Originally published on Sportskeeda on 9 Jan, 2013
Why does it bother players when they don’t make it to All-Star games?
The All-Star games are an indication of a player’s popularity. How does it make sense to whine and moan that you didn’t make it and the other player whom you can kick any time, made it? The starters are voted for by the fans. If it were a matter of picking the best players, the selection procedure would be a lot more different.
While the starters are voted for by the fans, the coaches across the league vote in the bench players, ensuring that the top talent gets the recognition it deserves.
Is wanting to be an All-Star a little like wanting to be the prom queen? That seems incredibly shallow even as I type it, but when you take into account what the All-Star game’s selection calls for – the vote of the masses – then it ought to be clear that it’s simply a popularity contest. No player ought to equate validation of their talent with an All-Star selection by fan vote.
All-Star starters are voted in by the fans and the bench players are voted in by the coaches. Angling for the vote of the coaches is something which one can appreciate. I’m not putting down the practice of players campaigning for All-Star votes, nor am I scorning the importance they attach to being an All-Star. The All-Star game is a time honoured tradition in the league. It’s an unbelievable thrill for a player to be in an All-Star game, to be a part of that select few who are on the world’s biggest stage. If a player were to say that an All-Star selection is meaningless and another were to say it’s like a life or death requirement for validation of their careers, I’d high five the latter. It’s better if a player cares too much than not at all about an All-Star selection. But when they are not selected, to look at it as a slight to their game doesn’t make sense.
The players are voted in by the public. Whom the public votes for is more to do with the popularity of the player than pure talent. And the popularity of the player depends on a lot of factors besides talent alone. Here are five:Market
Not every single NBA team gets equal exposure. Teams which are in big market cities get to be on national TV more often and their players are marketed better. The more fans know about you, the better shot you have at being voted in. LaMarcus Aldridge, All-Star forward of Portland Trailblazers told me: “Portland is a great place to play. The best fans in the NBA, they stick with us through the ups and downs. I think being in a small market might have affected my All-Star selection. But I feel like if you play at an All-Star level long enough, you will make it in the game, as I proved last year. But being in a small market does affect your bid. Maybe numbers would have meant more if I played in a big market.”
Talent will trump all in the end. But the market size also makes a difference.
Team success is a part of All-Star selection. It’s funny how people say that no team’s success can be attributed to a single player and at the same time if a team is struggling, then the All-Star candidate from that team is looked upon warily. As if perhaps the player’s ball hogging is costing the team wins. If you’re winning, people look at you differently. They measure you with a different scale. The phrase ‘looking at life through rose coloured glasses’ comes to mind.
If you’re a player whose game is along the lines of Tim Duncan, and your team isn’t a dynasty, you’re going to have a tough time getting people to appreciate your game. Think Kevin Love vs Blake Griffin. Looking purely at numbers a year ago, Love would edge Griffin. But the latter made more highlight plays in one year than many players do in their entire career. That helped Blake’s All-Star bid, even though at the same time it was used as a slight against him, accusing him of being one dimensional. Playing above the rim is actually incredibly efficient way to play and it’s a skill to be valued, but I’m digressing in his defence here. Actually, I think I made another point whilst digressing, that even a good skill of yours can make people root against you.
Allow yourself to be transported into an alternate reality with me for a moment. Imagine that Tim Duncan had the personality of Allen Iverson. Can you fathom the incredible popularity Duncan would have today? He would be the biggest player in the game. Iverson was the most popular player for quite a while, and had his team been a winning dynasty, there’s no telling how big he could have been.
This season, what with the centre position being redundant in All-Star voting, Tim Duncan may not make the All-Star team. When I last saw, he was 4th among Western Conference power forwards in the ballot, at 352,534 votes. The guy ahead of him, Griffin, who is having a better season than Duncan, is at 593,024. Now look back at when Iverson was with the Philadelphia 76ers the second time around in 2010. He was 2nd among East guards in All-Star voting, a full 185000 votes above Vince Carter who trailed him. He was only averaging 15 points per game, but was taking a career low 10 shots and a career high 47% from the field.
He got 1,269,568 votes. And there were people calling for him to not play as he supposedly didn’t deserve to play with his numbers. His response perfectly captures the essence of the All-Star game, or at least of what it should be: “The way I look at it is, what should I do? Should I worry about what those people say or concentrate on the million-plus people that voted for me? To me, it’s a no-brainer. My fans want to see me play and they have the right to put in who they want to put in the game. They voted me in, and it’s an honour. I don’t want to disrespect them by not participating in the game.”
Iverson’s 3 year old daughter fell ill at the time of the game and he didn’t play in his 11th consecutive All-Star game. This is what he did in his 10th All-Star game:
That’s what fans want in All-Star games. When Iverson made it, GQ ran a feature titled ‘Democracy Inaction-The All star farce' attacking his selection. That completely misses the point of what an All-Star game should be. I’ve tried to point out what it ought to mean. Don’t bust your chops if your favourite player doesn’t make it. It doesn’t make them any less of a player.