NBA All-Star: Los Angeles Hometown Heroes

Six NBA All-Stars with L.A. ties
Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love at UCLA in March 2008 | Photo @UCLAMBB

Los Angeles and the NBA All-Star Game have a deep history. Laker greats like Jerry West, Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant dominated the lineups for decades, while the insurgent Clippers recently started getting recognition. When this year’s game lands in town, it will be L.A.’s sixth go’round hosting the showdown, more than any other city in the league.

When the lineups were announced for the 2018 edition — taking place on Feb. 18 at STAPLES Center — not one player from either local team made the cut. But L.A. will still have a presence during NBA All-Star: Lakers forward Larry Nance, Jr. will participate in this year’s Slam Dunk Contest, Clippers sixth man extraordinaire Lou Williams will participate in the Skills Challenge, and newly-acquired Clippers forward Tobias Harris will fire away in the Three-Point Contest. A trio of Lakers will play for the U.S. in the Rising Stars game: Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma.

Just because we won’t see our pro teams represented in the big game doesn’t mean that Los Angeles doesn’t boast its share of All-Stars in this year’s matchup. Six of the biggest names in this year’s contest are local natives. These ballers perfected their game — and fame — on City of Angels hardwood. So celebrate your Locals Only starting lineup — along with a bonus Sixth Man — complete with neighborhood angles. Visit the gyms and playgrounds where they hooped it up as youngsters, catch a tip-off at one of their alma maters, and hit a couple of cool local haunts. And don’t forget to bump this cool playlist of favorite NBA jams. Some of these songs are even about them!

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Russell Westbrook slam dunk at UCLA Pauley Pavilion | Instagram by @uclambb

The MVP: Russell Westbrook

Leuzinger High (Lawndale) Class of ’06, School Mascot: The Olympians. UCLA 2006-2008.
Reigning league MVP and walking triple-double, Russell Westbrook started out an undersized guard for Leuzinger, truly coming into form his senior year, racking up 14 double-doubles for the Olympians (The school opened during the 1932 L.A. Olympics, hence the mascot nomenclature). He would eventually become an ACTUAL Olympian, winning gold in 2012.

  • Hoop it up: Jim Thorpe Park, 14100 Prairie Ave, Hawthorne (310) 349-1640
  • Watch the game locally: The Brooklyn Bar, 6618 Hawthorne Blvd, Lawndale (310) 370-0022
  • Song: Kendrick Lamar - “The Heart Part 4.” Lyric: “Tables turned, lessons learned, my best look. You jumped sides on me, now you ’bout to meet Westbrook.”
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James Harden lays it up against the Cavs | Instagram by @jharden13

The Beard: James Harden

Artesia High (Lakewood), School Mascot: The Pioneers, Class of ’07.
Long before he was feared as “The Beard” or dated Kardashians, James Harden torched fools as an Artesia Pioneer, leading the school to not one but TWO state titles (2005, 2007).

  • Hoop it up: Don Knabe Community Regional Park, 19700 S. Bloomfield Ave, Cerritos (562) 924-5144
  • Watch the game locally: The Brooklyn Bar, 6618 Hawthorne Blvd, Lawndale (310) 370-0022
  • Song: Kanye West - “Facts” Lyric: “Now we hottest in the streets, it ain't no discussion/James Harden, Swaggy P runnin' up the budget.”
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DeMar DeRozan about to dunk in the 2017 NBA All-Star Game | Instagram by @uschoops

The Next Superstar: DeMar DeRozan

Compton High Class of ’08, School Mascot: The Tarbabes. USC 2008-2009.
Straight outta Compton High, which gave us rap stars like Eazy-E, Tyler the Creator, and The Game, DeMar DeRozan is commanding the spotlight with a career season. His dazzling play has made him a SportsCenter staple as he guides his Raptors towards a top playoff berth. (We need to talk about that high school mascot, though.)

  • Hoop it up: in nearby Torrance.
  • Watch the game: Froggy’s Bar and Grill, 13825 S Normandie Ave., Gardena (424) 329-3139
  • Song: KYLE and Lil Yachty - “iSpy.” Lyric: “I'm just like DeRozan, if I shoot it, it goes in.”
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Paul George drives against the Lakers at STAPLES Center | Instagram by @okcthunder

The Favorite Son: Paul George

Knight High School (Palmdale) Class of ’08, School Mascot: The Hawks.
Growing up in nearby Palmdale, Paul George grew up rooting for our local pros. Laker fans have spent the past few months hoping and praying that George’s year-long contract with the Thunder is just a pitstop on the way to a long-term deal in purple and gold. Listen for them roaring his every basket as they try to woo him.

  • Hoop it up: Marie Kerr Park, 39700 30th St W, Palmdale (661) 267-5675
  • Grab a bite: Boom Boom Chicken, 827 W Palmdale Blvd, Palmdale (661) 273-1100
  • Favorite warm-up song: Eminem - “Lose Yourself.”
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Klay Thompson shows his All-Star form | Instagram @warriors

The Champion: Klay Thompson

Santa Margarita Catholic High (Rancho Santa Margarita) Class of ’08, School Mascot: The Eagles.
The son of two-time Laker champion Mychal Thompson, Klay Thompson’s smooth game belies his first name. Not much he hasn’t done in his brief career, including two chips of his own with the Warriors, an Olympic gold medal, and one of the coolest duo monikers ever glossed as half of “The Splash Brothers” with his backcourt mate Steph Curry.

  • Hoop it up: Lake Forest Sports Park & Recreation Center,  28000 Rancho Pkwy, Lake Forest (949) 273-6960
  • Watch the game locally: The Rush Bar and Grill, 23532 El Toro Rd, Lake Forest (949) 916-0200
  • Song: E-40 “Choices (Golden State Warriors Remix)” Lyric: “Splash Brothers? (Yup) / Ain’t no stoppin’ (Nope) / Klay Thompson? (Yup) / Under pressure, is he chokin’? (Nope).”

The Sixth Man: Kevin Love

UCLA 2007-2008.
An NBA champion in his own right with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Kevin Love was born in Santa Monica and blew up on the national scene at UCLA, where he and Westbrook led their team to the Final Four in 2008 (they lost to Derrick Rose and Memphis). Sharp music fans also know that he is the nephew of Beach Boys’ Mike Love, so no matter what uniform he wears, the dude is legit California royalty.

  • Hoop it up: Basketball courts at Venice Beach Recreation Center, 1800 Ocean Front Walk, Venice (310) 396-6794
  • Watch the game locally: Hinano Cafe, 15 Washington Blvd, Venice (310) 822-3902
  • Song: The Beach Boys - “I Get Around.” Lyric: “My buddies and me are getting real well known / Yeah, the bad guys know us and they leave us alone.”