2018 NBA All-Star Game: Team LeBron vs. Team Stephen

Los Angeles stakes claim as mecca of basketball

NBA.com Staff

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Is Los Angeles the new capitol of the basketball world? Well, this weekend it is. But what about the rest of the year?

To hear the locals explain, they’ve overtaken New York long ago and are now running unopposed for that honor. They point to the Lakers and Clippers (compared to the Knicks and Nets), the mushrooming number of players who fill college rosters and trickle into the NBA, and the overall popularity of the game in Southern California.

Michael Lee of Yahoo did a piece on the state of basketball in L.A. and came away with these impressions.

In the past decade, MVPs mostly grew up in the Philadelphia metro area (Kobe Bryant); Akron, Ohio, (LeBron James); Chicago (Derrick Rose); the Washington metro area (Kevin Durant); Charlotte, North Carolina, (Stephen Curry); and Los Angeles (Russell Westbrook). James and Curry have collected multiple trophies, but Los Angeles has a chance to go back-to-back with different players for the first time.

Westbrook became the first Los Angeles native to win MVP last season and Harden — who played with Westbrook at the same Challengers Boys & Girls Club in South Central — is the frontrunner to be the second after finishing as the runner-up in two of the previous three seasons.

And, the host city for this season’s All-Star Game boasts a league-best five players in Westbrook, Harden, DeMar DeRozan, Paul George and Klay Thompson (who spent part of his childhood in Portland but played high school basketball in Orange County, California). Kawhi Leonard, who has missed most of this season with a mysterious leg ailment, wasn’t selected but gave the area six All-Stars in each of the previous two seasons.

“I was always rated as one of the top five to come out of L.A.,” Marques Johnson, a retired five-time all-star who played high school basketball at Crenshaw and collegiately at UCLA, told Yahoo Sports.

“I’m talking myself, Sidney Wicks, Gail Goodrich, Raymond Lewis and Jumpin’ Joe Caldwell. Those were the guys in the ’60s and ’70s. We held it down for a long time. But now, I’ve been bumped out. Nothing wrong with being top 10. Guys like Russell Westbrook and Harden and DeRozan, Paul George. It’s been some tremendous talent. Most of them, I’ve watched play since they were 14, 15 years old, 16 years old. To see them develop into the creme de la creme of NBA basketball has been a real special treat for me, and I’m really proud of the legacy they have established for players from Los Angeles.

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