All-Stars confident that NBA future in good hands once LeBron James is gone

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All-Stars confident that NBA future in good hands once LeBron James is gone
LeBron James is the star of the sport
LeBron James is the star of the sport
AFP
NBA All-Stars aren't sure who will be the new face of the league once LeBron James is gone, but they are confident the NBA's future is in good hands.

Several top stars spoke Saturday on the eve of the 73rd NBA All-Star Game at Indianapolis, where 20-time All-Star selection James, the NBA all-time scoring leader, represents the Los Angeles Lakers at age 39.

James, a four-time NBA Most Valuable Player and four-time NBA champion, has been the top star in an older generation of talent that includes Golden State's Stephen Curry and Phoenix's Kevin Durant.

"It will be an amazing league regardless," said Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. "He has done amazing things for this league and for the game of basketball. You don't want to take him for granted, obviously. But when he's gone, it will still be great."

Younger stars are already having an impact on the league with two-time NBA Most Valuable Players Nikola Jokic of Denver and Giannis Antetokounmpo of Milwaukee winning titles and a host of others chasing crowns, including Dallas guard Luka Doncic, Minnesota's Anthony Edwards, Phoenix's Devin Booker, Philadelphia's Joel Embiid and Gilgeous-Alexander among them.

"There's a lot of guys to pick from in this group of 24 that are here," Curry said. "You see Luka, Ant, Shai, guys that are really coming into their prime... but have a perspective of what that means within the on-court/off-court opportunities.

"The league is in pretty good hands when it comes to young talent that I think gets it and understands the magnitude of the platform we all have and will respect it as they come into their own."

Indiana's Tyrese Haliburton expects players who lead their teams to success will spearhead the next generation.

"We got a lot of different guys that it could be," he said. "The league is in great hands. It's the most talent that has ever been in this league.

"To be the face of the league, winning has to come with that. Whatever young guy takes that charge and is winning moving forward, that's probably who it will be."

Durant says it's not so much about one face for the future of the NBA as it is a collection of talent who inspire the next generation on and off the court.

"I'm going to miss a lot of guys," Durant said. "But you see Shai, Ant, Book, Luka, (Philadelphia's) Tyrese Maxey, Tyrese Haliburton. There are so many guys inspiring the next generation of hoopers after them to become basketball players that you can't just pinpoint it to one or two guys.

"It's about pushing the game forward, setting a different standard how we play. These guys are doing it right now."

Wemby insanely dominant

Among those Durant looks forward to watching in the future NBA is 2023 NBA Draft top pick Victor Wembanyama, the 7-foot-4 (2.24m) French rookie for San Antonio.

"Man, that dude can achieve anything he wants in this game. He's only getting more comfortable as time goes on," Durant said. "It's just insane how dominant he's going to be as he gets more comfortable."

Boston's Jayson Tatum hopes to be in the talk for the next face of the NBA.

"When LeBron retires, the face of the league, that's tough, but we win a championship, I've got something to say about it, I know that," Tatum said.

"The league is in a great place right now, the amount of high-character guys, of talent throughout the NBA."

Antetokounmpo isn't writing off a 40-something star turn for Lebron, either.

"I think LeBron is going to play seven to 10 more years. There's no sign of him slowing down. It's year 21, and he's playing incredible," the Greek star said of James.

When it comes to Wembanyama, the Greek big man offered this advice: "Be 100 times better than Giannis. He doesn't need to be Giannis. He's going to be Victor."

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