Lebron James (290102)
Credit: Bill Moore photos

The NBA’s 69th annual All-Star Game will be held at the United Center in Chicago this weekend. The game dates back to 1951 when it was staged at the Boston Garden as the East All- Stars defeated the West contingent 111-94. The Celtics’ Ed Macauley was named MVP.

It was a relatively modest affair 69 years ago. The NBA consisted of only 10 teams. Today, the league boasts 30 franchises and the game is broadcast in roughly 220 countries. It has grown into one of the most popular and well attended events by celebrities and public figures on the United States’ social calendar.

The weekend features the All-Star Celebrity Game which will be played tomorrow night, Friday, Feb. 14, the NBA Rising Stars game comprising rookie and second-year players, also taking place tomorrow night, and All-Star Saturday Night, highlighted by the slam dunk and 3-point shooting contests.

Beginning in 2018, the NBA changed the format of the All-Star Game from having players from the Eastern Conference face their Western Conference brethren to teams named after the two players from each conference who receive the most fan votes. The first year saw Team LeBron (James) taking on Team Stephen (Curry) as captains and top vote recipients James and Curry drafted from a pool of players selected as All-Stars.

This year’s All-Star Game will match Team Giannis versus Team LeBron. The squads are headed by the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Los Angeles Lakers’ James. Among the players drafted by Antetokounmpo are Bronx native and Celtics point guard Kemba Walker, the Miami Heat’s Jimmy Butler and the Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid.

Team LeBron will showcase his Lakers teammate Anthony Davis, the Dallas Mavericks’ sensational shooting guard Luka Doncic and the Los Angeles Clippers’ superlative forward Kawhi Leonard. The weekend’s most gripping and emotional storyline will be tributes and anecdotes honoring the late Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash late last month along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant and seven others.