James, last year’s overall leading vote-getter, paced the Western Conference with more than 2.28 million votes after guiding the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers to a 16-6 start. Trailing just behind James is Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, who received 2.11 million votes after missing last year’s game because of an injury. Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (1.75 million) and Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (1.58 million) rounded out the top five.
While the headliners were no surprise, there were some unexpected developments in the first ballot. Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal, who was snubbed from last year’s game, led all Eastern Conference guards with 1.27 million votes. That put him ahead of Nets stars Kyrie Irving and James Harden as well as Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young, who was voted in as a starter in 2020.
Meanwhile, Nikola Jokic has capitalized on an MVP-quality season to move into position as a starter in the West with 1.47 million votes. The Denver Nuggets’ center was selected as a reserve in his two previous appearances, and he has outpolled Los Angeles Clippers forwards Kawhi Leonard and Paul George as well as Lakers forward Anthony Davis.
The all-star starters are selected by a combination of the fan vote (50 percent), media vote (25 percent) and player vote (25 percent). Fan voting will run through Feb. 16, and the results will be announced Feb. 18. A vote of the league’s coaches will determine the reserves from both conferences.
All-star voting is up 70 percent compared with 2020, according to people with knowledge of the situation, but that rush of fan voting hasn’t produced any wonky results. Internet sensations such as Zion Williamson, LaMelo Ball and Lonzo Ball are not on track to earn starting nods from the fans, and the player and media voting portions of the process are likely to return similar results to the fan voting.
The NBA and NBPA are engaged in conversations to hold an All-Star Game in Atlanta on March 7 after scrapping All-Star Weekend in Indianapolis, which was originally scheduled for Feb. 12-14.