Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant

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 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'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)
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)
LeBron James and Kevin Durant lead the defensive effort on the final possession and hold on to the victory.
Team LeBron's Defense Seals Win
LeBron James and Kevin Durant lead the defensive effort on the final possession and hold on to the victory.
LeBron James and Kevin Durant lead the defensive effort on the final possession and hold on to the victory.
Team LeBron's Defense Seals Win
LeBron James and Kevin Durant lead the defensive effort on the final possession and hold on to the victory.
LeBron James and Kevin Durant lead the defensive effort on the final possession and hold on to the victory.
Team LeBron's Defense Seals Win
LeBron James and Kevin Durant lead the defensive effort on the final possession and hold on to the victory.
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.

LeBron James and Kevin Durant lead the defensive effort on the final possession and hold on to the victory.
Team Lebron's Defense Wins Game
LeBron James and Kevin Durant lead the defensive effort on the final possession and hold on to the victory.
AGX51. Los Angeles (United States), 19/02/2018.- Stephen Curry (C) of Team Stephen handles the ball as Lebron James (L) and Kevin Durant (R) of Team Lebron defend during 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
AGX51. Los Angeles (United States), 19/02/2018.- Stephen Curry (C) of Team Stephen handles the ball as Lebron James (L) and Kevin Durant (R) of Team Lebron defend during 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
AGX51. Los Angeles (United States), 19/02/2018.- Stephen Curry (C) of Team Stephen handles the ball as Lebron James (L) and Kevin Durant (R) of Team Lebron defend during 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
<p>LOS ANGELES — The 2018 NBA All-Star Game is in the books, and Team LeBron beat Team Steph <a href="https://www.si.com/nba/game/1948351" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:148-145" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">148-145</a> after a fourth–quarter comeback that was genuinely dramatic down the stretch. LeBron James was your All-Star MVP (29 points), while Damian Lillard (21 points), DeMar DeRozan (21 points) and Joel Embiid (19 points, 8 rebounds) led the way for Team Steph. </p><p>Here are five quick thoughts on the surprisingly competitive clash from Staples Center...</p><p><strong>1. The new All-Star format <em>worked. </em>And I&#39;m as shocked as anyone. </strong>The All-Star Game looked like it was beyond saving last year, and the new All-Star draft looked like a desperate, contrived, weirdly secretive process that wouldn&#39;t change much. If anything, eliminating conferences would just make it harder to track the halfhearted efforts of everyone involved. But then the game started and ... I think it worked? A game that&#39;s fun for three quarters and genuinely dramatic down the stretch is the best–case scenario for All-Star, and that&#39;s what happened in L.A.</p><p>The first two hours of basketball didn&#39;t suddenly turn into the NBA playoffs, but that&#39;s fine. This was a low bar and the NBA cleared it with room to spare. There were moderate levels of defense played, players on both teams were going hard almost the entire time, and we got the most entertaining All-Star Game in several years. Progress!</p><p><strong>2. LeBron James really might play forever.</strong> The dude is just unbelievable. Granted it&#39;s an All-Star Game, but he finished with a near triple–double (29 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists) and took over the game just as it looked like Team Steph was pulling away in the fourth quarter. </p><p>LeBron is 33 years old and he&#39;s been the best player in the league for almost a decade. We know that. But as the years pass—with each season featuring 100 games and nine months of mileage—it&#39;s sort of incredible that he looks nowhere near ready to pass the torch to anyone else. On a court with Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden, the best player in the building was clear the entire time. </p><p>?</p><p>?</p><p><strong>3. There&#39;s no such thing as too much Embiid.</strong> Joel Embiid is playing back-to-backs, the Sixers are winning, and Embiid made his first All-Star Game this year. <em>[knocking on wood very hard]</em> All of this is great. And not only did Embiid make the All-Star game, but he made the All-Star a lot more fun. Whether he was unfolding his massive frame into floaters in the lane or crossing over guards and launching threes from the perimeter, he did a nice job of mixing things up the entire time he was on the floor. Also ... </p><p>For the record, Russell Westbrook answered with an and-one lay-up at the rim to make it a one-point game in the final minutes. Most important: it makes me very happy that the Embiid-Westbrook feud is still alive. </p><p><strong>4. The intros and the national anthem did not work.</strong> Kevin Hart is omnipresent at All-Star Weekend and Rob Riggle has probably made a billion dollars from pregame shows and ESPY skits alone. Both are easy targets to ridicule. I don&#39;t want to pile on too much, but, look, everyone can agree the introductions did not need to be 30 minutes long ever again. This is the next change for Adam Silver to make, and it should be a much simpler process than fixing the actual game. As for the anthem ... </p><p>Fergie<em> <a href="https://www.si.com/nba/2018/02/18/fergie-national-anthem-2018-nba-all-star-game-reactions" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:went for it" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">went for it</a> </em>with an extended anthem rendition, and she, uh, didn&#39;t quite land it. The funniest moment of the night came when the arena cameras caught Draymond Green as his brain shut off somewhere during minute eight of the Fergie anthem. The whole stadium burst out laughing, forcing Draymond to crack a smile, himself. For me, this made the Fergie anthem worth it. </p><p><strong>5. Michael Jordan is up next.</strong> The crowd in L.A. was sleepy for most of the night, but late in the fourth quarter fans <em>erupted </em>for Michael Jordan as the league announced that Charlotte is hosting the 2019 All-Star Game. So there you go. Til next year... </p>
NBA All-Star Game Takeaways: New Format Works and LeBron Still Reigns

LOS ANGELES — The 2018 NBA All-Star Game is in the books, and Team LeBron beat Team Steph 148-145 after a fourth–quarter comeback that was genuinely dramatic down the stretch. LeBron James was your All-Star MVP (29 points), while Damian Lillard (21 points), DeMar DeRozan (21 points) and Joel Embiid (19 points, 8 rebounds) led the way for Team Steph.

Here are five quick thoughts on the surprisingly competitive clash from Staples Center...

1. The new All-Star format worked. And I'm as shocked as anyone. The All-Star Game looked like it was beyond saving last year, and the new All-Star draft looked like a desperate, contrived, weirdly secretive process that wouldn't change much. If anything, eliminating conferences would just make it harder to track the halfhearted efforts of everyone involved. But then the game started and ... I think it worked? A game that's fun for three quarters and genuinely dramatic down the stretch is the best–case scenario for All-Star, and that's what happened in L.A.

The first two hours of basketball didn't suddenly turn into the NBA playoffs, but that's fine. This was a low bar and the NBA cleared it with room to spare. There were moderate levels of defense played, players on both teams were going hard almost the entire time, and we got the most entertaining All-Star Game in several years. Progress!

2. LeBron James really might play forever. The dude is just unbelievable. Granted it's an All-Star Game, but he finished with a near triple–double (29 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists) and took over the game just as it looked like Team Steph was pulling away in the fourth quarter.

LeBron is 33 years old and he's been the best player in the league for almost a decade. We know that. But as the years pass—with each season featuring 100 games and nine months of mileage—it's sort of incredible that he looks nowhere near ready to pass the torch to anyone else. On a court with Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden, the best player in the building was clear the entire time.

?

?

3. There's no such thing as too much Embiid. Joel Embiid is playing back-to-backs, the Sixers are winning, and Embiid made his first All-Star Game this year. [knocking on wood very hard] All of this is great. And not only did Embiid make the All-Star game, but he made the All-Star a lot more fun. Whether he was unfolding his massive frame into floaters in the lane or crossing over guards and launching threes from the perimeter, he did a nice job of mixing things up the entire time he was on the floor. Also ...

For the record, Russell Westbrook answered with an and-one lay-up at the rim to make it a one-point game in the final minutes. Most important: it makes me very happy that the Embiid-Westbrook feud is still alive.

4. The intros and the national anthem did not work. Kevin Hart is omnipresent at All-Star Weekend and Rob Riggle has probably made a billion dollars from pregame shows and ESPY skits alone. Both are easy targets to ridicule. I don't want to pile on too much, but, look, everyone can agree the introductions did not need to be 30 minutes long ever again. This is the next change for Adam Silver to make, and it should be a much simpler process than fixing the actual game. As for the anthem ...

Fergie went for it with an extended anthem rendition, and she, uh, didn't quite land it. The funniest moment of the night came when the arena cameras caught Draymond Green as his brain shut off somewhere during minute eight of the Fergie anthem. The whole stadium burst out laughing, forcing Draymond to crack a smile, himself. For me, this made the Fergie anthem worth it.

5. Michael Jordan is up next. The crowd in L.A. was sleepy for most of the night, but late in the fourth quarter fans erupted for Michael Jordan as the league announced that Charlotte is hosting the 2019 All-Star Game. So there you go. Til next year...

<p>LOS ANGELES — The 2018 NBA All-Star Game is in the books, and Team LeBron beat Team Steph <a href="https://www.si.com/nba/game/1948351" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:148-145" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">148-145</a> after a fourth–quarter comeback that was genuinely dramatic down the stretch. LeBron James was your All-Star MVP (29 points), while Damian Lillard (21 points), DeMar DeRozan (21 points) and Joel Embiid (19 points, 8 rebounds) led the way for Team Steph. </p><p>Here are five quick thoughts on the surprisingly competitive clash from Staples Center...</p><p><strong>1. The new All-Star format <em>worked. </em>And I&#39;m as shocked as anyone. </strong>The All-Star Game looked like it was beyond saving last year, and the new All-Star draft looked like a desperate, contrived, weirdly secretive process that wouldn&#39;t change much. If anything, eliminating conferences would just make it harder to track the halfhearted efforts of everyone involved. But then the game started and ... I think it worked? A game that&#39;s fun for three quarters and genuinely dramatic down the stretch is the best–case scenario for All-Star, and that&#39;s what happened in L.A.</p><p>The first two hours of basketball didn&#39;t suddenly turn into the NBA playoffs, but that&#39;s fine. This was a low bar and the NBA cleared it with room to spare. There were moderate levels of defense played, players on both teams were going hard almost the entire time, and we got the most entertaining All-Star Game in several years. Progress!</p><p><strong>2. LeBron James really might play forever.</strong> The dude is just unbelievable. Granted it&#39;s an All-Star Game, but he finished with a near triple–double (29 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists) and took over the game just as it looked like Team Steph was pulling away in the fourth quarter. </p><p>LeBron is 33 years old and he&#39;s been the best player in the league for almost a decade. We know that. But as the years pass—with each season featuring 100 games and nine months of mileage—it&#39;s sort of incredible that he looks nowhere near ready to pass the torch to anyone else. On a court with Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden, the best player in the building was clear the entire time. </p><p>?</p><p>?</p><p><strong>3. There&#39;s no such thing as too much Embiid.</strong> Joel Embiid is playing back-to-backs, the Sixers are winning, and Embiid made his first All-Star Game this year. <em>[knocking on wood very hard]</em> All of this is great. And not only did Embiid make the All-Star game, but he made the All-Star a lot more fun. Whether he was unfolding his massive frame into floaters in the lane or crossing over guards and launching threes from the perimeter, he did a nice job of mixing things up the entire time he was on the floor. Also ... </p><p>For the record, Russell Westbrook answered with an and-one lay-up at the rim to make it a one-point game in the final minutes. Most important: it makes me very happy that the Embiid-Westbrook feud is still alive. </p><p><strong>4. The intros and the national anthem did not work.</strong> Kevin Hart is omnipresent at All-Star Weekend and Rob Riggle has probably made a billion dollars from pregame shows and ESPY skits alone. Both are easy targets to ridicule. I don&#39;t want to pile on too much, but, look, everyone can agree the introductions did not need to be 30 minutes long ever again. This is the next change for Adam Silver to make, and it should be a much simpler process than fixing the actual game. As for the anthem ... </p><p>Fergie<em> <a href="https://www.si.com/nba/2018/02/18/fergie-national-anthem-2018-nba-all-star-game-reactions" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:went for it" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">went for it</a> </em>with an extended anthem rendition, and she, uh, didn&#39;t quite land it. The funniest moment of the night came when the arena cameras caught Draymond Green as his brain shut off somewhere during minute eight of the Fergie anthem. The whole stadium burst out laughing, forcing Draymond to crack a smile, himself. For me, this made the Fergie anthem worth it. </p><p><strong>5. Michael Jordan is up next.</strong> The crowd in L.A. was sleepy for most of the night, but late in the fourth quarter fans <em>erupted </em>for Michael Jordan as the league announced that Charlotte is hosting the 2019 All-Star Game. So there you go. Til next year... </p>
NBA All-Star Game Takeaways: New Format Works and LeBron Still Reigns

LOS ANGELES — The 2018 NBA All-Star Game is in the books, and Team LeBron beat Team Steph 148-145 after a fourth–quarter comeback that was genuinely dramatic down the stretch. LeBron James was your All-Star MVP (29 points), while Damian Lillard (21 points), DeMar DeRozan (21 points) and Joel Embiid (19 points, 8 rebounds) led the way for Team Steph.

Here are five quick thoughts on the surprisingly competitive clash from Staples Center...

1. The new All-Star format worked. And I'm as shocked as anyone. The All-Star Game looked like it was beyond saving last year, and the new All-Star draft looked like a desperate, contrived, weirdly secretive process that wouldn't change much. If anything, eliminating conferences would just make it harder to track the halfhearted efforts of everyone involved. But then the game started and ... I think it worked? A game that's fun for three quarters and genuinely dramatic down the stretch is the best–case scenario for All-Star, and that's what happened in L.A.

The first two hours of basketball didn't suddenly turn into the NBA playoffs, but that's fine. This was a low bar and the NBA cleared it with room to spare. There were moderate levels of defense played, players on both teams were going hard almost the entire time, and we got the most entertaining All-Star Game in several years. Progress!

2. LeBron James really might play forever. The dude is just unbelievable. Granted it's an All-Star Game, but he finished with a near triple–double (29 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists) and took over the game just as it looked like Team Steph was pulling away in the fourth quarter.

LeBron is 33 years old and he's been the best player in the league for almost a decade. We know that. But as the years pass—with each season featuring 100 games and nine months of mileage—it's sort of incredible that he looks nowhere near ready to pass the torch to anyone else. On a court with Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden, the best player in the building was clear the entire time.

?

?

3. There's no such thing as too much Embiid. Joel Embiid is playing back-to-backs, the Sixers are winning, and Embiid made his first All-Star Game this year. [knocking on wood very hard] All of this is great. And not only did Embiid make the All-Star game, but he made the All-Star a lot more fun. Whether he was unfolding his massive frame into floaters in the lane or crossing over guards and launching threes from the perimeter, he did a nice job of mixing things up the entire time he was on the floor. Also ...

For the record, Russell Westbrook answered with an and-one lay-up at the rim to make it a one-point game in the final minutes. Most important: it makes me very happy that the Embiid-Westbrook feud is still alive.

4. The intros and the national anthem did not work. Kevin Hart is omnipresent at All-Star Weekend and Rob Riggle has probably made a billion dollars from pregame shows and ESPY skits alone. Both are easy targets to ridicule. I don't want to pile on too much, but, look, everyone can agree the introductions did not need to be 30 minutes long ever again. This is the next change for Adam Silver to make, and it should be a much simpler process than fixing the actual game. As for the anthem ...

Fergie went for it with an extended anthem rendition, and she, uh, didn't quite land it. The funniest moment of the night came when the arena cameras caught Draymond Green as his brain shut off somewhere during minute eight of the Fergie anthem. The whole stadium burst out laughing, forcing Draymond to crack a smile, himself. For me, this made the Fergie anthem worth it.

5. Michael Jordan is up next. The crowd in L.A. was sleepy for most of the night, but late in the fourth quarter fans erupted for Michael Jordan as the league announced that Charlotte is hosting the 2019 All-Star Game. So there you go. Til next year...

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