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NBA All-Star Game 2024: Is the league prepared to move on from LeBron James?

February 19th, 2024

INDIANAPOLIS — Someday, at some point, LeBron James will announce his impending retirement from the NBA, and a world tour will ensue — no matter what he tries to imply in the meantime — and then, he’ll be gone.

Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant will likely not be too far behind, either. But in the aftermath of James, the league will have to muster something with its marketing and figure out who’ll be next on the marquee.

It feels like he could play forever. There’s probably a segment who believe he will play forever, if for no other reason than a refusal to abandon the spotlight. But Father Time — because of injury or perhaps simply decline — will usher him to the exit.

And the NBA has to be ready for someone to take the torch, to connect with fans through either passionate love or passionate hate. There was very little passion on display Sunday night in the East’s 211-186 win over the West in the NBA All-Star Game.

“I didn’t think about being the face of the league,” James said Sunday afternoon. “I knew I was being put in a position that I was being the face of a franchise, NBA franchise, at 18 years old. It was very stressful, and I knew the odds were stacked up against me and a lot of people wanted to see me fail. And I just kind of used that as motivation.

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - FEBRUARY 18: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers and Western Conference All-Stars shoots the ball against the Eastern Conference All-Stars in the first quarter during the 2024 NBA All-Star Game at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on February 18, 2024 in Indianapolis, Indiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

LeBron James shoots during the first quarter of the 2024 NBA All-Star Game at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on Feb. 18, 2024, in Indianapolis. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

“But at the same time, understanding that I still have to be a professional.”

All-Star Weekend’s pathetic, apathy-filled showing aside, today’s players are professional and display excellence on the floor. They are largely good citizens and carefully craft their images via social media.

But nobody in this coming generation seems to have the ability to grab the attention of the diehards or casuals the way James did. In a way, players are too polished, too aware of the stakes, so a lot of compelling texture has been lost.

James grew up before the eyes of the American public and there was a connective tissue before he even set foot on an NBA floor. You either loved him, hated him (for whatever inane reason) or sat with fascination on what he would become.

He’s not only had one of the most successful careers in sports history, but at a point, the mere mention of his name would elicit a strong reaction.

More than his excellence on the floor — and he’ll own so many records it’s not even worth mentioning — it’s that extra something the NBA will miss the second he leaves.

It’s not the league’s fault the pipeline has changed so much, but it’s harder and harder for fans to connect — love or hate — whomever’s coming behind him.

Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James speaks during a news conference before the NBA basketball All-Star game, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James speaks during a news conference before the NBA basketball All-Star game, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

LeBron James speaks during a news conference before the NBA All-Star Game, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

What to do with the All-Star Game

Nobody knows what the All-Star Game should look like anymore. You can point to the explosion of the 3-point shot, or the possibility of bigger, stronger athletes colliding and creating an opportunity for injury in what amounts to a meaningless exhibition game.

But the bottom line is: Until the players start caring again, it’ll look this way. Every year it’s the same rhetoric from the league and its players about making the game competitive, and before you can even blink, it’s a non-entertaining, uneventful 48 minutes, which this time ended with the high-scoring East win.

“I think it’s something we need to figure out,” said James, who didn’t play in the second half and was at the podium while Adam Silver was awarding the MVP trophy to Damian Lillard. “Because this is what the game is like now. More pace into the game, more shots. Freedom of movement. That’s what the regular season is like, and let’s tighten up into the postseason.”

James said the players were happy nobody got hurt, and that’s usually the top priority. But he admits it’s a “deeper dive” that seems necessary to get the All-Star Game back to a competitive place.

Aside from the 2020 game, under the backdrop of Kobe Bryant’s death, there hasn’t been a competitive contest since 2012 in Orlando — when James was chided by Bryant for passing up a late 3 in a game in which Bryant’s nose was broken by Dwyane Wade.

Like everything else in this weekend, no metric or mechanism will matter until the players start caring — just a little bit. The fans have expressed their displeasure already.

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Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff talks gun control

The one safe space, at least stateside, used to be sporting events. And while the shooting in Kansas City at the Chiefs’ Super Bowl parade last week wasn’t exactly at a sporting event, it certainly qualifies here.

It was a topic Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, broached Saturday afternoon when sitting courtside at the NBA HBCU Classic at All-Star Weekend between Winston-Salem State and Virginia Union.

“You just can’t have minors, carrying weapons and being able to access guns like that, and bring them to those events,” Emhoff told Yahoo Sports. “So this is just common sense. We’re not trying to take guns away, we’re for the Second Amendment. You have to be able to celebrate a Super Bowl win, go to church, go to the market.”

One person was killed and 22 were shot at Kansas City’s Union Station, a harrowing event and an all-too-familiar one for Americans. Presumably, live sporting venues remain safe, but nothing seems certain.

“We need reasonable gun safety, legislation. And it’s not like we have to invent it,” Emhoff told Yahoo Sports. “It already exists. And Congress has to pass federal legislation and have the courage to do that. And [President] Joe Biden will sign it.”

Vice President Harris is a Howard alumna, so the current administration has put a lot of resources and funding into HBCUs. Although it is an election year, Emhoff still found time to enjoy his first college courtside experience.

He and Vice President Harris attended the Celebration Bowl in December between Florida A&M and Howard.

“This is a great way to elevate these amazing schools, these amazing athletes,” Emhoff said. “I love doing events with sports to elevate HBCUs. It’s an incredible venue.”

This content was originally sourced and posted at Yahoo! Sports – News, Scores, Standings, Rumors, Fantasy Games »
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