The hype surrounding the NBA All-Star Game admittedly took a hit in the 2000s and 2010s, as the game’s meaning seemingly began to dwindle more and more each year.
But, in 2018, the league made a massive change to the game’s format that seemed to bring back some of the interest, both for players and fans.
The NBA decided to scrap the usual battle between Eastern Conference All-Stars and Western Conference All-Stars, instead nominating two captains to pick teams themselves.
LeBron James took the reins as one of the two captains in each of the draft’s first four years, while Stephen Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo (in back-to-back years), and Kevin Durant were each elected to go up against the four-time NBA Finals winner.
As a result, fans can see their favorite superstars on the court alongside big names that they actually want to play with, and, in some cases, are subsequently able to see the births of future super teams (*cough* Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving *cough*).
The format’s success, along with the implementation of the “Elam Ending” in honor of Kobe Bryant in 2020, turned the NBA All-Star Game into a hit again, which made it less surprising when the league decided to move forward with the 2021 NBA All-Star Game in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But, with so much excitement around the now-annual NBA All-Star Game Draft, a few questions popped into our heads: Why didn’t the league go with this format sooner? And, more importantly, how would things play out if captains could draft from a pool of all-time players?
So, we got to work for an all-time, NBA All-Star Game edition of everyone’s favorite thing to read around the months of February or March: a mock draft.
In order to keep things simple and make the decision-making a bit easier, the criteria was simple:
- The talent pool was limited to All-Star Game MVPs, rather than every player in the league’s history.
- So, if a player never made an All-Star Game, they weren’t eligible.
- If they qualified for an All-Star Game but never won MVP, they weren’t eligible.
- As a result, players like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, David Robinson, James Harden and more were excluded from the talent pool.
- Also, the mock captains weren’t forced into any position limits, allowing them to craft a team however they wanted.
- This differs from the current All-Star Game voting format, which calls for a certain amount of forwards and a certain amount of guards to be in the pool. That rule was adapted on a specific basis after Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis was ruled out of the 2021 All-Star Game, and replaced by Phoenix Suns point guard Devin Booker.
- This way, All-Star Game MVPs that did qualify to be in the pool wouldn’t get excluded because there were too many forwards or guards picked earlier in the draft.
- This isn’t a simple ranking of the best All-Star Game players, so the draft order doesn’t reflect that.
- If one captain wouldn’t want a specific player on their team for chemistry purposes, that would be factored into the decision-making.
Lastly, for the All-Time NBA All-Star Game’s captains, we rolled with the two players who most frequently pop up in the debate surrounding the league’s greatest of all time: Michael Jordan and LeBron James. Going off their respective championship counts, Jordan earned the honor of having the first pick.
What ensued, obviously, was chaos. But, after the dust cleared, here’s how this made-up scenario played out.
Team Jordan selected: Kobe Bryant
There was a real case to put Kobe Bryant as one of the two captains for this All-Time Draft, considering he has one more All-Star Game MVP than James and Jordan and has more cumulative points in All-Star Games than Jordan.
But, Bryant played two more All-Star Games than Jordan, and “His Airness” averaged more points per All-Star Game than Bryant.
Regardless, the two end up on the same team, crafting a scary 1-2 punch off the bat.
Team LeBron selected: Kevin Durant
Despite the fact that these two are going up against each other in the 2021 All-Star Game, Team LeBron decided to put those differences aside in this All-Time Draft.
Kevin Durant has averaged 25 points per All-Star Game and has two All-Star Game MVPs to his name ahead of the 2021 installment, and that’s in just 10 appearances through his 14 years in the league.
He likely would’ve jumped Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the all-time All-Star Game scoring list if he was active for its 2021 edition, and seems like a worthwhile investment in the first round of this draft.
Team Jordan selected: Bob Pettit
Bob Pettit and Kobe Bryant are the only four-time All-Star Game MVPs entering the 2021 NBA All-Star Game, and Team Jordan certainly took that into account as the second round got started.
Pettit averaged 20.4 points per All-Star Game throughout his 11 appearances, and provides some size to his new team early in the draft.
Team LeBron selected: Oscar Robertson
Since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar isn’t eligible in this draft, both Bob Pettit and Oscar Robertson sneak into the second round, with the latter providing some wisdom to his two modern-era teammates.
While Team Jordan looked for size to join Jordan and Bryant, Team LeBron opted for a three-time All-Star Game MVP and a 6-foot-5 guard to help spread the wealth between James and Durant. And, with 20.5 points per game in 12 All-Star Game appearances, he poses a solid threat offensively, as well.
Team Jordan selected: Julius Erving
You can’t go wrong in the first few rounds of this draft, and you can’t knock Team Jordan for rocking with Julius Erving with their first pick of the third round.
They’ve got the high-scoring touch of Jordan and Bryant and the size of Pettit, and they add a good in-between with the 6-foot-7 Doctor, who averaged 20.1 points per All-Star Game in his 11 appearances, and earned MVP honors twice.
Team LeBron selected: Shaquille O’Neal
Former teammates from the Cleveland Cavaliers join forces as Team LeBron picks up three-time All-Star Game MVP Shaquille O’Neal to finish up the third round.
O’Neal gives Team LeBron the size to combat the 6-foot-9 Pettit in the paint, and gives Lakers fans the chance to see how LeBron and Shaq would’ve done together in their primes in Los Angeles.
Team Jordan selected: Bill Russell
If we were simply talking about the greatest players of all time, Bill Russell would likely go much higher in this draft order. But, factoring in his All-Star Game experiences lowers his stock a bit for this event.
Russell’s long resume speaks for itself, considering he was an 11-time NBA champion. But, he only earned All-Star Game MVP honors once in 12 appearances, and averaged just 10 points per game in those 12 years.
Regardless of all of that, he’s a steal in the fourth round, and helps Team Jordan go from “great” to “elite.”
Team LeBron selected: Russell Westbrook
The second active player selected in this draft and the second Russell of the round, Russell Westbrook joins forces with former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate Kevin Durant once more, and the duo won’t have to deal with LeBron James on the other end for once.
It may seem nuts to pick Westbrook so early with so many big names on the board, but you can’t knock a player with two All-Star Game MVPs in nine appearances entering 2021, especially when he turns it on for the All-Star Game each year.
He has the third highest points per game average in All-Star Game history, behind Durant and James, and makes this a powerful unit for Team Jordan to try to defend.
Team Jordan selected: Wilt Chamberlain
In a bit of a sleeper pick, Team Jordan swoops in on Wilt Chamberlain to pit three candidates for the title of the sport’s G.O.A.T. together on one all-time All-Star Game team.
Only factoring in a player’s performance in their All-Star Game history, Chamberlain only won All-Star Game MVP once, and averaged 14.7 points per game in his 13 appearances. He’s 12th on the all-time scoring list as it relates to All-Star Games, and gives fans the chance to watch him and Shaq go one-on-one down low.
Team LeBron selected: Dwyane Wade
In another shocking pick, Team LeBron continues to reunite former teammates as James brings in a fellow member of the Miami Heat’s legendary Big Three: Dwyane Wade.
Wade was a one-time All-Star Game MVP in his career and averaged 15.7 points per game in his 12 appearances, but the chemistry he had on the court with James is tough to put a true value on. It may not be the smartest pick with Westbrook selected a round prior, but guard depth never hurts.
Team Jordan selected: Magic Johnson
Team Jordan rolls with a “The Last Dance”-esque approach, skipping over Isiah Thomas for this super team despite his clear candidacy for a selection in the sixth round.
While Thomas may meet the criteria a bit better than Team Jordan’s newest member, Magic Johnson gets the nod to join Jordan, his former “Dream Team” teammate.
Johnson averaged 16 points per game in 11 appearances, got MVP honors twice, and would get to play with legendary Lakers in Bryant and Chamberlain. What more can you ask for?
Team LeBron selected: Isiah Thomas
Luckily for Isiah Thomas, Team LeBron doesn’t have anything against the Detroit Pistons legend.
Thomas averaged 16.8 points per game and earned MVP honors twice in his 11 appearances, statistically making him a better option than his fellow sixth-rounder and direct comparison, Magic Johnson. Maybe if the drama from “The Last Dance” didn’t linger, this draft would’ve played out a lot differently.
Team Jordan selected: Elgin Baylor
Lakers legends go back-to-back in this draft, as Team Jordan picks up another small forward in Elgin Baylor after his Lakers brethren joined the team a round prior.
While he only earned All-Star Game MVP honors once, he’s in the top 10 as far as career All-Star Game point totals are concerned, and he averaged 19.8 points per game in his 11 appearances.
He’s the first non-multi-time All-Star Game MVP to be picked, but he’s a necessary evil to match up with talented small forwards in James and Durant.
Team LeBron selected: Larry Bird
In a pool full of scoring prowess, Team LeBron piles it on by adding Larry Bird in the seventh round.
An All-Star Weekend legend for his ability to shine in the 3-Point Contest, Bird’s presence on Team LeBron would certainly give them an advantage from long-range in a game that names like Stephen Curry, Reggie Miller and Ray Allen aren’t technically qualified for.
Team Jordan selected: Jerry West
Team Jordan might as well be renamed “Team Logo” at this point, as they bring in Jerry West to join the likes of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.
While fans in 2021 debate whether or not to replace West with Bryant for the NBA’s logo, West would get to remind everyone about what made him so great as a player.
But, the 6-foot-2 guard only won All-Star MVP once in 12 chances, and averaged 13.3 points per game, which is unfavorable in comparison to the 14 players picked before him. Thus, that explains his presence in the eighth round.
Team LeBron selected: Bob Cousy
With so many scoring threats to get the ball to, Team LeBron makes a great choice by adding Bob Cousy in the eighth round.
Arguably the greatest point guard of all time, Cousy led the league in assists in eight straight seasons, and earned All-Star Game MVP honors twice in his career. He had a real case to get selected even earlier in this draft, and could be considered a steal in the eighth round.
Team Jordan selected: Kevin Garnett
If “Team Logo” doesn’t have a good enough ring to it, Team Jordan could easily go by “Team Trash Talk” after this selection in the ninth round.
As if Kevin Garnett’s gift of gab wasn’t good enough, he adds another All-Star Game MVP to the team’s resume, along with 11.3 points per game in 14 All-Star Game appearances.
Oh, to be a fly on the wall for an All-Star Game practice featuring Garnett, Michael Jordan, and Kobe Bryant…
Team LeBron selected: Karl Malone
Grudges may have continued into the ninth round, as Team Jordan skipped over another Jordan Era legend in Karl Malone in favor of Kevin Garnett.
Instead, Team LeBron adds a talented dual threat down low who has two All-Star Game MVPs to his name and 12 years worth of experience in the superstar showcase. Unfortunately, the All-Star Game usually caps off an entire All-Star Weekend, so Team LeBron will have to hope that the Mailman can deliver on a Sunday.
Team Jordan selected: Kawhi Leonard
Barely sneaking into the list of qualified players, the 2020 NBA All-Star Game MVP makes an appearance in this All-Time Draft, and joins the player who the award was named after, as well.
Leonard was deemed the NBA All-Star Game’s Kobe Bryant Most Valuable Player in the first year of the “Elam Ending” format, putting up 30 points while going 11-of-18 from the field.
His five All-Star Game appearances drop him in the draft order when being compared to the other players on this list, but there’s no reason why he couldn’t jump up to the first few rounds if there was a re-draft in 2025.
Team LeBron selected: Anthony Davis
If Anthony Davis was healthy for the 2021 All-Star Game, it wouldn’t have been surprising to see his Lakers teammate draft him first overall to join Team LeBron. So, it shouldn’t be a shock to see the two united in this All-Time Draft, as well.
While it may seem like a move based solely on their current partnership on the Lakers, Davis is likely one of the most underrated players in this talent pool.
He’s averaged 20.5 points per game in his six appearances, and earned All-Star Game MVP honors in 2017 as a member of the New Orleans Pelicans.
Getting picked in the 10th round, Davis has a real case as one of this draft’s biggest steals, and gives Team LeBron a good mix of speed and power down below against tough defenders like Bob Pettit, Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan.
Team Jordan selected: Tim Duncan
The lone player selected with a sub-10 points per game average, Team Jordan opts for some defense to help round things out on their all-time All-Star squad.
Despite his 9.3 points per game, Duncan was still named All-Star Game MVP once in his 15 appearances, which are tied with his Team Jordan teammate Kobe Bryant for the second-most in this draft behind LeBron James.
It may not be a huge addition offensively, but Duncan’s defensive skills would be just as pivotal for Team Jordan to have when seeing the laundry list of scorers that Team LeBron possesses.
Team LeBron selected: Allen Iverson
One of just 14 multi-time All-Star Game MVPs in the talent pool, Allen Iverson gives Team LeBron a little extra “oomph” at the point guard position, providing some depth behind players like Russell Westbrook
With nine All-Star Game appearances and two MVPs on his resume, Iverson certainly brings some added efficiency when factoring his MVP-per-appearance rate. Plus, Jordan likely still remembers the nasty crossover that Iverson hit on him in 1997, and wouldn’t want to pick him.
Team Jordan selected: Charles Barkley
Finishing out Team Jordan, MJ selects a fellow Dream Team member in Charles Barkley for some depth down low.
Barkley squeaked in with his one All-Star Game MVP, but watching him and Shaq go one-on-one in this legendary All-Star Game seems well worth it for a 12th-round pick.
Team LeBron selected: Kyrie Irving
This All-Time Draft’s equivalent to the NFL’s “Mr. Irrelevant,” Kyrie Irving comes in as the 24th overall selection, and Team LeBron’s 12th pick.
Irving, with one All-Star Game MVP to his name, has a history with most of the players on Team LeBron, having been teammates with both LeBron James and Kevin Durant throughout his career.
Durant selected Irving with his first pick in the 2021 All-Star Game Draft, so it seems fitting that he would put in a good word for his friend as Team LeBron looked for the final piece of their puzzle.