With the fifth overall pick of Thursday’s NBA All-Star Draft Show, LeBron James chose Dallas Mavericks point guard Luka Doncic.
Prior to selecting Doncic, James drafted Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and Golden State’s Stephen Curry, and Kevin Durant chose Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid.
James had the No. 1 overall pick because he led all players in the fan voting for Sunday’s All-Star game, and he chose Antetokounmpo. Durant then selected his Brooklyn Nets teammate – Irving.
Then came a moment of truth for the draft, which was televised live on TNT.
Right after James selected Curry, TNT studio analyst Charles Barkley said: “I actually thought he was going to take Luka.”
From there, Durant chose Embiid. Then came James with his third overall pick, and he said: “With my third pick I’m going to go with Luka Magic from the Dallas Mavericks.”
Studio host Dwyane Wade then chimed in and said: “You still got him, ‘Bron. You may not got him on Team LeBron, but you got him on Team LeBron.”
That drew laughter and was a direct reference to James wanting to launch a Team LeBron brand under Nike with Doncic as his first signee. However, Doncic signed a five-year deal with Jordan brand in 2019.
When he was on the Road Trippin’ podcast last year, James said: “When Luka was going through his contract negotiations with Nike, I wanted to begin Team LeBron, and have Luka as my first signee. This is what I wanted, and I don’t believe that my guys at Nike were ready for that.
“I don’t even know if Luka knows this, but he knows now. I wanted Luka to be the first signee of Team LeBron, and it didn’t happen. He’s still under the same umbrella of Nike, but I wanted him to be Team LeBron. That’s how much I believed in him. I feel like it’s going to haunt me a little bit, but I wanted him to be my guy.”
The rest of the players on Team LeBron include Nikola Jokic (Denver), Damian Lillard (Portland), Ben Simmons (Philadelphia), Chris Paul (Phoenix), Jaylen Brown (Boston), Paul George (Los Angeles Clippers), Domantas Sabonis (Indiana) and Rudy Gobert (Utah).
The remaining players on Team Durant are Kawhi Leonard (Clippers), Jayson Tatum (Boston), Bradley Beal (Washington), James Harden (Brooklyn), Devin Booker (Phoenix), Zion Williamson (New Orleans), Zach Levine (Chicago), Plano’s Julius Randle (New York), Nikola Vucevic (Orlando) and Donovan Mitchell (Utah).
This is the second year in a row that Doncic will start in the All-Star game for Team LeBron. Last year James also drafted Doncic third overall — behind Anthony Davis and Leonard — and after Antetokounmpo selected Embiid and Pascal Siakam.
After helping the Mavs to an 18-16 record and wins in nine of their last 11 games, Doncic enters the All-Star game with averages of 28.6 points, 8.4 rebounds and nine assists. The third-year veteran will also participate in Sunday’s Skills Challenge.