NBA All-Star Game, skill events will be March 7 in Atlanta
- Additional COVID-19 safety protocols have been estabilished for the event
- Skill events like the Dunk contest and 3-point shootout have been planned around the game
- LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounpo and James Harden have criticised the staging because of the pandemic
The 70th NBA All-Star Game will be staged March 7 in Atlanta along with such skills events as the Dunk Contest and 3-Point Shootout, the league announced Thursday.
The NBA and National Basketball Players Association established COVID-19 safety protocols for the event and will commit more than $2.5 million to COVID-19 relief organizations and historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
"NBA All-Star in Atlanta will continue our annual tradition of celebrating the game and the greatest players in the world before a global audience," NBA commissioner Adam Silver said.
"In addition to the festivities on the court, the All-Star Game will honor the vital role HBCUs play in our communities and focus attention and resources on COVID-19 relief, particularly for the most vulnerable."
The annual matchup will be played in the home arena of the Atlanta Hawks and despite the league's plans before the season began to have a mid-season break for all players without the exhibition contest.
LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounpo and James Harden are among the stars who have criticized the league staging an All-Star Game after the shortest off-season in NBA history due to the 2019-20 finish being delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NBA Skills Challenge and 3-Point Contest will be staged before the All-Star Game with the Dunk Contest taking place during halftime.
The game will feature the same format used last year with teams competing to win each quarter and playing to a final target score during an untimed fourth quarter.
Rosters for the NBA All-Star Game will be decided through a draft process where the two captains, the All-Star starter from each conference who receives the most fan votes, will alternate picks from a pool of talent without regard to conference affiliation.
Based on the most recent fan balloting released, that would pit Team LeBron James against Team Kevin Durant.
NBA All-Star Game starters were due to be announced later Thursday.
Extra COVID-19 safety precautions atop the NBA's normal protocols include private travel to and from Atlanta, the creation of a "mini bubble" environment within one hotel for players and coaches and enhanced COVID-19 testing.
There will be no spectators at the game, no ticketed events or fan activities and no hospitality functions as part of the All-Star Game.
Each player will be allowed to have four guests at the All-Star Game plus a fifth person whose role is health-focused, such as a trainer. Those people must self-quarantine from February 27 and be tested before and after arriving in Atlanta.