LeBron James just can’t stop himself from stirring the pot. After completing the All-Star draft with fellow team captain Giannis Antetokounmpo on Thursday night, the Los Angeles Lakers superstar proposed a trade: Ben Simmons for Russell Westbrook, one of the Milwaukee Bucks’ franchise players readily accepted.
On the surface, there isn’t much more to this story. But NBA diehards know full well how frequently Westbrook and Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid have butted heads over the years, and the trade James brought to the table ensured the two will be on the same team come February 17th. Drama!
Asked on Saturday why he felt the need to execute the trade, James beat around the bush.
“I know how great friends Russ and Embiid is,” he said, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.
Friction between Westbrook and Embiid dates back to the latter’s rookie season. It nearly reached a tipping point in the Thunder’s thrilling win over the Sixers last month, when a sprinting Embiid crashed into Westbrook while attempting to contest a fast-break layup. Though the speed of the play and Westbrook bobbling the ball made Embiid’s foul look worse than it was, the Oklahoma City superstar confronted Embiid after getting to his feet nonetheless, having to be held back by teammates.
Of course, it’s highly unlikely any animosity shared between the pair will carry over to the All-Star Game. The last thing those involved want to do is take the game too seriously, at least until its last few minutes. Remember when Dwyane Wade accidentally broke Kobe Bryant’s nose with an elbow back in 2012? Even if James hadn’t requested the trade that put Westbrook and Embiid on the same team, it’s safe to say no blood – physical or metaphorical – would have been spilled between them.