Russell Westbrook (275446)
Credit: Bill Moore photo

The NBA All-Star game is no longer just the East versus West, but two team captains choosing up sides like they do on playgrounds or in some gymnasium. The difference is, these are the rich and famous ballers playing in a professional setting in a sold-out arena with a worldwide audience of 200-plus countries, 40-plus languages. And no one gets next.

This year’s nationally televised game scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 17 8 p.m. EST, will be held in Charlotte, N.C., the home court of the Charlotte Hornets, the Eastern Conference team owned by Michael Jordan.

LeBron James, now with the Los Angeles Lakers, received the most fan votes. He, along with Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, who got the second most votes, are this season’s team captains.

James’ first picks to complete his starting lineup were 6-foot-9 small forward Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors, guard Kyrie Irving of the Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors 6-foot-7 small forward Kahwi Leonard and Houston Rockets guard James Harden, who has been making news with his consecutive 30-point games. Michael Malone, head coach of the Denver Nuggets, and his staff will lead Team LeBron.

Filling out the rest of James’ bench will be Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans), Russell Westbrook, also in the news for his consecutive triple doubles, Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors), Damian Lillard (Portland Trailblazers), LaMarcus Aldridge (San Antonio Spurs), Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves) and Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards).

Some believe that James’ picks had ulterior motives, but he disagrees with the contentions.

“I picked according to my draft board, and I picked according to who was the best available,” said James. “It just so happened that I had KD [Durant] who’s a pending free agent, and Kyrie, who’s a pending free agent.” Leonard is also a free agent.

Forward Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade were named by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver as special team roster additions. Wade, 37, with Team LeBron, is retiring at the end of the season after 16 seasons. There’s strong speculation that Nowitzki, 40, with Team Giannis, will also.

Also scheduled this weekend is the NBA’s Hall of Fame announcement, the celebrity game and their Rising Stars game for their talented rookie and second year players. Jarrett Allen and Rodham Kurocs from the Brooklyn Nets are on the Rising Stars squad.

Individual practices by both Team LeBron and Team Giannis are on the schedule for Saturday along with Silver’s media address. Saturday, it’s All-Star Saturday Night, which features the Skills Challenge, the Three-Point Shooting Contest and the Slam Dunk contest.

In addition to Kurocs and Allen, Nets guard D’Angelo Russell is on the Team LeBron roster as a reserve and New York Knicks guard Dennis Smith Jr. will participate in the Slam Dunk Contest.