NBA: LeBron James picks archrival Kevin Durant first for All-Star Game

Superstar LeBron James has chosen archrival Kevin Durant with the first pick in the 2019 NBA All-Star - then revealed he snapped up the same player 12 months ago for last year's showpiece too.

The annual basketball spectacular has undergone a transformation in recent years, with public voting on team captains, who then pick their teams playground-style from a pool of the league's top players.

Last year, the selection process was kept private, with teams announced afterwards, but this year, James went up against Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (otherwise known as the 'Greek Freak') in a televised draft.

With the first pick, James took Durant, whom he has traded barbs and elbows with throughout their careers, including the last two NBA Finals series between Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors.  

Earlier this season, Durant alluded to a "toxic" environment for James' teammates, a comment most interpreted as a criticism of his rival's controlling nature.

But 'King' James obviously bears no grudges, admitting he also chose Durant first in last year's All-Star draft behind closed doors.

James also took former Cavaliers teammate Kyrie Irving with his second 2019 pick, reuniting with another player he's enjoyed a rocky relationship with, since Irving demanded a trade away from Cleveland.

He rounded out his starting five with Toronto Raptors forward Kahwi Leonard and Houston Rocket guard James Harden.

Antetokounmpo selected Golden State guard Stephen Curry, Philadelphia centre Joel Embiid, Oklahoma guard Paul George and Charlotte guard Kemba Walker as his starters.

But certain trends quickly began to emerge in the selections - James' picks were all players who will be on the free agency market this year.

His Los Angeles Lakers are intent on signing New Orleans centre Anthony Davis, who happened to be James' first selection among the reserves.

"Isn't that tampering?" asked Antetokounmpo, referring to teams' inability to actively recruit players until they come off contract.

"Tampering rules don't apply during All-Star weekend," retorted James.

Meanwhile, all the international players eligible for the All-Star Game ended up on Antetokounmpo's team - Cameroonian Embiid, Serb Nikola Jokic, Aussie Ben Simmons, Montenegrin Nikola Vucevic and German legend Dirk Nowitzki.

But James disrupted that trend, when he proposed a trade - Russell Westbrook for Simmons - which Antetokounmpo accepted. James and Simmons are known as great mates, and share the same agent.

James also took retiring former Miami/Cleveland teammate Dwyane Wade with his 'legend' pick, while Washington guard Bradley Beal was the unlucky last player selected. 

Full line-ups for next week's All-Star Game in Charlotte are:

Team LeBron: James, Durant, Irving, Leonard, Harden, Davis, Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors), Damian Lillard (Portland Trailblazers), Simmons, LaMarcus Aldridge (San Antonio Spurs), Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves), Beal, Wade

Team Giannis: Antetokounmpo, Curry, Embiid, George, Walker, Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks), Jokic, Westbrook, Blake Griffin (Detroit Pistons), DeAngelo Russell (Brooklyn Nets), Vucevic, Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors), Nowitzki


Join us on February 18 for live updates of the NBA All-Star Game, Team LeBron vs Team Giannis