The NBA's decision to hold an All-Star Game amid the COVID-19 pandemic has come under intense scrutiny, most notably from the league's top stars.
As the NBA confirmed the game and prepared to announce the All-Star starters, commissioner Adam Silver defended the decision to go forward with the game, scheduled for March 7 in Atlanta. He made his case in an appearance on "The Jump" Thursday.
"There were obviously those who thought we shouldn't play without fans, thought we shouldn't play in the bubble, thought we shouldn't be playing in a very serious way because of the social justice issues roiling this country," Silver told host Rachel Nichols. "So I certainly hear the other side of this issue here.
"And I'll lastly say it seems like no decisions during this pandemic come without uncertainty and come without risk. This is yet another one of them, and yet it's my job to balance all those interests, and ultimately, it feels like the right thing to do to go forward."
Silver: It's for the fans
After the starting lineups were announced Thursday evening, Silver cited fan engagement as motivation to hold the game while speaking with TNT.
"It begins with the fans," Silver told host Ernie Johnson. "All-Star is the No. 1 fan engagement event the of entire season for the league. It's been a 70-year tradition."
LeBron James leads player charge against All-Star Game
Not everybody agrees with Silver's sentiment. The NBA got last season's Disney World bubble right by successfully shielding players and staff from outside COVID-19 exposures. The league has seen an outbreak of exposures this season, leading to positive tests and games postponed on a regular basis.
LeBron James made his stance on the game clear earlier in February.
“I have zero energy and zero excitement about an All-Star Game this year,” James told reporters. “I don’t even understand why we’re having an All-Star Game."
Giannis Antetokounmpo echoed James' stance, while Kawhi Leonard characterized the game as a money grab at the expense of players' health.
"It is what it is," Leonard told reporters earlier in February. "We all know why we're playing it. It's money on the line. It's opportunity to make more money. Just putting money over health right now, pretty much."
All three players were announced as All-Star starters. None of them have announced their intent to skip the game.
Atlanta mayor doesn't want fans visiting city
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, meanwhile, discouraged fans on Tuesday from traveling to her city during All-Star weekend, which is annually the NBA's biggest party.
"We are in agreement that this is a made-for-TV event only, and people should not travel to Atlanta to party," Bottoms said, per NBC Atlanta's Chenue Her. "There will be no NBA-sanctioned events open to the public, and we strongly encourage promoters, clubs, bars, etc., not to host events in the city related to this game."
Instead of spreading the events of the All-Star weekend over the course of three days, the NBA plans to host the game, dunk contest and 3-point and skills competitions all on March 7.
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