Jason went to him as this young kid, he showed him this design of a bracelet. He had no inventory or anything. But [Mason] was like, &#39;Cool, I like it.&#39; So Mason gave him a 50% deposit, barely enough for him to scrape by and finish the piece, and he delivered it. Mason again was like, &#39;Cool, I like it.&#39; And that was it. And then a while later one of his teammates came on. And then DeShawn Stevenson, and Drew Gooden, Carlos Boozer... It was all word of mouth. And then guys get traded, and there are more locker rooms, more people hear about it.&quot;</p><p>Over 14 years, thanks in part to those early breaks around the NBA, the business has grown to include stores in L.A., Miami, Las Vegas, and Tokyo. But this weekend they hosted players in their executive offices on the ninth floor, a hidden store that&#39;s typically reserved for big-spending clients seeking privacy. &quot;Players, celebrities, the Rihannas of the world,&quot; the COO said. &quot;People who don&#39;t want to be photographed. They come up here so they can hang out, shop, and not have somebody counting how much money they&#39;re spending or what they&#39;re getting for who.&quot; The goal was to provide players with a place to escape for a few minutes as the rest of the weekend got increasingly crowded and hectic.</p><p>As for any uptick in business for the NBA&#39;s most notable jewelers on a weekend when half the league comes to L.A., there&#39;s less of a boom than you might think, in part because everyone is so busy. &quot;Normally, when it&#39;s in a different city,&quot; Branand explains, &quot;We&#39;re at the players hotel, dealing with stylists and assistants, helping get guys dressed. There&#39;s some transactions, and we&#39;ve had big All-Star Weekends some years. But really it&#39;s just like the agent world—you have a few big, important transactions, and in the middle you spend time maintaining the relationship.&quot; Later Friday evening, that meant hosting a low-key private party at the office with one of this year&#39;s All-Stars. Afterward, they all went to dinner with that player and his family, maintaining another relationship.</p><p><strong>On Friday night, after the Team World defeated Team USA, 155-124,</strong> Joel Embiid was in a good mood. &quot;Well, it&#39;s world domination,&quot; he said, &quot;We coming. Basketball is growing all over the place and it&#39;s great to see. When we come to this type of stuff we represent the whole world. And you want to grow the game, man. People outside of the States, when they see this, they&#39;re going to want to be here.&quot;</p><p>A few miles away, in El Segundo at the Lakers practice facility, the NBA spent the weekend building on that theme. As part of its annual Basketball Without Borders summit at All-Star Weekend, the league welcomed 67 standout teenage basketball players from 36 countries around the world to train for three days in front of NBA scouts and work with visiting NBA players. &quot;Some kids haven&#39;t worked this hard,&quot; Domantas Sabonis said on Sunday, &quot;until they come to this camp, and they&#39;re like, &#39;Oh I need to get to another level.&#39;&quot;</p><p>This is an extension of <a href="https://www.si.com/longform/2018/nba-international-oral-history/index.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the NBA&#39;s investment in global development" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the NBA&#39;s investment in global development</a>. Last year&#39;s camp featured superstar Canadian guard R.J. Barrett—headed to Duke next year—while this year&#39;s biggest names were Luka Samanic of Croatia and MVP Charles Bassey of Nigeria. All of it is a reminder that the game is growing abroad, and as the NBA continues to double down around the world, the growth isn&#39;t an accident.</p><p><strong>On Saturday morning I was lost. </strong>Adidas rented out multiple buildings and several blocks worth of downtown real estate, where the brand hosted nightly concerts (N.E.R.D, Kid Cudi, and many more artists performed). The set-up included a full size basketball court, design laboratories, retail space, and just enough room for me to spend almost 45 minutes wandering around looking like an idiot. The sneaker wars have been well-documented by many—including the FBI!—but it bears mentioning that the most absurd battleground of all comes every year at All-Star Weekend. Adidas basically built its own self-sustaining community this weekend, fueled by rap music and color-coded wristbands and teenagers desperate <a href="https://www.highsnobiety.com/p/adidas-dame-4-bape/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:for the Bape Dames" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">for the Bape Dames</a>.</p><p>For its part, Nike introduced something called <a href="https://twitter.com/J23app/status/964205876901953537" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Hydro-dipping" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Hydro-dipping</a> for custom-made shoe designs. The Nike HQ hosted an interview in which Jalen Rose and Kobe Bryant discussing the 81-point game, while Kendrick Lamar played a show for them on Friday. The space itself had a full-length court hosting games all weekend, grayscale portraits of every Nike All-Star, plus at least one Kobe poem/bible scripture (sample: &quot;Just as much artist as athlete ... A maker in every sense of the word.&quot;). </p><p>Alas, this weekend in L.A. did not belong to Kobe.</p><p><strong>All weekend long, LeBron dominated.</strong> Outside Staples Center Sunday afternoon in L.A., fans were selling &quot;LeBron to L.A.&quot; bootleg t-shirts. Inside Staples, LeBron played his best All-Star Game in a decade, and by actually playing hard, he helped set the tone for the entire game. Earlier in the weekend he&#39;d been attacked by a Fox News host in a dog whistling play for attention, and by Saturday LeBron had responded with an effortless, pitch perfect blend of disgust and indifference.</p><p>LeBron has been more than a basketball player for a long time, and he really doesn&#39;t need to explain himself to anyone who&#39;s too lazy to appreciate what he&#39;s accomplished. He&#39;s helped financed several successful businesses, he&#39;s been the beneficiary of wildly lucrative endorsements and <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/06/12/report-lebron-james-set-for-30-million-profit-on-apple-beats-deal/?utm_term=.b06fa32777b0" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:long-term investments" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">long-term investments</a>, and in turn, he&#39;s been <a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nba/2018/02/18/lebron-james-fox-news-shut-up-and-dribbled/349637002/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the benefactor for more than 1,200 kids" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the benefactor for more than 1,200 kids</a> who have been helped by his &quot;I Promise&quot; foundation. He&#39;s taken natural talent and worked to master his craft, empower friends, broaden his horizons, and improve the lives of kids in his hometown. That news host lamented the idea that there were kids out there following LeBron&#39;s example, but her lazy pandering aside, it&#39;s objectively difficult to imagine many more compelling examples of success anywhere in public life.</p><p><br></p>
NBA All-Star Weekend: The Best and Weirdest Business Convention in the World

LOS ANGELES — NBA All-Star Weekend is essentially a massive basketball business convention. This is the best way to appreciate it. At its worst, as a televised sporting event, All-Star Weekend can look like a mess of manufactured drama and unfunny jokes, every inch of it branded and sold, to the point where the whole experience kind of deadens your soul a little bit.

That's a valid interpretation. Definitely. But as someone who's come to stupidly love this weekend every year, I think that worrying about its entertainment value or artistic integrity is beside the point. The weekend works best as a window into all the different economies that make basketball weirder and more interesting than any sport on the planet.

So with that in mind, and to commemorate another successful All-Star Weekend, here are a handful of snapshots from the past 96 hours in Los Angeles.

Across the street from Staples Center, the weekend began with the TV partners. The NBA has been in business with TNT for as long as I've been alive, and as the league becomes more popular, it only gets funnier that the most prominent voices in basketball refuse to take any of this too seriously. "Dude, we're on television from 8 o'clock at night to 2 o'clock in the morning," Charles Barkley said on Thursday afternoon. "Nobody want us to be serious. First of all, we have a lot of shitty games. If we're going to be on from 8 to 2, we gotta make sure people have fun."

Barkley and Kenny Smith tend to drive basketball Twitter insane, but I will always be loyal. Together they combine genuine, lifelong love for basketball with the relentless sarcasm and skepticism that actually makes the game fun to follow. So, yes, of course I was down to begin my weekend with Chuck and Kenny and some old man takes.

Sample #1: "The things that guys get away with now," Kenny Smith said of today's guards, "I would have had to fight in the locker room. If I came in and took 22 shots as a point guard, I would've had to fight every single player on my team. ... Different era. Because you can be a specialist now, whereas then, the term 'two-way player' didn't exist. Like, what do you mean? You can't play D? How can you play in the league? Now guys get credit for being two-way guys... It's much better game to watch, I like watching it more, but it's easier to play."

Sample #2: "Listen," Barkley said of the NBA's new emphasis on rest, "if Bill Russell and Dr. J and those guys could play three games in three nights in the worst tennis shoes ever invented, and fly commercial or ride a bus, I think these guys can be inconvenienced a couple days a year to make $30 million and ride a private jet. All of a sudden guys start making money... I wish guys would tell the truth and say, 'I don't want to play back-to-backs so that I can lengthen my career and make more money.' Just tell the truth. When I first came into the NBA we flew commercial. I know what it's fuckin' like to get up at 5 o'clock in the morning, fly three hours and play a basketball game that same night. These guys after the game, they get a nice hot meal, they fly private... So come on, let's make it easier for 'em."

And then, the first of a hundred conversations about LeBron's free agency throughout the weekend. "If LeBron goes to Golden State," Smith said, "I'm gonna start calling soccer." And Barkley: "I hope he stays in Cleveland. I don't know what's going on in his head, but I think it'd be a great way to end his career." But, Smith added, "I don't put anything past Magic. You know, Magic might've been setting this up 20 years ago. He went to see LeBron in high school, he might've been setting this up then. Collusion 20 years ago. Pay that bill."

On Friday morning at the Beverly Hills Hilton, Magic Johnson was one of dozens of executives on hand to participate in the NBA's annual tech summit. Jeannie Buss was on a panel, too, and so was Kobe Bryant. The event draws on leaders in the tech space, culture, and the league itself to create a day full of panels on the future of business as it relates to basketball. It's fairly exclusive. "This has been a tougher ticket than the All-Star Game itself," Adam Silver told us as it concluded.

While the panels aren't necessarily dispensing priceless wisdom if you've been following technology closely over the past few years, the convergence of sponsors, innovators, and obscenely wealthy owners offers a great snapshot of NBA business at the macro level. On a ride over to the hotel, I sat behind two attendees who were comparing the LIBOR interest rate to the 10-year treasury rate—a slight variation on the weekend of LeBron free agency smalltalk.

The event is strictly off the record, but I can report that Chadwick Boseman paired with Adam Silver to welcome us to the Summit. Ahmad Rashad was an excellent, self-deprecating MC throughout the day. Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Issa Rae, and Steve Ballmer were among the panelists for a discussion on The Future of Storytelling. Magic and Mark Cuban chipped in to help discuss The Connected Game. Jeannie Buss, James Dolan, Steve Stoute, and Kevin Plank teamed for a panel on managing through disruption.

The day's hottest topics included E-Sports, Snapchat, long-form vs. short-form, wearable player-tracking technology, machine learning, artificial intelligence refs, and more. The panels at this event were sometimes funny, sometimes unintentionally funny, and sometimes insightful, but more than anything, they're a testament to an ambition and curiosity that doesn't really exist among management regimes in other sports.

Over in Hollywood, at the London Hotel, the NBA Players Association had set up camp and hosted players for the weekend. When I approached the door on Friday afternoon I was greeted by JaVale McGee, who was in the middle of interviewing Timofey Mozgov for a YouTube show. "It's your boy JaVale McGee," he said, "Here with my Russian brother Timofey Mozgov. He just happens to have a Gucci fanny pack, too. Great minds think alike." Indeed, both seven-footers were coincidentally wearing Gucci fanny packs.

This was for a show that's part of Kevin Durant's burgeoning YouTube channel (as mentioned in the Future of Storytelling panel!), and it was just one of a dozen pieces of content being filmed on the premises. There were other videos filmed on the back porch, print interviews were conducted in a quiet room next to the elevator banks, while Lou Williams held court with a TV station in the lobby. All of this happened at the same hotel because the NBA Players Association wanted to provide a home base for its players.

Just as the owners congregated at the Beverly Hills Hilton, when I visited Saturday afternoon the London was hosting everyone from Chris Paul and his parents, to Karl Towns, to fringe players like Mozgov and McGee. They were all in an environment that was off-limits to the public and hospitable to brands and media looking to promote NBA athletes. Between specially-commissioned art for the weekend (a stack of gilded basketballs was a centerpiece in one room), the luxury of a five-star hotel, and free XBoxes and/or headphones in the hands of at least half the players I saw while I was there, it was a fairly impressive display of random perks and amenities.

What the the NBPA is really doing is looking to establish and maintain is a consistent presence and corporate identity between CBA negotiations. That's a dynamic that has never really emerged under regimes of the past, and it'll take time to build it across various arenas. But in the same way that the Tech Summit is a testament to the grander ambitions in the league office, the players' hotel speaks to broader goals for the NBPA.

Back in Beverly Hills, on the 9th Floor of an office building, there's one business that works with owners and players alike. Jason of Beverly Hills is the jewelry company responsible for crafting the last two Warriors championship rings, and when they're not working with owners on designing title rings—they've also designed championship rings for the Lakers and Chelsea—they also work with an estimated 200 players around the NBA. "The championship rings sort of happened organically," said COO and co-founder Brandt Branand. After launching the business in 2004, Branand and his co-founder Jason Arasheben eventually became the jewelers for various members of the Buss family, including Dr. Buss. "When they won in '09," Branand explained, "Dr. Buss was like, 'Do you guys want to throw your hat in and give it a try?'" That's how the ring business began.

The growth among players has been a different story, but it's no less organic. "The first NBA guy was Anthony Mason," Branand said. "Jason went to him as this young kid, he showed him this design of a bracelet. He had no inventory or anything. But [Mason] was like, 'Cool, I like it.' So Mason gave him a 50% deposit, barely enough for him to scrape by and finish the piece, and he delivered it. Mason again was like, 'Cool, I like it.' And that was it. And then a while later one of his teammates came on. And then DeShawn Stevenson, and Drew Gooden, Carlos Boozer... It was all word of mouth. And then guys get traded, and there are more locker rooms, more people hear about it."

Over 14 years, thanks in part to those early breaks around the NBA, the business has grown to include stores in L.A., Miami, Las Vegas, and Tokyo. But this weekend they hosted players in their executive offices on the ninth floor, a hidden store that's typically reserved for big-spending clients seeking privacy. "Players, celebrities, the Rihannas of the world," the COO said. "People who don't want to be photographed. They come up here so they can hang out, shop, and not have somebody counting how much money they're spending or what they're getting for who." The goal was to provide players with a place to escape for a few minutes as the rest of the weekend got increasingly crowded and hectic.

As for any uptick in business for the NBA's most notable jewelers on a weekend when half the league comes to L.A., there's less of a boom than you might think, in part because everyone is so busy. "Normally, when it's in a different city," Branand explains, "We're at the players hotel, dealing with stylists and assistants, helping get guys dressed. There's some transactions, and we've had big All-Star Weekends some years. But really it's just like the agent world—you have a few big, important transactions, and in the middle you spend time maintaining the relationship." Later Friday evening, that meant hosting a low-key private party at the office with one of this year's All-Stars. Afterward, they all went to dinner with that player and his family, maintaining another relationship.

On Friday night, after the Team World defeated Team USA, 155-124, Joel Embiid was in a good mood. "Well, it's world domination," he said, "We coming. Basketball is growing all over the place and it's great to see. When we come to this type of stuff we represent the whole world. And you want to grow the game, man. People outside of the States, when they see this, they're going to want to be here."

A few miles away, in El Segundo at the Lakers practice facility, the NBA spent the weekend building on that theme. As part of its annual Basketball Without Borders summit at All-Star Weekend, the league welcomed 67 standout teenage basketball players from 36 countries around the world to train for three days in front of NBA scouts and work with visiting NBA players. "Some kids haven't worked this hard," Domantas Sabonis said on Sunday, "until they come to this camp, and they're like, 'Oh I need to get to another level.'"

This is an extension of the NBA's investment in global development. Last year's camp featured superstar Canadian guard R.J. Barrett—headed to Duke next year—while this year's biggest names were Luka Samanic of Croatia and MVP Charles Bassey of Nigeria. All of it is a reminder that the game is growing abroad, and as the NBA continues to double down around the world, the growth isn't an accident.

On Saturday morning I was lost. Adidas rented out multiple buildings and several blocks worth of downtown real estate, where the brand hosted nightly concerts (N.E.R.D, Kid Cudi, and many more artists performed). The set-up included a full size basketball court, design laboratories, retail space, and just enough room for me to spend almost 45 minutes wandering around looking like an idiot. The sneaker wars have been well-documented by many—including the FBI!—but it bears mentioning that the most absurd battleground of all comes every year at All-Star Weekend. Adidas basically built its own self-sustaining community this weekend, fueled by rap music and color-coded wristbands and teenagers desperate for the Bape Dames.

For its part, Nike introduced something called Hydro-dipping for custom-made shoe designs. The Nike HQ hosted an interview in which Jalen Rose and Kobe Bryant discussing the 81-point game, while Kendrick Lamar played a show for them on Friday. The space itself had a full-length court hosting games all weekend, grayscale portraits of every Nike All-Star, plus at least one Kobe poem/bible scripture (sample: "Just as much artist as athlete ... A maker in every sense of the word.").

Alas, this weekend in L.A. did not belong to Kobe.

All weekend long, LeBron dominated. Outside Staples Center Sunday afternoon in L.A., fans were selling "LeBron to L.A." bootleg t-shirts. Inside Staples, LeBron played his best All-Star Game in a decade, and by actually playing hard, he helped set the tone for the entire game. Earlier in the weekend he'd been attacked by a Fox News host in a dog whistling play for attention, and by Saturday LeBron had responded with an effortless, pitch perfect blend of disgust and indifference.

LeBron has been more than a basketball player for a long time, and he really doesn't need to explain himself to anyone who's too lazy to appreciate what he's accomplished. He's helped financed several successful businesses, he's been the beneficiary of wildly lucrative endorsements and long-term investments, and in turn, he's been the benefactor for more than 1,200 kids who have been helped by his "I Promise" foundation. He's taken natural talent and worked to master his craft, empower friends, broaden his horizons, and improve the lives of kids in his hometown. That news host lamented the idea that there were kids out there following LeBron's example, but her lazy pandering aside, it's objectively difficult to imagine many more compelling examples of success anywhere in public life.


<p>NBA commissioner Adam Silver told ESPN&#39;s Ramona Shelburne that it seems like the league will televise the All-Star draft for 2019.</p><p>The league switched the format of the game this year and had captains pick teams instead of dividing the 24 players by conference. LeBron James was given the top pick as the top overall vote-getter and Steph Curry chose next as the top vote-getter from the Western Conference. James and Curry picked from the pool of starters, which were voted in based on a combination of fan, media and player votes, and then Curry was given the first pick among the reserves, who were decided on by the coaches.</p><p>When the league initially announced plans to hold a draft, many expected that it would be televised, like the NHL and NFL did when they attempted this format, but the league reportedly held off on doing that because the <a href="https://www.si.com/nba/2018/01/25/nba-players-association-all-star-draft-not-televised" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:players and the NBPA were not in full agreement" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">players and the NBPA were not in full agreement</a>.</p><p>&quot;When we sat with the union and we came up with this format, we all agreed, let&#39;s not turn something that&#39;s 100 percent positive into a potential negative to any player&quot; Silver told Shelburne. &quot;But then ... maybe we&#39;re overly conservative, because then we came out of there, and the players were, &#39;We can take it. We&#39;re All-Stars. Let&#39;s have a draft.&#39; So it sounds like we&#39;re going to have a televised draft next year.&quot;</p><p>• <strong><a href="https://www.si.com/nba/2018/02/19/nba-all-star-game-lebron-james-kevin-durant-stephen-curry-adam-silver-los-angeles" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Basketball&#39;s Best Players Fixed the NBA All-Star Game by Deciding to Compete Again" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Basketball&#39;s Best Players Fixed the NBA All-Star Game by Deciding to Compete Again</a></strong></p><p>In the lead-up to the draft and the announcement of the teams, multiple players said they would be in favor of a televised draft, including <a href="https://twitter.com/KingJames/status/956623033258700800" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:James" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">James</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/StephenCurry30/status/956631329042411520" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Curry" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Curry</a>.</p><p>Some information about the picks was eventually released or reported. James <a href="https://www.si.com/nba/2018/02/19/lebron-james-all-star-game-draft-order-revealed-kevin-durant-anthony-davis" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:revealed the order he chose his starters" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">revealed the order he chose his starters</a> after his team <a href="https://www.si.com/nba/2018/02/18/nba-all-star-game-lebron-james-mvp-stephen-curry-recap" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:picked up a 148-145 win" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">picked up a 148-145 win</a>, ESPN&#39;s Chris Haynes reported who the <a href="https://www.si.com/nba/2018/02/16/lamarcus-aldridge-all-star-game-draft" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:last two picks of the draft" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">last two picks of the draft</a> were and ESPN&#39;s Brian Windhorst <a href="http://www.espn.com/espnradio/play?id=22225718" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:reported" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">reported</a> that Klay Thompson was the first reserve picked.</p><p>Next year however, it seems likely that we will get to see the selections happen right in front of our eyes.</p>
Adam Silver on All-Star Game: 'Sounds Like We're Going to Have a Televised Draft Next Year'

NBA commissioner Adam Silver told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne that it seems like the league will televise the All-Star draft for 2019.

The league switched the format of the game this year and had captains pick teams instead of dividing the 24 players by conference. LeBron James was given the top pick as the top overall vote-getter and Steph Curry chose next as the top vote-getter from the Western Conference. James and Curry picked from the pool of starters, which were voted in based on a combination of fan, media and player votes, and then Curry was given the first pick among the reserves, who were decided on by the coaches.

When the league initially announced plans to hold a draft, many expected that it would be televised, like the NHL and NFL did when they attempted this format, but the league reportedly held off on doing that because the players and the NBPA were not in full agreement.

"When we sat with the union and we came up with this format, we all agreed, let's not turn something that's 100 percent positive into a potential negative to any player" Silver told Shelburne. "But then ... maybe we're overly conservative, because then we came out of there, and the players were, 'We can take it. We're All-Stars. Let's have a draft.' So it sounds like we're going to have a televised draft next year."

Basketball's Best Players Fixed the NBA All-Star Game by Deciding to Compete Again

In the lead-up to the draft and the announcement of the teams, multiple players said they would be in favor of a televised draft, including James and Curry.

Some information about the picks was eventually released or reported. James revealed the order he chose his starters after his team picked up a 148-145 win, ESPN's Chris Haynes reported who the last two picks of the draft were and ESPN's Brian Windhorst reported that Klay Thompson was the first reserve picked.

Next year however, it seems likely that we will get to see the selections happen right in front of our eyes.

<p>LOS ANGELES — Months of pomp, circumstance and shouty debates preceded this year’s NBA All-Star Game, thanks to a history-altering new captains format and the strange decision to protect feelings by not televising the draft of the rosters. But all of the NBA’s planning and all of the media’s hand-wringing were still contingent upon a simple premise: The players need to play hard or the showcase is doomed to fail.</p><p>Team LeBron’s thrilling 148–145 comeback victory over Team Stephen at Staples Center on Sunday proved that a little effort can go an awfully long way, even in a meaningless midseason exhibition. LeBron James claimed his third career All-Star Game MVP with a captivating closing stretch, finishing a beautiful series of passes with a tough lay-up, stepping back to drain a three-pointer over Joel Embiid, and then teaming with Kevin Durant to smother Stephen Curry on the game’s final possession.</p><p>This was the type of late-fourth-quarter intensity that fans and media alike salivate over, the type that the All-Star Game hasn’t produced in years, the type that raises and immediately answers everyone’s favorite barbershop questions. Who will rise to the occasion when the league’s best players are going all-out? Who is willing to accept the pressure—for better or worse—in big moments? Who wanted nothing to do with the ball when the game is on the line? Which youngster is ready to deliver an “I’m ready for primetime against the league’s A-listers” breakthrough?</p><p>Each of those queries generated answers on Sunday. James and Durant, who had promised to set the tone as the game’s “two best players” <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HtNWc1AIU20" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:in an Uninterrupted interview" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">in an Uninterrupted interview</a> released earlier in the week, brought home the win with a four-armed last stand. Curry and teammate James Harden both actively sought to play hero, only to come up short. By contrast, DeMar DeRozan withered down the stretch with a missed free throw and a turnover. And then there was first-time All-Star Joel Embiid, who nearly spoiled James’s big comeback with forceful offensive play and timely rim protection.</p><p>Sunday’s game was far from perfect given its sloppy start and lulls in the action, but the defensive intensity was miles better than the 2016 and 2017 All-Star Games.</p><p>“Coaches, AAU coaches, high school coaches, coaches in Italy, are all looking at our [All-Star Game] and saying … [it’s like the] Harlem Globetrotters,” said Team LeBron coach Dwane Casey. “That&#39;s not a good description for our great game because we&#39;ve got too many great coaches, too many great players, developmental coaches, and we put too much time and effort to lose the image that we&#39;ve built up.”</p><p>Two years ago, the West and East combined for a record 369 points. In 2017, the two teams topped that with another record—374 points—in a game that featured less defensive pushback than a summer league run. Those games were unwatchable and a waste of everyone’s time.</p><p>“We wanted to change the narrative of the All-Star Game being a joke,” Durant said. “Today we wanted to make it a real basketball game.”</p><p>The contest was a real, riveting basketball game when it mattered, with James (29 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists) dictating the late-game action, Embiid (19 points, 8 rebounds) emerging as a fascinating match-up wildcard, and video reviews adding a layer of controversy on top of the high-level play. Once the dust settled, Team LeBron and Team Stephen combined to score “only” 293 points, the lowest All-Star Game total in five years and a 22% drop from 2017.</p><p>Substantially lower scores, yes. But a far more compelling result. Order, sanity and respectability were restored.</p><p>“[Changing the format] worked out not only for the players, not only for the league, but for our fans, for everybody,” James said. “It was a great weekend, and we capped it off the right way.”</p><p>What, exactly, prompted this year’s turnaround in effort and intensity? Was it, as Kyrie Irving suggested, the $350,000 in charity money that went to the winning team? Was it the more balanced rosters which saw James ditch his weak all-East supporting casts of recent years to add Durant, Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis and Paul George from the West? Was it the addition of Embiid and his mouth-watering potential playoff preview? Was it merely guilt after the last two All-Star duds? Pride? Boredom?</p><p>A full analysis would credit NBA commissioner Adam Silver and National Basketball Players Association president Chris Paul for putting their heads together months ago to shake things up. More immediately, such an analysis would give a nod to Casey for setting the tone by throwing out some extra defensive traps and coverages. It would note that James’s comeback never would have been possible without the new roster format given the substantial contributions of his Western Conference teammates.</p><p>And it would specifically credit James—who spent Saturday <a href="https://www.si.com/nba/2018/02/17/lebron-james-adam-silver-laura-ingraham-social-justice" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:discussing his symbolic value to society" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">discussing his symbolic value to society</a> when it comes to conversations about race—for accepting the challenge of fixing a broken All-Star Game culture. If James had coasted through the fourth—or if he had simply shut down early—the entire endeavor looks a lot less rosy.</p><p>The All-Star Game conversation will surely turn in the coming days to further tweaks to the rosters and format, new calls for televising the drafts, and perhaps other proposed changes to the ballot and voting criteria. That’s all well and good, as long as the focus remains on the most important takeaway for future years: The best basketball players in the world fixed the NBA All-Star Game by deciding to compete again.</p>
Basketball's Best Players Fixed the NBA All-Star Game by Deciding to Compete Again

LOS ANGELES — Months of pomp, circumstance and shouty debates preceded this year’s NBA All-Star Game, thanks to a history-altering new captains format and the strange decision to protect feelings by not televising the draft of the rosters. But all of the NBA’s planning and all of the media’s hand-wringing were still contingent upon a simple premise: The players need to play hard or the showcase is doomed to fail.

Team LeBron’s thrilling 148–145 comeback victory over Team Stephen at Staples Center on Sunday proved that a little effort can go an awfully long way, even in a meaningless midseason exhibition. LeBron James claimed his third career All-Star Game MVP with a captivating closing stretch, finishing a beautiful series of passes with a tough lay-up, stepping back to drain a three-pointer over Joel Embiid, and then teaming with Kevin Durant to smother Stephen Curry on the game’s final possession.

This was the type of late-fourth-quarter intensity that fans and media alike salivate over, the type that the All-Star Game hasn’t produced in years, the type that raises and immediately answers everyone’s favorite barbershop questions. Who will rise to the occasion when the league’s best players are going all-out? Who is willing to accept the pressure—for better or worse—in big moments? Who wanted nothing to do with the ball when the game is on the line? Which youngster is ready to deliver an “I’m ready for primetime against the league’s A-listers” breakthrough?

Each of those queries generated answers on Sunday. James and Durant, who had promised to set the tone as the game’s “two best players” in an Uninterrupted interview released earlier in the week, brought home the win with a four-armed last stand. Curry and teammate James Harden both actively sought to play hero, only to come up short. By contrast, DeMar DeRozan withered down the stretch with a missed free throw and a turnover. And then there was first-time All-Star Joel Embiid, who nearly spoiled James’s big comeback with forceful offensive play and timely rim protection.

Sunday’s game was far from perfect given its sloppy start and lulls in the action, but the defensive intensity was miles better than the 2016 and 2017 All-Star Games.

“Coaches, AAU coaches, high school coaches, coaches in Italy, are all looking at our [All-Star Game] and saying … [it’s like the] Harlem Globetrotters,” said Team LeBron coach Dwane Casey. “That's not a good description for our great game because we've got too many great coaches, too many great players, developmental coaches, and we put too much time and effort to lose the image that we've built up.”

Two years ago, the West and East combined for a record 369 points. In 2017, the two teams topped that with another record—374 points—in a game that featured less defensive pushback than a summer league run. Those games were unwatchable and a waste of everyone’s time.

“We wanted to change the narrative of the All-Star Game being a joke,” Durant said. “Today we wanted to make it a real basketball game.”

The contest was a real, riveting basketball game when it mattered, with James (29 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists) dictating the late-game action, Embiid (19 points, 8 rebounds) emerging as a fascinating match-up wildcard, and video reviews adding a layer of controversy on top of the high-level play. Once the dust settled, Team LeBron and Team Stephen combined to score “only” 293 points, the lowest All-Star Game total in five years and a 22% drop from 2017.

Substantially lower scores, yes. But a far more compelling result. Order, sanity and respectability were restored.

“[Changing the format] worked out not only for the players, not only for the league, but for our fans, for everybody,” James said. “It was a great weekend, and we capped it off the right way.”

What, exactly, prompted this year’s turnaround in effort and intensity? Was it, as Kyrie Irving suggested, the $350,000 in charity money that went to the winning team? Was it the more balanced rosters which saw James ditch his weak all-East supporting casts of recent years to add Durant, Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis and Paul George from the West? Was it the addition of Embiid and his mouth-watering potential playoff preview? Was it merely guilt after the last two All-Star duds? Pride? Boredom?

A full analysis would credit NBA commissioner Adam Silver and National Basketball Players Association president Chris Paul for putting their heads together months ago to shake things up. More immediately, such an analysis would give a nod to Casey for setting the tone by throwing out some extra defensive traps and coverages. It would note that James’s comeback never would have been possible without the new roster format given the substantial contributions of his Western Conference teammates.

And it would specifically credit James—who spent Saturday discussing his symbolic value to society when it comes to conversations about race—for accepting the challenge of fixing a broken All-Star Game culture. If James had coasted through the fourth—or if he had simply shut down early—the entire endeavor looks a lot less rosy.

The All-Star Game conversation will surely turn in the coming days to further tweaks to the rosters and format, new calls for televising the drafts, and perhaps other proposed changes to the ballot and voting criteria. That’s all well and good, as long as the focus remains on the most important takeaway for future years: The best basketball players in the world fixed the NBA All-Star Game by deciding to compete again.

<p>LOS ANGELES — Months of pomp, circumstance and shouty debates preceded this year’s NBA All-Star Game, thanks to a history-altering new captains format and the strange decision to protect feelings by not televising the draft of the rosters. But all of the NBA’s planning and all of the media’s hand-wringing were still contingent upon a simple premise: The players need to play hard or the showcase is doomed to fail.</p><p>Team LeBron’s thrilling 148–145 comeback victory over Team Stephen at Staples Center on Sunday proved that a little effort can go an awfully long way, even in a meaningless midseason exhibition. LeBron James claimed his third career All-Star Game MVP with a captivating closing stretch, finishing a beautiful series of passes with a tough lay-up, stepping back to drain a three-pointer over Joel Embiid, and then teaming with Kevin Durant to smother Stephen Curry on the game’s final possession.</p><p>This was the type of late-fourth-quarter intensity that fans and media alike salivate over, the type that the All-Star Game hasn’t produced in years, the type that raises and immediately answers everyone’s favorite barbershop questions. Who will rise to the occasion when the league’s best players are going all-out? Who is willing to accept the pressure—for better or worse—in big moments? Who wanted nothing to do with the ball when the game is on the line? Which youngster is ready to deliver an “I’m ready for primetime against the league’s A-listers” breakthrough?</p><p>Each of those queries generated answers on Sunday. James and Durant, who had promised to set the tone as the game’s “two best players” <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HtNWc1AIU20" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:in an Uninterrupted interview" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">in an Uninterrupted interview</a> released earlier in the week, brought home the win with a four-armed last stand. Curry and teammate James Harden both actively sought to play hero, only to come up short. By contrast, DeMar DeRozan withered down the stretch with a missed free throw and a turnover. And then there was first-time All-Star Joel Embiid, who nearly spoiled James’s big comeback with forceful offensive play and timely rim protection.</p><p>Sunday’s game was far from perfect given its sloppy start and lulls in the action, but the defensive intensity was miles better than the 2016 and 2017 All-Star Games.</p><p>“Coaches, AAU coaches, high school coaches, coaches in Italy, are all looking at our [All-Star Game] and saying … [it’s like the] Harlem Globetrotters,” said Team LeBron coach Dwane Casey. “That&#39;s not a good description for our great game because we&#39;ve got too many great coaches, too many great players, developmental coaches, and we put too much time and effort to lose the image that we&#39;ve built up.”</p><p>Two years ago, the West and East combined for a record 369 points. In 2017, the two teams topped that with another record—374 points—in a game that featured less defensive pushback than a summer league run. Those games were unwatchable and a waste of everyone’s time.</p><p>“We wanted to change the narrative of the All-Star Game being a joke,” Durant said. “Today we wanted to make it a real basketball game.”</p><p>The contest was a real, riveting basketball game when it mattered, with James (29 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists) dictating the late-game action, Embiid (19 points, 8 rebounds) emerging as a fascinating match-up wildcard, and video reviews adding a layer of controversy on top of the high-level play. Once the dust settled, Team LeBron and Team Stephen combined to score “only” 293 points, the lowest All-Star Game total in five years and a 22% drop from 2017.</p><p>Substantially lower scores, yes. But a far more compelling result. Order, sanity and respectability were restored.</p><p>“[Changing the format] worked out not only for the players, not only for the league, but for our fans, for everybody,” James said. “It was a great weekend, and we capped it off the right way.”</p><p>What, exactly, prompted this year’s turnaround in effort and intensity? Was it, as Kyrie Irving suggested, the $350,000 in charity money that went to the winning team? Was it the more balanced rosters which saw James ditch his weak all-East supporting casts of recent years to add Durant, Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis and Paul George from the West? Was it the addition of Embiid and his mouth-watering potential playoff preview? Was it merely guilt after the last two All-Star duds? Pride? Boredom?</p><p>A full analysis would credit NBA commissioner Adam Silver and National Basketball Players Association president Chris Paul for putting their heads together months ago to shake things up. More immediately, such an analysis would give a nod to Casey for setting the tone by throwing out some extra defensive traps and coverages. It would note that James’s comeback never would have been possible without the new roster format given the substantial contributions of his Western Conference teammates.</p><p>And it would specifically credit James—who spent Saturday <a href="https://www.si.com/nba/2018/02/17/lebron-james-adam-silver-laura-ingraham-social-justice" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:discussing his symbolic value to society" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">discussing his symbolic value to society</a> when it comes to conversations about race—for accepting the challenge of fixing a broken All-Star Game culture. If James had coasted through the fourth—or if he had simply shut down early—the entire endeavor looks a lot less rosy.</p><p>The All-Star Game conversation will surely turn in the coming days to further tweaks to the rosters and format, new calls for televising the drafts, and perhaps other proposed changes to the ballot and voting criteria. That’s all well and good, as long as the focus remains on the most important takeaway for future years: The best basketball players in the world fixed the NBA All-Star Game by deciding to compete again.</p>
Basketball's Best Players Fixed the NBA All-Star Game by Deciding to Compete Again

LOS ANGELES — Months of pomp, circumstance and shouty debates preceded this year’s NBA All-Star Game, thanks to a history-altering new captains format and the strange decision to protect feelings by not televising the draft of the rosters. But all of the NBA’s planning and all of the media’s hand-wringing were still contingent upon a simple premise: The players need to play hard or the showcase is doomed to fail.

Team LeBron’s thrilling 148–145 comeback victory over Team Stephen at Staples Center on Sunday proved that a little effort can go an awfully long way, even in a meaningless midseason exhibition. LeBron James claimed his third career All-Star Game MVP with a captivating closing stretch, finishing a beautiful series of passes with a tough lay-up, stepping back to drain a three-pointer over Joel Embiid, and then teaming with Kevin Durant to smother Stephen Curry on the game’s final possession.

This was the type of late-fourth-quarter intensity that fans and media alike salivate over, the type that the All-Star Game hasn’t produced in years, the type that raises and immediately answers everyone’s favorite barbershop questions. Who will rise to the occasion when the league’s best players are going all-out? Who is willing to accept the pressure—for better or worse—in big moments? Who wanted nothing to do with the ball when the game is on the line? Which youngster is ready to deliver an “I’m ready for primetime against the league’s A-listers” breakthrough?

Each of those queries generated answers on Sunday. James and Durant, who had promised to set the tone as the game’s “two best players” in an Uninterrupted interview released earlier in the week, brought home the win with a four-armed last stand. Curry and teammate James Harden both actively sought to play hero, only to come up short. By contrast, DeMar DeRozan withered down the stretch with a missed free throw and a turnover. And then there was first-time All-Star Joel Embiid, who nearly spoiled James’s big comeback with forceful offensive play and timely rim protection.

Sunday’s game was far from perfect given its sloppy start and lulls in the action, but the defensive intensity was miles better than the 2016 and 2017 All-Star Games.

“Coaches, AAU coaches, high school coaches, coaches in Italy, are all looking at our [All-Star Game] and saying … [it’s like the] Harlem Globetrotters,” said Team LeBron coach Dwane Casey. “That's not a good description for our great game because we've got too many great coaches, too many great players, developmental coaches, and we put too much time and effort to lose the image that we've built up.”

Two years ago, the West and East combined for a record 369 points. In 2017, the two teams topped that with another record—374 points—in a game that featured less defensive pushback than a summer league run. Those games were unwatchable and a waste of everyone’s time.

“We wanted to change the narrative of the All-Star Game being a joke,” Durant said. “Today we wanted to make it a real basketball game.”

The contest was a real, riveting basketball game when it mattered, with James (29 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists) dictating the late-game action, Embiid (19 points, 8 rebounds) emerging as a fascinating match-up wildcard, and video reviews adding a layer of controversy on top of the high-level play. Once the dust settled, Team LeBron and Team Stephen combined to score “only” 293 points, the lowest All-Star Game total in five years and a 22% drop from 2017.

Substantially lower scores, yes. But a far more compelling result. Order, sanity and respectability were restored.

“[Changing the format] worked out not only for the players, not only for the league, but for our fans, for everybody,” James said. “It was a great weekend, and we capped it off the right way.”

What, exactly, prompted this year’s turnaround in effort and intensity? Was it, as Kyrie Irving suggested, the $350,000 in charity money that went to the winning team? Was it the more balanced rosters which saw James ditch his weak all-East supporting casts of recent years to add Durant, Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis and Paul George from the West? Was it the addition of Embiid and his mouth-watering potential playoff preview? Was it merely guilt after the last two All-Star duds? Pride? Boredom?

A full analysis would credit NBA commissioner Adam Silver and National Basketball Players Association president Chris Paul for putting their heads together months ago to shake things up. More immediately, such an analysis would give a nod to Casey for setting the tone by throwing out some extra defensive traps and coverages. It would note that James’s comeback never would have been possible without the new roster format given the substantial contributions of his Western Conference teammates.

And it would specifically credit James—who spent Saturday discussing his symbolic value to society when it comes to conversations about race—for accepting the challenge of fixing a broken All-Star Game culture. If James had coasted through the fourth—or if he had simply shut down early—the entire endeavor looks a lot less rosy.

The All-Star Game conversation will surely turn in the coming days to further tweaks to the rosters and format, new calls for televising the drafts, and perhaps other proposed changes to the ballot and voting criteria. That’s all well and good, as long as the focus remains on the most important takeaway for future years: The best basketball players in the world fixed the NBA All-Star Game by deciding to compete again.

Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving were happy to combine on &#39;Team LeBron&#39; and help make the All-Star game a competitive and entertaining one
Durant and Irving happy to partake in meaningful All-Star game
Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving were happy to combine on 'Team LeBron' and help make the All-Star game a competitive and entertaining one
Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving were happy to combine on &#39;Team LeBron&#39; and help make the All-Star game a competitive and entertaining one
Durant and Irving happy to partake in meaningful All-Star game
Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving were happy to combine on 'Team LeBron' and help make the All-Star game a competitive and entertaining one
Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving were happy to combine on &#39;Team LeBron&#39; and help make the All-Star game a competitive and entertaining one
Durant and Irving happy to partake in meaningful All-Star game
Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving were happy to combine on 'Team LeBron' and help make the All-Star game a competitive and entertaining one
Team Stephen&#39;s forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, left, of the Milwaukee Bucks gets inside to dunk against Team LeBron&#39;s Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors and guard Kyrie Irving, right, of the Boston Celtics during the second half of an NBA All-Star basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Team Stephen's forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, left, of the Milwaukee Bucks gets inside to dunk against Team LeBron's Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors and guard Kyrie Irving, right, of the Boston Celtics during the second half of an NBA All-Star basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Team Stephen's forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, left, of the Milwaukee Bucks gets inside to dunk against Team LeBron's Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors and guard Kyrie Irving, right, of the Boston Celtics during the second half of an NBA All-Star basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Team LeBron&#39;s Kevin Durant, left, of the Golden State Warriors, celebrates with Team LeBron&#39;s LeBron James, of the Cleveland Cavaliers, during the second half of an NBA All-Star basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018, in Los Angeles. Team LeBron won, 148-145. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Team LeBron's Kevin Durant, left, of the Golden State Warriors, celebrates with Team LeBron's LeBron James, of the Cleveland Cavaliers, during the second half of an NBA All-Star basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018, in Los Angeles. Team LeBron won, 148-145. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Team LeBron's Kevin Durant, left, of the Golden State Warriors, celebrates with Team LeBron's LeBron James, of the Cleveland Cavaliers, during the second half of an NBA All-Star basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018, in Los Angeles. Team LeBron won, 148-145. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Team Stephen&#39;s guard DeMar DeRozan, right, of the Toronto Raptors looks to pass the ball while between Team LeBron&#39;s forward LeBron James, left, of the Cleveland Cavaliers and forward Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors during the second half of an NBA All-Star basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Team Stephen's guard DeMar DeRozan, right, of the Toronto Raptors looks to pass the ball while between Team LeBron's forward LeBron James, left, of the Cleveland Cavaliers and forward Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors during the second half of an NBA All-Star basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Team Stephen's guard DeMar DeRozan, right, of the Toronto Raptors looks to pass the ball while between Team LeBron's forward LeBron James, left, of the Cleveland Cavaliers and forward Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors during the second half of an NBA All-Star basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Team Stephen&#39;s guard Stephen Curry, center, of the Golden State Warriors cannot get a shot off against Team LeBron&#39;s forward Kevin Durant, left, of the Golden State Warriors and forward LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the second half of an NBA All-Star basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Team Stephen's guard Stephen Curry, center, of the Golden State Warriors cannot get a shot off against Team LeBron's forward Kevin Durant, left, of the Golden State Warriors and forward LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the second half of an NBA All-Star basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Team Stephen's guard Stephen Curry, center, of the Golden State Warriors cannot get a shot off against Team LeBron's forward Kevin Durant, left, of the Golden State Warriors and forward LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the second half of an NBA All-Star basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Team Stephen&#39;s center Joel Embiid, center, of the Philadelphia 76ers battles for the ball against Team LeBron&#39;s forward Kevin Durant, left, of the Golden State Warriors and forward LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the second half of an NBA All-Star basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Team Stephen's center Joel Embiid, center, of the Philadelphia 76ers battles for the ball against Team LeBron's forward Kevin Durant, left, of the Golden State Warriors and forward LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the second half of an NBA All-Star basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Team Stephen's center Joel Embiid, center, of the Philadelphia 76ers battles for the ball against Team LeBron's forward Kevin Durant, left, of the Golden State Warriors and forward LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the second half of an NBA All-Star basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Kevin Durant (L) and LeBron James (R) of Team LeBron celebrate their 148-145 win over Team Stephen in the NBA All-Star Game
Kevin Durant (L) and LeBron James (R) of Team LeBron celebrate their 148-145 win over Team Stephen in the NBA All-Star Game
Kevin Durant (L) and LeBron James (R) of Team LeBron celebrate their 148-145 win over Team Stephen in the NBA All-Star Game
Kevin Durant (L) and LeBron James (R) double team Stephen Curry (C) in the final minute of the 2018 NBA All-Star Game (AFP Photo/Robyn Beck)
Kevin Durant (L) and LeBron James (R) double team Stephen Curry (C) in the final minute of the 2018 NBA All-Star Game
Kevin Durant (L) and LeBron James (R) double team Stephen Curry (C) in the final minute of the 2018 NBA All-Star Game (AFP Photo/Robyn Beck)
Kevin Durant (L) and LeBron James (R) of Team LeBron celebrate their 148-145 win over Team Stephen in the NBA All-Star Game
Kevin Durant (L) and LeBron James (R) of Team LeBron celebrate their 148-145 win over Team Stephen in the NBA All-Star Game
Kevin Durant (L) and LeBron James (R) of Team LeBron celebrate their 148-145 win over Team Stephen in the NBA All-Star Game
Kevin Durant (L) and LeBron James (R) double team Stephen Curry (C) in the final minute of the 2018 NBA All-Star Game
Kevin Durant (L) and LeBron James (R) double team Stephen Curry (C) in the final minute of the 2018 NBA All-Star Game
Kevin Durant (L) and LeBron James (R) double team Stephen Curry (C) in the final minute of the 2018 NBA All-Star Game
Kevin Durant (L) and LeBron James (R) double team Stephen Curry (C) in the final minute of the 2018 NBA All-Star Game
Kevin Durant (L) and LeBron James (R) double team Stephen Curry (C) in the final minute of the 2018 NBA All-Star Game
Kevin Durant (L) and LeBron James (R) double team Stephen Curry (C) in the final minute of the 2018 NBA All-Star Game
Kevin Durant (L) and LeBron James (R) of Team LeBron celebrate their 148-145 win over Team Stephen in the NBA All-Star Game (AFP Photo/Robyn Beck)
Kevin Durant (L) and LeBron James (R) of Team LeBron celebrate their 148-145 win over Team Stephen in the NBA All-Star Game
Kevin Durant (L) and LeBron James (R) of Team LeBron celebrate their 148-145 win over Team Stephen in the NBA All-Star Game (AFP Photo/Robyn Beck)
MAN08. Los Angeles (United States), 19/02/2018.- Stephen Curry (C) of Team Stephen is boxed in as Lebron James (R) and Kevin Durant (L) of Team Lebron defend during the last seconds of the 2018 All-Star game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, USA, 18 February 2018. (Baloncesto, Estados Unidos) EFE/EPA/MIKE NELSON SHUTTERSTOCK OUT
MAN08. Los Angeles (United States), 19/02/2018.- Stephen Curry (C) of Team Stephen is boxed in as Lebron James (R) and Kevin Durant (L) of Team Lebron defend during the last seconds of the 2018 All-Star game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, USA, 18 February 2018. (Baloncesto, Estados Unidos) EFE/EPA/MIKE NELSON SHUTTERSTOCK OUT
MAN08. Los Angeles (United States), 19/02/2018.- Stephen Curry (C) of Team Stephen is boxed in as Lebron James (R) and Kevin Durant (L) of Team Lebron defend during the last seconds of the 2018 All-Star game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, USA, 18 February 2018. (Baloncesto, Estados Unidos) EFE/EPA/MIKE NELSON SHUTTERSTOCK OUT
Team LeBron&#39;s Kevin Durant, left, of the Golden State Warriors, celebrates with Team LeBron&#39;s LeBron James, of the Cleveland Cavaliers, during the second half of an NBA All-Star basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018, in Los Angeles. Team LeBron won, 148-145. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Team LeBron's Kevin Durant, left, of the Golden State Warriors, celebrates with Team LeBron's LeBron James, of the Cleveland Cavaliers, during the second half of an NBA All-Star basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018, in Los Angeles. Team LeBron won, 148-145. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Team LeBron's Kevin Durant, left, of the Golden State Warriors, celebrates with Team LeBron's LeBron James, of the Cleveland Cavaliers, during the second half of an NBA All-Star basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018, in Los Angeles. Team LeBron won, 148-145. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Team Stephen&#39;s DeMar Derozan, right, of the Toronto Raptors, shoots as Team LeBron&#39;s Kevin Durant, of the Golden State Warriors, defends during the second half of an NBA All-Star basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Bob Donnan via AP, Pool)
Team Stephen's DeMar Derozan, right, of the Toronto Raptors, shoots as Team LeBron's Kevin Durant, of the Golden State Warriors, defends during the second half of an NBA All-Star basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Bob Donnan via AP, Pool)
Team Stephen's DeMar Derozan, right, of the Toronto Raptors, shoots as Team LeBron's Kevin Durant, of the Golden State Warriors, defends during the second half of an NBA All-Star basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Bob Donnan via AP, Pool)
<p>LeBron James revealed his draft order for his team&#39;s starters for the 2018 NBA All-Star Game. Team LeBron defeated Team Stephen 148–145 on Sunday night.</p><p>James was named the All-Star Game MVP for the third time in his career. He finished the day with 29 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.</p><p>James says he drafted Golden State&#39;s Kevin Durant first. New Orleans Pelicans big man Anthony Davis was selected second. James did not have any grudge toward his former teammate and selected Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving with his third pick. DeMarcus Cousins of the Pelicans rounded out the starters.</p><p>James is now tied with Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and Shaquille O&#39;Neal for the second-most All-Star Game MVP awards behind Bob Pettit and Kobe Bryant&#39;s four trophies.</p>
LeBron James Reveals His All-Star Team's Draft Order After A Win Over Stephen Curry

LeBron James revealed his draft order for his team's starters for the 2018 NBA All-Star Game. Team LeBron defeated Team Stephen 148–145 on Sunday night.

James was named the All-Star Game MVP for the third time in his career. He finished the day with 29 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.

James says he drafted Golden State's Kevin Durant first. New Orleans Pelicans big man Anthony Davis was selected second. James did not have any grudge toward his former teammate and selected Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving with his third pick. DeMarcus Cousins of the Pelicans rounded out the starters.

James is now tied with Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and Shaquille O'Neal for the second-most All-Star Game MVP awards behind Bob Pettit and Kobe Bryant's four trophies.

What to Read Next