Which is worse than a defenseless NBA All-Star Game: an NFL Pro Bowl where nobody hits hard or an NHL All-Star Game that goes unwatched? Fan ballots.
Last Thursday, the starters for the NBA All-Star Game were announced, and the results were not congruent with this season’s statistics. Allen Iverson made a late rally to beat Tracy McGrady by 10,410 votes for the last starting guard spot in the Western Conference. This came almost a week after McGrady said, “If it was my choice, I would select another guy to participate in my spot because I see other guards that are having outstanding seasons.” So it appears that fans finally made a right decision in voting. Well, almost.
McGrady never should have led the guards in the polls. An injury-plagued season on a mediocre Rockets team that plays at the same level whether he is in the lineup or not should not warrant fan appreciation.
Many of the fans that vote over and over for players like McGrady are just living in the past. All they remember is his earth-shattering dunk in the 2002 game, when he threw the ball off of the backboard to himself. It was a spectacular dunk, and seeing Peja Stojakovic’s confused face made it even better. Six years later, though, it does not make me want to cast any votes for him.
All-Star games in major league sports are meant to honor the players having the best seasons that year. Yet fans seem to overlook this and continue to select the players with the most shoe deals and “SportsCenter” top plays. Hence the Iverson selection, which by no means makes up for the almost colossal mistake of picking McGrady. I can’t argue against the fact that pound-for-pound, Iverson is the best scorer to ever play the game. Despite that, he is not more deserving of the spot than players like Chris Paul, Steve Nash, Baron Davis and Brandon Roy, who are all much more important to their teams.
A solution to the voting problem is to take a page out of the MLB book. Make the NBA All-Star Game worth something valuable – homecourt advantage in the Finals, to be specific. This would solve the problem of no defense because players will actually be playing to win. We will no longer have to watch careless turnover after turnover on missed alley-oops.
This change could also solve the issue of power shifts between conferences. If the Boston Celtics reach the Finals with the best record, they won’t necessarily be given homecourt advantage due to their easier schedule in the weaker Eastern Conference. With an incentive in the All-Star Game, who wouldn’t want to see the best players on each side duke it out for 48 minutes for such high stakes?
Fans of playoff teams would be forced to vote for the players that give their conference the best shot at winning.
It would be incredible to see Denver Nuggets fans vote for Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki because they give the West the best shot at winning.
In return, if the Denver Nuggets make it to the Finals, Carmelo Anthony, Iverson and their fans will be rewarded with homecourt advantage.
The starter selection could even become a chess game of sorts in which fans of Eastern Conference teams might make player selections such as Chauncey Billups, a veteran Finals MVP, and Richard Hamilton, who both are much better outside shooters than All-Star runners-up Jason Kidd and Dwyane Wade. Similarly, in the West, fans might actually try to outvote China and pick Marcus Camby instead of Yao Ming, which would boost team defense.
The possibilities are endless, and one thing is for sure – the “fan’s game” could become the first All-Star Game that is actually special to watch.