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LOS ANGELES — Kyrie Irving does it for the culture.
Irving, who was named an All-Star starter for the fifth time in seven years on Thursday, said the All-Star Game’s cultural significance is the biggest honor for the designation. The Nets star shooting guard is averaging 27.7 points on 53% shooting from the field, 43% shooting from three, and 89.9% shooting from the foul line, earning yet another nod among the cream of the league’s crop.
“Like I said in the beginning of the season, I know how much I care about being validated culturally, just my culture in terms of the hooping culture,” he said. “That’s where I came from. The NBA culture in terms of the fanatic and all the awards and accolades. They mean a lot too, but I do it for the love; so anytime I get a chance to do it on a bigger stage in front of millions of people, I’m gonna take full advantage of that. All glory to God for the talent that he’s given me.”
Nets star Kevin Durant was named the Eastern Conference All-Star captain, and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, Washington’s Bradley Beal and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid were also named All-Stars. Out West, LeBron James hauled in more fan votes than anyone else in the league, while Portland’s Damian Lillard, Golden State’s Stephen Curry, Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, and Denver’s Nikola Jokic will also represent in Atlanta on March 7.
Irving may not have looked the part of an All-Star starter in Brooklyn’s 109-98 win over the Lakers on Thursday, but he at least played the part in pregame warmups.
After completing his pregame ritual — a brief moment between Irving, the court, and the ancestors he pays homage to — the Nets guard went through a variety of ball-handling drills before jumping onto the layup line. On his first run, he threw himself an alley-oop off the backboard, caught it with one hand, cocked it back and punched it in. On the next, he elevated for a two-handed tomahawk.
Irving only finished with 16 points on 17 shots and he turned the ball over five times to his five assists. By all accounts, it wasn’t an effective-enough performance from the team’s aggressive scorer. But it was also an outlier, a rare down game for Irving, who is averaging 28 points per game on career-best efficiency.
That efficiency coupled with his electricity are why Irving is an All-Star, a starter for the fifth time in seven years, including once with three different teams.
“I’m really grateful that I have the support not only from the community that I come from but communities all over to be able to vote,” he said. “We just want to always put on a great performance after we take the hours to go home and work on our craft, and then we get selected [from] the best of the best in the world. So that honor doesn’t just go over my head.”