There are few traditions better than LeBron James spending the entire NBA All-Star draft tampering. While Sunday wasn’t his greatest performance, it was still a prime LeBron display.
For the first time ever, the draft was held live, in-person just ahead of the game itself. Because the NBA thinks players' feelings would be hurt by being picked last WHEN THEY’RE ALREADY AN ALL-STAR, the reserves were selected first.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had the first pick, but surprisingly did not pick his teammate Jrue Holiday, instead taking Damian Lillard. LeBron was ready to tamper from the onset and clearly thought Jrue would be the first pick, admitted he had to adjust on the fly and did so expertly as he spent the rest of the reserves draft laying the tampering roots by taking Anthony Edwards, Jaylen Brown, Tyrese Haliburton, and Jaren Jackson Jr.
He also mixed in some familiar names, including Paul George — who promptly told reporters winning a title with Team LeBron would mean more than winning with Team Giannis (obviously I’m joking) — and former Laker Julius Randle.
LeBron picks Julius Randle in round 5. Randle said last week he wanted to play at All-Star the most with Paul George and LeBron: "I’ve never played with LeBron so it’ll be fun to do it before he gets his old ass out of here."— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) February 20, 2023
He's got his wish with both of them.
The upset of the draft, though, came in the opening pick of the starters as LeBron did not take Kyrie Irving, opting for Joel Embiid. Instead, he saved that for the second pick and was far from disappointed about it.
LeBron drafts Kyrie with his second Starters Pool pick #NBAAllStarDraft presented by Jordan Brand— NBA (@NBA) February 20, 2023
The #NBAAllStar Game is LIVE NOW on TNT pic.twitter.com/8Er47LZRXE
After trying to draft him in the reserve draft and being denied, Giannis selected Ja Morant before LeBron, who was clearly writing his own jokes on the night, made a not so sly hookah reference when selecting Luka Doncic.
HOOOOKAH DONCIC— Nick Angstadt (@NickVanExit) February 20, 2023
The highlight of the draft came in the final selection of the starters. With just Nikola Jokic and Lauri Markkanen left and LeBron ready for his last pick, the Joker made it easy for him by standing up, walking to LeBron and selecting himself.
Nikola Jokic walked over to LeBron James before he even said anything pic.twitter.com/PW449Pfvsc— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) February 20, 2023
The NBA’s solution to not having players' feelings get hurt by being the last pick resulted in the lone hometown All-Star, Markkanen, being the last person selected which feels like a really silly and preventable outcome.
LeBron, though, mixed in a masterful tampering performance with a terrific draft itself with starting lineup of himself, Luka, Kyrie, Embiid and Jokic. Now, if only regular season GM LeBron for the Lakers was as talented as All-Star GM LeBron.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.