When the NBA All-Stars enter Cleveland on Sunday night, one legacy in particular will be on center court: LeBron James, the Kid from Akron.
It’s a return to “The Land” for James, back to where his career began, back to the city where he gave his blood, sweat and tears to take home a championship. Also back to the city he left not once, but twice.
Amid his anticipated homecoming, the King will once again make history in Cleveland by taking the floor for an 18th All-Star Game – putting Kareem Abdul-Jabbar level for most times. And there’s always a chance it could be his last.
I know, it’s hard to imagine. What’s the NBA All-Star Game without LeBron? He has headlined the event since making his debut as a sophomore with the Cavaliers in 2004-05. His presence at the annual showcase feels inevitable.
This season, he’s cheating father-time with 29.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.5 assists — numbers good enough to make him an MVP candidate if the Lakers (27-31) weren’t ninth in the Western Conference .
But he’s 37 years old, and hardly anyone has miles on their bodies in NBA history, so while he’s likely to earn roster again, that doesn’t mean he’ll actually take the floor. Don’t take James for granted.
Team LeBron and Team Durant face each other in the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday with Raptors guard Fred VanVleet making his debut. Watch the annual star-studded showcase exclusively on Sportsnet at 8pm ET / 5pm PT.
The three-time All-Star Game MVP is on the hunt for a record-breaking fourth — and this year, the award has added significance after it was renamed in honor of Kobe Bryant. Bryant and Bob Pettit both won the event’s MVP award four times.
In addition to James and his return, the NBA will celebrate the legends of the game for its 75th anniversary, while fans in Canada will tune in to the Raptors’ ultimate underdog, Fred VanVleet, who is making his All-Star Game debut, and Andrew Wiggins. — only the second Canadian to start in the event.
Here’s an NBA All-Star Game by Number for everything you need to know:
1: Michael Jordan produced the first triple-double in NBA All-Star Game history when Cleveland last hosted the event in 1997. While triple-doubles are much more common in today’s game, with stars like Russell Westbrook, Nikola Jokic and Luka Doncic who record them at record rates, only three players have done it since Jordan: James (2011), Dwyane Wade (2012) and Kevin Durant (2017).
2: The number of All-Stars representing the host Cleveland Cavaliers. Going into the season, the prospects of this happening were slim, but Darius Garland’s emergence as a leading point guard and Jarrett Allen’s career season made it possible. Raptors fans will rightly point out that Pascal Siakam should be there instead of Allen, who is replacing an injured James Harden.
3: The number of Canadians who have ever made an All-Star team. Wiggins joins Steve Nash (eight times) and Jamaal Magloire (once) as the only players from the north of the border participating in the event. It’s a surprisingly low total, but with young Canadian talents like Jamal Murray, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and RJ Barrett on the way to stardom, that number could grow exponentially.
4: The total of former G League players in the 2022 NBA All-Star Game. It’s a record. VanVleet is of course one of the many Raptors 905 success stories. The other three are Rudy Gobert (Bakersfield Jam – 2013-14), Khris Middleton (Fort Wayne Mad Ants – 2012-13) and Dejounte Murray (Austin Spurs – 2016-17). VanVleet leads all four G League games played with 16 in 2016-17.
6: The number of All-Stars from 2022 on the NBA’s 75th anniversary team. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, James Harden, James and Chris Paul were all voted Top 75 (actually 76) players in NBA history earlier this season. Carmelo Anthony, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook are the other active players who have formed the team.
7: Seven countries are represented on NBA All-Star rosters for 2022. There are 20 players from the United States, one from Canada (Wiggins), one from Greece (Antetokounmpo), one from Cameroon (Joel Embiid), one from Serbia (Jokic ), one from Slovenia (Doncic) and one from France (Gobert). Basketball is truly a global game.
8/24: The Kobe Bryant Trophy for NBA All-Star Game MVP will be awarded for the first time in Cleveland — the same place where the then-rookie won the dunk contest with his signature swagger in 1997.
The trophy has an eight-sided base that symbolizes Bryant’s number 8 as well as the number of decades of All-Star Games. It also has 24 stars to illustrate Bryant’s number 24 and number of All-Stars.
18: James will make his 18th All-Star Game appearance and match Abdul-Jabbar for most all-time, it will also be his record 18th time as a starter. Abdul-Jabbar still leads the overall All-Star roster with 19, James’ 18 equals Bryant for second – the latter only spoke in 15.
20: The era of LaMelo Ball, the youngest player in the All-Star Game. The highly skilled Hornets guard replaces Kevin Durant, becoming the fourth-youngest player in the event. The youngest ever was Bryant in 1998, followed by Zion Williamson last season and Doncic in 2020.
Despite being among all the stars, Ball looks up to one player, and only one player:
39: Nothing comes closer to defining the evolution of modern basketball than the three-point shot — Harden has earned 39 the most in NBA All-Star Game history. However, with Harden out, that record is in danger. James follows with one, while Curry follows with eight.
76: The number of players the NBA honors at halftime. It would be 75, in honor of the NBA’s 75th anniversary, but two players voted equally for the last spot. The celebration comes to a close in Cleveland, where the Top 50 Greatest Players were honored in 1997. The Top 25 Players and the 25th Anniversary of the 1981 All-Star Game celebration took place in Richfield, Ohio.
In 1997, all but three of the Top 50 players witnessed the celebration. This year will no doubt be different as many legends have left us and we are still living in a pandemic.
128: The record for total All-Star Game assists. Paul passed Magic Johnson to capture the record with 16 assists last year, now the “Point God” gets to fill those stats. He will not play much due to a thumb injury.
389: The all-time record for total points in the All-Star Game, guess who? King James. It doesn’t even come close, second on the all-time list is Bryant at 290, the closest active player is Kevin Durant at 250 and he doesn’t even play on Sundays. James would have to crack 400, further distance himself from all challengers and further cement his status as the greatest All-Star of all time in Cleveland.