The 2023 NBA All-Star Draft was in-person, just prior to tipoff of the game on the stage in Utah, and it created for some funny moments as the players sat there on the stage waiting for LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo to call their names.
In an effort to not have someone sitting there all alone, the league had reserves get picked first and starters get picked second, but it still created a situation where someone was going to go last in the draft. As the picks wound down to the final two, it was Nikola Jokic and Lauri Markkanen left as LeBron made his fourth starters pick, and even though he had already taken Joel Embiid first, he ended up with his second center of the draft because the reigning two-time MVP walked himself over to Team LeBron before James even started to speak, refusing to end up as the last pick.
I can’t tell if LeBron was planning on taking Jokic or playing to the hometown crowd with Markkanen, because Giannis was clearly daring him to leave the man gunning for a third-straight MVP to him after Embiid went first. Instead, Jokic made the decision for him, as he wasn’t about to let himself become the final draft pick. In fairness, he shouldn’t be, and the result was a very funny interaction with LeBron, as Giannis then got the Utah crowd involved by excitedly welcoming Markkanen to his squad.