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The Last Picks For NBA All-Star Game, Utah Jazz Players May See Finger Jams After All

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Many of us have felt the sting of being picked last at recess. Well, fans of the Utah Jazz are feeling something like that today twice over.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The NBA's 25 best players tip off in the league's annual All-Star game this weekend. And last night, as team captains LeBron James and Kevin Durant took turns drafting players for their squads, the two All-Stars from the Utah Jazz, Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, were picked last. Here's how LeBron defended his choice.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LEBRON JAMES: But you guys got to understand. You guys got to understand. Just like in video games, growing up, we never played with Utah. Even as great as Karl Malone and John Stockton was, we would have never picked those guys in a video game - never.

SHAPIRO: And the indignity did not stop there, with fans of other teams piling on online.

KELLY: Now, Jazz fans are used to their team being treated like the NBA's vanilla ice cream. But it's a bit jarring this season since they do have the best record in the league. So we turn to Eric Walden, Jazz beat writer, to explain.

ERIC WALDEN: Utah's just got this kind of perception as being boring. It's not urban, you know. And the demographics are, in fact, extremely white. So, you know, it doesn't resonate with people who come from different backgrounds.

SHAPIRO: And for another thing, he says the most famous Jazz players aren't flashy types like LeBron or Steph Curry. Even in their heyday in the '90s, their Hall of Fame duo, John Stockton and Karl Malone, were kind of boring.

WALDEN: Neither of them was particularly athletic. They kind of just did, you know, the same things over and over and over. And they were just extremely good at it. And there's not, like, a whole lot of excitement there nationally.

KELLY: Walden says there might be another reason Jazz star Rudy Gobert was picked last. It is hard to forget that just one year ago, he was the first NBA player to test positive for COVID-19. The league suspended its season right then.

WALDEN: I've had a whole lot of Twitter interaction lately from people around the country who were just like, yeah, well, you know, that's the guy who shut down the NBA season, you know? And they failed to grasp that if it wasn't him, it was going to be someone else two days later.

SHAPIRO: Now Utah jazz fans are responding online saying that while LeBron may not play as the Jazz in video games, they sure do. And anyway, their team has two All-Stars, some others have none. And no matter how low things get, at least they're not the Knicks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.