LeBron on Mitchell, Gobert Going Last in All-Star Draft: That's Not Jazz Slander

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistMarch 5, 2021

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) is defended by Utah Jazz guard Joe Ingles (2) and center Rudy Gobert (27) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Aug. 3, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kim Klement/Pool Photo via AP)
Kim Klement/Associated Press

The Utah Jazz have the best record in the NBA at 27-9, but even that wasn't enough to prevent Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert from being the final two picks in Thursday's All-Star roster draft with LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

To hear LeBron say it, it had nothing to do with the talents of Mitchell and Gobert.

Rather, the Jazz brand just doesn't resonate, even in the virtual world. 

"There is no slander to the Utah Jazz," James said on TNT's Inside the NBA. "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 never picked those guys in video games. Never."

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“We never played with Utah” LeBron says he never picked the Jazz in video games 💀 @BRGaming (via @NBAonTNT) https://t.co/aLynAFuiVB

In defense of Mitchell and Gobert, it's not like they went behind random players in the draft.

LeBron and KD were choosing from a list of the best players in the NBA, and they went with options like Stephen Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, Kawhi Leonard, Damian Lillard and Chris Paul before the Jazz stars.

Every starter also had to be selected before the reserves by the rules of the draft, and the two Jazz players were reserves.

Still, it plays into the narrative that Utah is overlooked when it comes to championship contenders this season.

The battle of Los Angeles between the Lakers and Clippers figures to headline the Western Conference storylines come playoff time, while the sheer star power in the East with Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden on the Brooklyn Nets, Antetokounmpo on the Milwaukee Bucks and Embiid on the Philadelphia 76ers will make for appointment viewing.

Utah has flown as under the radar as a team with the best record in the league can this season, and it could spin Thursday's draft results as a positive heading into the second half.

After all, the Jazz may play LeBron's Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. If Mitchell and Gobert need any extra motivation, all they will have to do is remember being passed over in the All-Star draft.