CLEVELAND (WJW) — For Akron’s own LeBron James, the 2022 NBA All-Star Weekend can only be described as a homecoming.
“To be here for an All-Star Weekend with my family and friends just enjoying these last few days has been a pleasure,” James said Saturday morning during a press event held at the Wolstein Center. “My high school best friends and the guys that I played with throughout my whole life are out there right now with their families, so just paying it forward to the next generation.”
And as the leader of Team LeBron, the 37-year-old is watching out for the next generation of Cleveland Cavaliers players in Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen, both of whom weren’t even born the last time the city hosted the event in 1997.
The former Cavs player recalled wanting to go up the the event when it was in town back when he was 12, and said he was glad to be here now.
“Cleveland is very deserving of this platform and this moment,” the current Los Angeles Lakers player said. “They got two All-Stars of their own in the game in D.G. [Darius Garland] and the big fella, Jarrett Allen. And they got another guy in the All-Star, and that’s me. It’s great, man.”
Allen, who only found out he was replacing James Harden in the game a mere handful of days ago, told reporters the whole thing hasn’t sunk in yet.
“It’s still a lot to take in,” Allen said. “I don’t think I’ve fully grasped the moment that I’m in. I’m part of the top 24 players in the NBA at this All-Star Weekend, so I’m just excited, I’m ready to take it all in and just enjoy every moment.”
Allen and Garland are also taking on the Skills Challenge Saturday evening and are quite confident they’re going to come out victorious.
“I already today told J.A. [Jarrett Allen] that we’re going for the win,” Garland said. “I’m going out hard. I’m about to get stretched and everything. I’m going to get warmed up. I’m going for it.”
For Garland, playing with Allen is “super special” and just as thrilling as seeing downtown Cleveland lit up with anticipation for the national event.
“It’s been great. I mean, I’ve never seen Cleveland like this, so it’s super cool just to see everybody out,” Garland said. “All the fans being interactive. Everybody is smiling and happy even though it’s snowing outside, so it’s cool to see that. It’s cool just being around here. I mean, even having the All-Star in your hometown, we’re blessed.”