In this April 20, 2017, file photo, Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James celebrates a basket against the Indiana Pacers during the second half of Game 3 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File)
NEW YORK — For Cleveland's LeBron James, there was history.
For Houston's James Harden, there was affirmation.
And for Indiana's Paul George and Utah's Gordon Hayward, a chance at signing contracts exceeding US$200 million this summer is gone.
James and Harden headlined the All-NBA first team that was unveiled by the league on Thursday. James made the first team for a record-tying 11th time, matching the mark set by Kobe Bryant and Karl Malone. And Harden was the only player to be unanimously selected by a global panel of sportswriters and broadcasters as a first-teamer this year, returning to that group for the third time in the last four seasons.
Joining James and Harden on the first team were Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook, San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard and New Orleans' Anthony Davis. Westbrook, Leonard and Davis all are first-teamers for the second time.
In this May 9, 2017, file photo, Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) gestures during the second half of Game 5 in a second-round NBA basketball playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
Harden was not an All-NBA team pick last season, after averaging 29 points, 7.5 rebounds and 6.1 assists, which prompted Rockets general manager Daryl Morey to tweet his reaction.
"Happy @James Harden was able to bounce back from his tough 29/8/6 performance last season to prove again he is one of the 15 best NBA players," Morey wrote.
James and Westbrook were on 99 first-team ballots, and second-team on the lone other. Leonard was a first-teamer on 96 ballots, second-team on three and third-team on one.
Perhaps as significant a story as who made the team was who did not.
George and Hayward fell well short of making any of the three All-NBA teams, which means they will not be eligible to get the "supermax" extensions from Indiana and Utah this summer and now will face more questions about their futures in their respective cities. George is under contract to the Pacers for next season, while Hayward is likely to elect to become a free agent this summer.
"These opportunities don't come around very much," Hayward said earlier this month. "That's why you hire an agent, to deal with this type of stuff."
All three teams have two guards, two forwards and one center.
Harden and Westbrook were runaway choices at guard, James and Leonard were easy picks at forward. Davis barely held off Utah's Rudy Gobert for the first-team center spot, finishing with 343 points to Gobert's 339.
Davis appeared on 95 of the 100 ballots; Gobert appeared on 91.
Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry warms up for Game 2 of the team's NBA basketball Western Conference final against the San Antonio Spurs, May 16, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Other second-team picks along with Gobert were Golden State's Stephen Curry and Boston's Isaiah Thomas at guard, and Golden State's Kevin Durant and Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo at forward.
"So many great players, so many players had great seasons," Durant said. "It's kind of hard to put guys on the first, second, third teams. So many guys played well this year. Just grateful to be a part of the list. Obviously I feel like I should be a first-team player, but it is what it is."
Third-team selections were Washington's John Wall and Toronto's DeMar DeRozan at guard, Golden State's Draymond Green and Chicago's Jimmy Butler at forward, and DeAndre Jordan of the Los Angeles Clippers at center. Jordan edged Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns for the final center spot by four points in the balloting.
Finalists for other awards, including MVP, rookie of the year, defensive player of the year, sixth man, most improved player and coach of the year will be announced Friday night.
All those awards will be announced in New York on June 26, and complete voting results will be released at that time.