On Thursday night, All-Star captains LeBron James and Kevin Durant drafted their respective squads for the 2021 NBA All-Star Game, which will emanate from Atlanta, Georgia this weekend. Unsurprisingly, Philadelphia 76ers star and MVP candidate Joel Embiid was a top choice, going to Team Durant with the fourth overall pick.
Meanwhile, James’ selection of Ben Simmons at No. 13 ended up being a point of contention for Durant.
KD Wanted Ben Simmons in a Big, Bad Way
After Durant seized upon Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker with the twelfth pick, LeBron wasted little time in adding Simmons to his squad.
“With my second pick in the second round, I’m going to go with Ben Simmons, Mr. Play Hard Every Possession, from the Philadelphia 76ers,” he said during the broadcast of the draft.
The in-studio “Inside the NBA” crew audibly reacted to the pick, with Kenny Smith noting that James had used extra adjectives in making the selection. Ernie Johnson also observed that Durant had given a “knowing nod” upon hearing Simmons’ name.
A seemingly despondent Durant left little mystery about why he reacted to his opponent’s pick in such a way.
“I wanted Ben Simmons. I wanted Ben — damn,” he lamented.
Durant’s downtrodden response elicited chuckles from the TNT crowd. Check out the tape of the exchange, via the 76ers’ official Twitter account, below:
Simmons and Embiid Go Head-to-Head Once Again
The 2021 NBA All-Star Game will mark the third consecutive mid-season classic in which Simmons and Embiid will be on opposing sides. Simmons has played on Team LeBron every time he has made a trip to the game (he was selected by captain Giannis Antetokounmpo for his first All-Star appearance, but later traded to James’ team for Russell Westbrook).
Embiid, meanwhile, was twice selected by Antetokounmpo before Durant did the honors on Thursday.
So far, Simmons has had the upper hand in his All-Star battles with Embiid. In 2019, he and Team LeBron won the game 178-164. It was closer the following year — both squads battled hard for charity dollars that were on the line in an Elam Ending — but Simmons’ team ultimately came out on top in a 157-155 classic.
For the most part, both players have acquitted themselves quite well in their All-Star appearances. In his three All-Star games to date, Embiid has averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds per contest. He dropped 22 in last year’s game.
Over his two previous appearances, Simmons has only missed one shot, hitting 13 of his 14 field goal attempts. He has averaged 13.5 points, six rebounds and six assists per game.
All-Star Info & Rosters
The 2021 NBA All-Star Game will be played on Sunday, March 7 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. It will air at 8 p.m. ET on TNT. Pre-game coverage begins at 5 p.m. ET and will be followed by the Skills Challenge and the Three-Point Contest. The Slam Dunk Contest will take place during halftime of the All-Star Game.
All-Star Rosters are as follows:
Team Durant: Kyrie Irving, Joel Embiid, Kawhi Leonard, Bradley Beal, Jayson Tatum, James Harden, Devin Booker, Zion Williamson, Zach LaVine, Julius Randle, Nikola Vucevic and Donovan Mitchell.
Team LeBron: LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Nikola Jokic, Damian Lillard, Ben Simmons, Chris Paul, Jaylen Brown, Paul George, Domantas Sabonis and Rudy Gobert.