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LeBron James makes NBA All-Star team for record 20th time, Kevin Durant for 14th time

LOS ANGELES: LeBron James joined yet another exclusive club, and he’ll have plenty of familiar faces alongside him at the NBA All-Star Game.

James is an All-Star — and an All-Star starter — for the 20th time, with the league unveiling the results of this season’s starter balloting on Thursday night.

James is the first 20-time All-Star in NBA history. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, whose career scoring record was broken by James last season, was a 19-time selection.

The game is Feb. 18 in Indianapolis.

Joining James in the Western Conference starting lineup: Phoenix’s Kevin Durant, Denver’s Nikola Jokic, Dallas’ Luka Doncic and Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the league’s leader in 30-point games this season who edged perennial All-Star starter Stephen Curry of Golden State for the final West backcourt spot. Durant is a 14-time selection, one of only 11 players in NBA history to be picked that many times.

In the Eastern Conference, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo will be joined by Boston’s Jayson Tatum and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid — the reigning NBA MVP, two-time defending scoring champion and current NBA scoring leader — in the frontcourt. Tatum set an All-Star Game record last season, scoring 55 points in Salt Lake City on the way to MVP honors.

The East guards are Indiana’s Tyrese Haliburton — who’ll be a starter on his home floor — and Milwaukee’s Damian Lillard.

“You never want to take it for granted, right?” Tatum told TNT, which broadcast the unveiling of the starters before Boston’s game in Miami. “There’s 450 guys in the league and for the fans to consistently vote me, it’s truly an honor. It’s something I don’t take for granted. I grew up wanting to be in All-Star weekend every year and to live out that dream in real time is pretty cool.”

Among the notables not picked as starters: Curry, Boston’s Jaylen Brown, New York’s Jalen Brunson, Atlanta’s Trae Young, Cleveland’s Donovan Mitchell, Miami’s Bam Adebayo, the Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis, Orlando’s Paolo Banchero, Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox, Phoenix’s Devin Booker, the Los Angeles Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard, Philadelphia’s Tyrese Maxey and Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards.

“This means the world to me,” Haliburton said. “Shout out to all the fans, my peers, and the media for the love that I’ve received, and I’m excited to represent the organization, especially with the event here in Indiana this year. I can’t wait to share this weekend with everyone who played a part in helping me achieve this honor.”

Curry — who is likely to be picked as an All-Star reserve — evidently has plans for at least one event in Indianapolis over All-Star weekend. He was wired with a microphone for Golden State’s game Thursday night against Sacramento and had a discussion with Warriors teammate Brandin Podziemski about Sabrina Ionescu, who scored 37 points in the WNBA’s 3-point contest last summer. That topped Curry’s NBA 3-point contest best of 31.

“I think I’ve got to challenge her,” Curry said.

Ionescu responded on social media: “Let’s getttttt it!! See ya at the 3 pt line.” Ionescu posed for a photo imitating Curry’s famous lights-out pose while holding her trophy at the WNBA All-Star event and challenged him to a “shoot out.”

The All-Star starters are selected through a formula where fan voting counts for 50 percent, voting by players themselves counts for 25 percent and voting by a panel of writers and broadcasters who cover the NBA counts for the other 25 percent. Antetokounmpo was the top overall vote-getter, collecting about 5.4 million from fans.

“Thanks to the fans, media and most importantly my peers for voting me into my 14th all star game,” Durant wrote on social media. “Can’t wait to lock in and hoop with some of the greatest ever in Indy.”

The reserves, to be announced on Feb. 1, are chosen in a vote of the league’s head coaches. Any additions to the rosters, should a player be unable to participate because of injury or another reason, will be made by Commissioner Adam Silver.

There are very few players in the US major pro sports to be selected as an All-Star, or its equivalent, in 20 different seasons. James is the first to have that distinction in the NBA. He joins hockey’s Gordie Howe and a trio of baseball players — Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Stan Musial.

Howe was a 23-time pick for the NHL All-Star Game. Aaron was a Major League Baseball All-Star in 21 seasons, while Mays and Musial were chosen in 20 seasons each. Mickey Mantle played in 20 All-Star games over 16 seasons as a selection; some baseball seasons featured two All-Star contests.

This year’s All-Star Game goes back to the traditional East-vs.-West format, which was utilized in the first 66 NBA midseason classics. The most recent six saw the leading vote-getters from each conference serve as captains who got to draft their teams; James served as one of the captains all six times, with Antetokounmpo the other captain three times, Durant twice and Curry once.

But that format is gone, as is the “target score” format that featured an untimed fourth quarter in the last four All-Star Games. League officials said entering the season that they have been stressing to players the importance of improving the quality of the All-Star Game after last year’s game drew the worst television numbers since such metrics were charted.