Welcome to Dumb & Dumber 2! Starring, the NBA and every fan who’s voted for this year’s NBA All-Star Starters.
Before you tell me they’re already in the process of making Dumb & Dumber 2 and it doesn’t star either of the aforementioned participants, remember; I am a columnist, and I have carte blanche in regards to use what’s necessary to make my point. In this case, a fictitious production in an effort to tell you what you should already know: NBA fanatics are dim-witted, and NBA executives are even dimmer for allowing a process that makes a mockery of a noteworthy accomplishment in an individual player’s career.
We’re nearly a third of the way through this NBA season, and more than half-way to this season’s NBA All-Star Game. A game which would presently start a player who’s played 10 games in the past 2 seasons, a player who just played his fifth game and is coming back from a catastrophic injury, and a player best known for executing the game’s easiest shot (a dunk). For those wondering, that’d be Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant, and Blake Griffin. Yes, Kobe Bryant is a first-ballot Hall Of Famer, Derrick Rose is an ex-League-MVP, and Blake Griffin jumped over a Kia, but none have earned the honor to start this year’s game, and all would be doing so in place of players who’ve earned the right to do so on the floor.
To fully grasp the idiocy behind such an arrangement, you must first understand how said arrangement works. The initial ballot contains 120 candidates, consisting of 24 backcourt players and 36 frontcourt players from each conference. The list is then pared down to a leaderboard of 50, consisting of 10 backcourt players and 15 frontcourt players from each conference. From there, voting continues and the top-2 backcourt players are paired with the top-3 frontcourt players to form a starting-5. From there, the rosters are filled with seven substitutes from each conference voted in by the head coaches, who are prohibited from voting for their own players. In other words, you’ll have at least seven players selected based on legitimate credentials, and five potentially based on looks, popularity, and “coolness” factor … you know, kind of like Prom King.
And that’s what this is; a popularity contest whose winners are not the best and most valuable basketball players, but the most notable to the low-brow sector of a fanbase that ultimately doesn’t understand the game. The people who think dunking is a skill, points-per-game—regardless of shot percentage, plus/minus, or inability to make teammates better—is “where it’s at,” and perception is reality. However, in the process of selecting Stan Gable and the rest of the Alpha Betas, players like LaMarcus Aldridge or Dirk Nowitzki could miss out. Up-and-comers like Damian Lillard or Andre Drummond could be ignored. And veterans who’ve worked tirelessly for years to improve their skills and their profile only to be ignored by the masses, like Arron Afflalo and Paul Millsap, could be denied the fruits of the labor they’ve spent their careers trying to perfect. None of which due to being beaten-out, but rather being voted out by fans who learn the game from 30-second SportsCenter highlights.
I understand the concept of “fans choosing who they’d like to see.” Really, I do. But I contend that voters selecting injured players like Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose, and Steve Nash, aren’t doing so out of some deep adoration for them and their skills, but more so due to name familiarity and ignorance to the now. They don’t appreciate what they’ve done and vote them in an effort to “see them one last time,” but rather do so because of name recognition and lack thereof regarding the truly deserving names on the ballot.
Do you think the Minnesotan wearing the Kobe jersey at a Timberwolves home game knows anything about Damien Lillard? Do you think the Oklahoman sitting in the 300-level of a Thunder game versus the Rockets, wearing a Dwight Howard Magic T-Shirt and singing the praises of “Superman” after a every thunderous dunk is familiar with Paul Millsap’s game? And do you think the 12-year-old kid who repeatedly kicks the back of your seat, while showering you with popcorn, spittle from his beverage, and every other concession he milks from his father’s quickly-depleting wallet can tell you who Ty Lawson, Al Horford or Nicolas Batum are? No, no, and no, but these are the people voting in the “greats,” while the aforementioned performers are being left out.
This is not an attack on the players being voted in, but more so a campaign for the rightful players being omitted. Jeremy Lin should not be fourth in the voting amongst Western Conference backcourt players. Kevin Garnett should not be sixth amongst Eastern Conference frontcourt players. And “stars” who’ve played very little (which has likely become moot due to additional injuries) such as Bryant and Rose, shouldn’t be taking spots away from deserving players such as Lillard, Lawson or Wall.
If you don’t think this process is flawed, consider this: Russell Westbrook is presently sixth in voting, Tony Parker, seventh, and Damian Lillard, 10th amongst Western Conference backcourt players … all behind Jeremy Lin. LaMarcus Aldridge, eighth, Dirk Nowitzki, 10th, and DeMarcus Cousins 12th amongst Western Conference frontcourt players … all behind Pau Gasol.
Let’s get this right. Enough with the fan voting, it’s significantly flawed, unfair to the players working towards it, and an embarrassment to a league more image-conscious than a teenage-girl before her high school prom. Let the players and coaches choose the rosters, let the fans buy tickets, buy beers, and buy the jerseys of players who belong in the game, opposed to those voted in by those who know little about it.