NBA to hold 2021 All-Star Game despite players' concerns during coronavirus pandemic

The NBA will hold the 2021 All-Star Game in Atlanta on March 7 despite a number of top players expressing concerns about staging an exhibition game amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The NBA will arrange private travel for All-Star Game participants and, together with the National Basketball Players Association, will commit more than $2.5m (£1.8m) toward Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and COVID-19 relief efforts.

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“NBA All-Star in Atlanta will continue our annual tradition of celebrating the game and the greatest players in the world before a global audience,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a news release.

“In addition to the festivities on the court, the All-Star Game will honor the vital role HBCUs play in our communities and focus attention and resources on COVID-19 relief, particularly for the most vulnerable.”

LeBron James, the league’s most high-profile player, has been among those who voiced displeasure about staging an All-Star Game amid a pandemic and during an already compressed regular-season schedule.

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“I have zero energy and zero excitement about an All-Star Game this year,” four-times NBA champion James said two weeks ago when talks surrounding a potential exhibition were ongoing. “I don’t even understand why we’re having an All-Star Game.”

Among the health and safety protocols that will be in place for the All-Star festivities is the creation of a “mini bubble” environment within a single hotel for players and coaches, and enhanced COVID-19 testing.

All participating players will be required to remain at the designated hotel except for All-Star activities while there will be no fan activities or ticketed events.

Rather than schedule several events over the course of a weekend, the NBA said it will hold the All-Star Game, three-point contest, skills competition and slam dunk contest on the same day.

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