This year marked a change for the NBA’s All-Star Game format as the top two vote-getters, Stephen Curry and LeBron James, were named captains and got to draft their own team from a pool of other All-Stars. Had this format been around earlier, Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant would’ve been captain for a number of years.
This would have brought about some interesting combination possibilities, especially after the Lakers traded Shaquille O’Neal to the Miami Heat in 2004. Much like there were questions on whether James would pick Kyrie Irving this year, the same questions would’ve persisted about Kobe and Shaq then.
Luckily, fans now have the answer. Kobe was interviewed by ESPN’s Jemele Hill and revealed that while he would take Shaq if he had the opportunity later, LeBron would be his first pick:
“No. I’ll take LeBron James. Are you kidding me? If I had the opportunity, yeah, I would’ve (drafted Shaq at all). But, like, LB, man.”
The five-time champion also showed his classic Kobe side, revealing that he would have used the format change as a reason for trash talk:
“From a competitive standpoint, if I was still playing, I’d be really quick to talk trash about how the East just finally said, ‘You know what, we will never beat the West, so we’ve got to do something different because the West was just kicking butt every single year.’ That’s kind of what I would say. As I sit here now, I think it turned out to be fine. It’s like the greatest pickup game in the world. You’ve got two captains. Pick your squad, I’ll pick my squad. Now let’s see.”
The choice between LeBron and Shaq would have been a tough one for Kobe. While Shaq wasn’t his prime self anymore, he was still and MVP candidate, while LeBron was already on the road to becoming one of the best players ever.
Looking back at the talent in that year’s All-Star Game, this format would have led to some amazing teams. With players such as Allen Iverson, Grant Hill, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, Kevin Garnett, and Dirk Nowitzki, the possibilities would have been amazing.
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