NBA All-Star Game: Return to traditional format, no draft, Elam Ending eliminated

The era of LeBron James, Steph Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo or Kevin Durant picking teams playground-style is over

Travelers using Indianapolis International Airport make their way across a replica of the court that will be use for the NBA All-Star game Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024. Authorities have created a full-size replica basketball court with two baskets, one equipped with a short clock, to promote Indy's first All-Star Game since 1984. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Authorities have created a full-size replica basketball court with two baskets at the Indianapolis International Airport to promote the NBA All-Star Game. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

The NBA All-Star Game is getting back to its roots.

The game — being played in Indianapolis for the first time since 1985 — will feature the Eastern Conference against the Western Conference, ending the All-Star Draft that’s been in place for the past six seasons. The game will also be scored like a regular-season contest instead of playing an untimed fourth quarter that ends after a team hits the "final target score" — known as an Elam Ending.

Teams will still feature 12 players from each conference, and team captains are determined through fan voting among the five starters on each team.

LeBron James is the captain of the Western Conference squad, and will be joined in the starting lineup by Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Dončić, Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokić and Phoenix Suns forward Kevin Durant.

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton and Milwaukee Bucks teammates Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard will start for the East. The league announced the reserves — highlighted by Stephen Curry and Anthony Davis — on Thursday, Feb. 1.

On Tuesday, Feb. 6, commissioner Adam Silver announced that Trae Young and Scottie Barnes will replace Embiid and fellow injured post Julius Randle on the East squad, which will be coached by Doc Rivers.

The league announced players for the Rising Stars game, too. Tamika Catchings, Jalen Rose, Pau Gasol and Detlef Schremph will coach the game. There will be 11 rookies in the game, including Spurs star Victor Wembanyama, Trail Blazers guard Scoot Henderson and Hornets forward Brandon Miller, and 10 sophomores, including Kings forward Keegan Murray and Magic star Paolo Banchero. There will be seven G League players, including Mac McClung and Oscar Tshiebwe, who compete in the game, too.

While the revert is a good idea in practice, the league had the same intentions when it moved to the draft format in 2018. The All-Star Game rarely features a competitive matchup, as players instead barely play defense or try too hard in the game that, in reality, doesn’t mean anything. The draft aspect — which had LeBron James picking his team against either Stephen Curry, Durant or Antetokounmpo — was fun and different, but it didn’t help much either.

As that was an issue both before and after the switch, it’s unlikely that this latest change will do anything to combat the competitive issue during what is sure to be a party-filled weekend at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis in February. There are still no stakes involved.

But hey, the traditional All-Star Game is back.