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Tyrese Haliburton is a first-time All-Star starter – it’s in front of his own fans

Tyrese Haliburton will be celebrated as a hometown hero at the 2024 NBA All-Star Game.

The Indiana Pacers guard was named a starter for the festivities on Thursday. The third-year player went to his first All-Star Game last season as a reserve. He scored 18 points and added three assists as a member of LeBron James’ team.

Speaking with USA TODAY Sports earlier in January, Haliburton said that he wasn’t worried whether he was named a starter or not, but was hopeful to get his second nod.

‘I always try to shoot for the stars, so of course being a starter is my goal, that would be a lot of fun for me. But that stuff takes care of itself,’ he said. ‘I (can’t) have a ton of control over what decisions are made, who votes for who. Of course, I’d love to be an All-Star starter, but just to be in the game would be really awesome.’

This year will be different not only because he’s starting, but because he is playing in front of his own fans. Indianapolis has not hosted an All-Star Game since 1985. Haliburton, who returned to play on Friday after suffering a hamstring injury and is continuing to recover, knows that it’s a once-in-a-generation event for the community.

‘It’s been a while, so these kids getting to experience that and see people that they look up to in the NBA, the LeBrons, the KDs, the Giannises, they’re there,’ he said, ‘but also me, who’s in their backyard, they can go watch during the season whenever. I think that would be really cool for everybody to see.’

USA TODAY Sports spoke to Haliburton about the All-Star Game, his leadership skills and his love of fashion.

Tyrese Haliburton on the 2024 All-Star Game in Indianapolis

The All-Star Game returns to the Hoosier State for the first time in 39 years on Feb. 18. Haliburton said he enjoyed seeing the outpouring of love for Utah Jazz big man Lauri Markkanen at last year’s event in Salt Lake City.

‘For me to get that in Indy would be really cool to be a part of and that would really mean the world to me to be a part of it,’ Haliburton, 23, said.

The game will be played in the East-West format instead of the previous version where two team captains selected the rosters schoolyard style.

Haliburton is averaging 23.6 points and a league-high 12.6 assists a game. He made a splash in the NBA’s first in-season tournament where he averaged 26.7 points and 13.3 assists per game. The Pacers stormed through the Eastern Conference bracket before losing to James and the Los Angeles Lakers in the championship.

He said that he hopes people see that Indianapolis is a city with a lot to offer. It has hosted the men’s Final Four eight times with a ninth and 10th go around on the calendar for 2026 and 2029. It hosted Super Bowl 46 and is home to the annual NFL combine.

‘I think people see Indiana as the midwest and some guys (are) like, ‘I don’t really wanna spend my All-Star in cold weather,’ but I think that people would be surprised as to what can be hosted here,’ he said. ‘There’s always great pop-ups and stuff during All-Star. I’m really excited for people to see Indy and understand that it’s not this rinky-dink little city that don’t know if it has the capacity to take care of All-Star. We’ll be able to take care of All-Star just fine.’

He reflected on his time at last year’s All-Star Game and how he still is coming to the realization that he’s on the same court as some of his heroes.

‘It was awesome. I loved every moment of it,’ he said. ‘Just getting to kind of soak in everything and all the love and admiration and being around other great players and sitting in the locker room and sharing stories. … It’s different when you watch it on TV versus being in it. I always say in the NBA I feel like Calvin Cambridge in ‘Like Mike.’ Just around people that I’ve grown up watching and it’s cool to be a part of it. And now it’s just about continuing to establish myself in the league and just having fun with what I’m doing.’

How Tyrese Haliburton views leadership

Point guard is inherently a leadership position because the player is the general of the floor, calling out plays and directing his teammates. Haliburton has taken the role to a new level.

In December, he became only the third player in NBA history with back-to-back games registering at least 20 points and 20 rebounds. Across two matchups a month earlier, he set a league record of 32 assists with no turnovers.

Haliburton is quick to give teammates credit for helping his stat line.

‘I love getting my teammates involved, love seeing my teammates win, so just want to put people in position to score,’ he said. ‘In coach’s offense, the ball is in my hand a lot, so I get to make a lot of the decisions on the floor. He trusts me in that, so I just try to get my teammates in the right spots. They’ve been making shots, makes my stats look a lot better than they should be. When they’re making shots, it always makes me look better, but I’m just trying to put guys in the right spots to succeed.’

He was the only All-Star from the Pacers last year and the team didn’t have anyone selected the first year he was in Indianapolis after a trade from the Sacramento Kings. Indiana’s lone All-Star, Domantas Sabonis, was sent west in the swap.

Haliburton was the No. 12 overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft out of Iowa State. He played in 58 games, starting 20, during his rookie season with the Kings. He averaged 13 points and 5.3 rebounds a game. He had five double-double performances, including a 23-point, 10-assist effort in a win over the Lakers.

He said that his style of leading by example is something he’s refined throughout his career.

‘It’s been a part of the growth of me and growing up in the NBA, being looked at as a leader since I’ve got here and want to just keep growing on myself,’ he said. ‘The better that I play as an individual and the more I take care of my body, take care of myself, the easier it is for me to lead because people see that I’m doing the right things and then it’s easier for me to help lead and help get guys on the same page.’

The Pacers had a stretch where they won nine of 10 games from the end of December into January. They’ve since dropped five of their last six with Haliburton out due to the hamstring injury. Before the injury, he expressed confidence in the team’s shared vision.

‘We’re a young team. It’s easy when things are good, everybody stays together. When things get bad, it’s easy to split. That’s what young teams do,’ he said. ‘But we all have the same goal. Everybody wants to get to the playoffs and everybody wants to win in the playoffs. So we just got to stick together and good things will happen for us.’

Tyrese Haliburton on his dog’s new year’s resolution, being part of NBA’s ‘Pass The Rock’ series

Haliburton was chosen to be one of eight rising stars on season two of the ‘Pass the Rock’ series on the NBA app. The show goes behind the scenes to show the human element of the game.

‘People are looking at us and they just see what they see on the court or what we choose to share on social media or whatever,’ he said. ‘I think this is cool ‘cause it’s kind of a behind the scenes look into my life and a day in my life.’

The Pacers guard said he was grateful for the opportunity to show fans his passion for gaming. A moment that he’s especially looking forward to sharing is his daily walk with girlfriend and dog to catch up on the day. Haliburton has a mini goldendoodle named Ames after his college days at Iowa State.

‘He’s a little overweight. We’re going on a fitness journey this year,’ Haliburton laughed. ‘It’s his resolution.’

The other players featured on this season of ‘Pass the Rock’ are Orlando Magic forward and last year’s No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero, New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson, Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards, Oklahoma City Thunder forward Chet Holmgren, Memphis Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr., Philadelphia 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey and San Antonio Spurs rookie center — this year’s No. 1 overall pick — Victor Wembanyama.

Haliburton’s episode will premiere on Feb. 12 ahead of the All-Star Game.

Tyrese Haliburton on making fashion statements

Besides his electric play, Haliburton has become known as a player with a fashion sense all his own.

On Tuesday, he was roasted by fans for wearing a newsboy cap, glasses and a vest. The look could have passed for a chimney sweep in ‘Mary Poppins.’

But fans who have seen any of Haliburton’s previous tunnel walks would know that he enjoys having fun with his looks. He wears red striped pants, patterned sweaters and flowing jackets.

‘Fashion, it means the world to me,’ he said. ‘I think it’s just a cool way to express yourself and what you’re interested in. I think fashion can become redundant. A lot of people in the world dress the same and are scared to take risks and try different things. But for me, it’s just I’ve always liked fashion, I’ve always been into fashion. But I think as I got into the NBA, it was, ‘How can I just be a little different?’ Everybody kinda dresses the same. I want to be able to wear more timeless looks that can be worn over and over again.’

Another piece that turned heads was a Chanel backpack that the Pacers posted to their TikTok account in December. Coco Chanel is credited with originating the Little Black Dress and is celebrated for her quotes about beauty and self-confidence.

‘I think that Chanel can never really go out of style,’ Haliburton said. ‘(The backpack)’s just something that a lot of people in the NBA don’t have. I doubt anybody in the NBA has that.’

This post appeared first on USA TODAY

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