LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Kawhi Leonard will start in the NBA All-Star Game on March 7, but they might not be happy about it.
Antetokounmpo said that he would play, but has “zero energy” and “zero excitement” about doing so. James said he would be at the game “physically,” but not mentally. Leonard said the league was “just putting money over health right now.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has defended the event as a 70-year tradition.
“We don’t want people to gather for events around this All-Star,” said Silver. “There will be absolutely no social functions in Atlanta. No ticketed events. No parties. It is a made-for-television event at this point, and it’s largely in Atlanta because that’s where Turner Sports is located who will host this event.”
The league is condensing what is usually a weekend of contests into a single night, with the three-point contest taking place before the game, and the slam dunk contest happening at halftime. One thousand fans will attend the game, and players participating in it are asked by the league to self-quarantine with limited exceptions, starting on Feb. 27.
TNT took in an estimated $15 million by broadcasting 160 ads over last year’s contest, and including the slam dunk contest into this game could bring in around $24 million this year for parent company WarnerMedia, CEO Kevin Krim of advertising metrics firm EDO told CNBC. AT&T, Taco Bell, CarMax and Mountain Dew are among major sponsors for this year’s game.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has urged people not to come to the city for the event, and Silver echoed that sentiment. The NBA and NBA Players Association will donate $2.5 million to Historically Black Colleges and Universities, as part of the event.