International flavour to NBA All-Star Weekend
Greece international Giannis Antetokounmpo will be the star attraction for the international class in the NBA when All-Star Weekend concludes in the early hours of Monday morning.
Antetokounmpo will be in the starting five for the Eastern Conference alongside NBA Finals MVP LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, DeMar DeRozan and Jimmy Butler.
It will be the 22-year-old’s first appearance and he will be the first Greek player to suit up for the NBA All-Star Game, something quite remarkable considering the country’s long, illustrious list of players both past and present.
But Antetokounmpo isn’t the only international player involved in the weekend’s main event. Memphis Grizzlies’ resident Spaniard Marc Gasol will also compete as a reserve for the Western Conference.
This will be Gasol’s third All-Star appearance.
Who else though is involved in the weekend’s activities?
There will be a strong international flavour to the Rising Stars Game as Oklahoma City Thunder’s Alex Abrines and New York Knicks’ Willy Hernangomez, both of Spain step in as injury replacements to Joel Embiid and Emmanuel Mudiay for the World Team.
The Spaniards will be alongside Latvia’s Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks) and Serbia’s Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets) with Croatian Dario Saric and Lithuanian Domantas Sabonis also competing.
Jokic will also be in the All-Star Skills Challenge where he will be competing with Porzingis in New Orleans.
The Skills Challenge is a three-round, obstacle-course competition that tests dribbling, passing, agility and three-point-shooting skills.
Four frontcourt players will join four guards in the eight-player field – the second time in the event’s 15-year history that multiple frontcourt players will compete. A head-to-head, bracket-style tournament format will be used for the second year in a row.
The NBA All-Star Weekend commences from February 17-19 in New Orleans.