CLEVELAND — The NBA’s storied history was celebrated Sunday night during its 71st edition of the league’s All-Star Game. And the 76ers were well represented in the celebration.
League MVP frontrunner Joel Embiid participated in the contest at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Newly acquired Sixer James Harden was also named an All-Star, but sat out the game with a left hamstring strain.
Team LeBron defeated the Embiid-led Team Durant, 163-160. The game ended on a 17-foot fadeaway jumper from LeBron James, who had 24 points and eight assists and received a large applause when he closed out the untimed fourth quarter. Under the format, the team that got to 163 points first won the game.
Team LeBron’s Steph Curry scored a game-high 50 points while making an All-Star Game-record 16 three-pointers to win the game’s MVP award. Curry was two points shy of the All-Star record set by Anthony Davis.
Embiid paced Team Durant with 36 points to go with 10 rebounds and four assists. He was the most impressive player not named Curry.
The Sixer made 14 of 20 shots, including going 5-for-8 on three-pointers while playing a team-high 30 minutes, 35 seconds.
“I really wanted to win the game,” he said. “That was my focus coming in. So doing whatever it took to actually accomplish that. Obviously, Steph got it. He was making shots all over the place.
“But this year, that was the mindset to try to come [here] and try to win the game.”
But one of the night’s highlights was the honoring of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team at halftime.
Hall of Famers Charles Barkley, Wilt Chamberlain, Billy Cunningham, Julius Erving, Hal Greer, Allen Iverson, Moses Malone, and Dolph Schayes were the retired Sixers on the list.
Harden is one of 11 active players named to the list. The other active players on the anniversary team are Giannis Antetokounmpo, Carmelo Anthony, Curry, Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, James, Kawhi Leonard, Damian Lillard, Chris Paul, and Russell Westbrook.
The Sixers tied the New York Knicks with the third-most players on the team with nine. All 50 members of the NBA 50th Anniversary Team, which was named in 1996, have been selected to the 75th team in conjunction with this the league’s 75th anniversary.
“We’re here to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the NBA,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said, “and I’m also really excited that so many of those great legends are about to be here with us in Cleveland.”
On Saturday, Silver anticipated about 50 of the approximately 60 living legends would be on hand for the celebration. The 50th anniversary team was honored at the 1997 All-Star Game at Cleveland’s Gund Arena.
“I would say for me, I was here as part of the league for our 50th anniversary,” Silver said, “and there’s just this incredible symmetry of being back here in Cleveland again for this great event.”
One has to assume that Embiid will potentially be named to the 100th Anniversary Team in 25 years.
The sixth-year veteran is one of the league’s elite players, drawing comparisons to Hall of Famers and members of the 75th anniversary team like Hakeem Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing.
“It was great,” Embiid said of the ceremony and seeing the legends. “I aspire to be up there at some point when I’m done, even before I’m done. Obviously, you’ve got to win. Talent-wise, I could be up there. But you’ve got to win a championship. So that’s the goal for me.”
Embiid has worked on improving his body the past two seasons, leading to his dominant play this season. The scary part is Embiid says his body is not close to where he wants it to be. He’s averaging a league-best 29.6 points despite dealing with nagging injuries.
“Most of the time, I try to play at 100 percent,” he said. “But to actually do everything offensively and defensively, it takes a toll and it’s hard. There’s not a lot of guys that can do that in the league.
“So I really believe once I get to that level … I really want to earn that respect when it comes to defense.”
Embiid knows he’ll have to be in the best shape possible to get to his desired level on both ends of the floor. For now, he’s the NBA’s eighth-best rebounder at 11.2 per game to go with a career-best 4.5 assists, 1.4 blocks, and 1.0 steal.
So it’s not surprising that he was voted an All-Star starter for the fifth consecutive season.
Durant, the Eastern Conference’s leading All-Star vote-getter and Team Durant captain, selected Embiid with his first pick during the All-Star draft. Durant sat out of the game as he is sidelined with a left knee MCL sprain and did not attend because of a death in the family.
Jayson Tatum took Durant’s spot in the starting lineup. Embiid and Tatum were joined by Trae Young, Ja Morant, and Andrew Wiggins.
James, Curry, DeMar DeRozan, Antetokounmpo, and Nikola Jokić started for Team LeBron. Harden, picked by Team LeBron, missed the game with a left hamstring strain. He was replaced by the host Cavaliers’ Jarrett Allen.
Embiid said on Saturday that he came to Cleveland to compete and that he’s one of the league’s best players.
Well, he sure didn’t lie.
The Sixer was the best player on the floor, early on.
He had 11 points on 5-for-6 shooting to go with three rebounds and two assists before being subbed out with 3 minutes, 49 seconds left in the first quarter. One of his highlights came when he drove past Curry and delivered a windmill dunk to give Team Durant a 34-32 lead with 4:14 left in the quarter.
Team LeBron ended up winning the first quarter, 47-45, to secure $100,000 for the Kent State I Promise Program.
Embiid came back into the game with 3:15 left before intermission. All three of his shot attempts in the quarter were three-pointers. He made two of them. Embiid had six points and one assist during the 3:15 stretch to help Team Durant win the second quarter, 49-46, to get $100,000 for the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.
Team Durant clung to a 94-93 halftime cushion as Embiid had 17 points on 7-for-9 shooting.
Embiid added 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting in the third quarter. However, he took a backseat to Curry. The two-time league MVP made 7 of 10 three-pointers in the quarter en route to 21 points. That came after Curry scored 18 points while making 6 of 7 three-pointers in the second quarter.
The teams finished tied with 45 points in the third quarter, splitting the $100,000 between the two charities. Team Durant took a 139-138 overall advantage into the fourth.
Team LeBron, which had a 25-21 fourth-quarter scoring advantage, raised $450,000 and a car for the Kent State I Promise Program. Team Durant raised $300,000 for the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. Harden, who last played on Feb. 2 will make his Sixers’ debut on Friday at the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Chris Paul honored
Paul, the Phoenix Suns point guard, is the inaugural recipient of the Kobe & Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award for his contributions to the advancement of women’s and girls’ basketball, in addition to advocacy for the WNBA. Bryant’s wife, Vanessa Byrant, and the WNBA presented the award during the game.