The NBA All-Star Voting Problem

Written by: Aarav

Edited by: Justin

Visual by: Nicholas

On the weekend of February 17 the National Basketball Association (NBA) is set to kick off its 73rd All-Star Weekend with the All-Star game tipping off on February 19. This is a tradition that has existed nearly as long as the NBA itself, granting players and fans a weekend to be united in their love for the sport of basketball without the tension of watching or competing in the high stake games of the regular season. 

This year the event is being held in Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. The two teams will be captained by Los Angeles Lakers superstar Lebron James and Milwaukee Bucks sensation Giannis Antetokounmpo. These two will be selected from a pool of players voted as starters and reserves right before the game tips off on February 19. This live selection is the first time the NBA is doing this in a park style pick up basketball team selection 

This is where the controversy surrounding the NBA All-Star game change arises, for most of the existence of the All-Star game the roster has been decided by a combination of 3 different voting groups: fan voting, media voting, and player voting. This is split with fan votes having 50% weighting whilst the media member votes and player votes comprise the other 50% with both being worth 25%. 

Ever since the selection process was reformatted, the problem many people including fans have is that fans have too much power over the decision of who gets selected to All-Star teams. Outrage over this first began in the first year of the change, the 2002-2003 season when a large group of Chinese basketball fans voted in center Yao Ming as an All-Star starter over the clearly superior Shaquille O’Neal. 

Since the initial controversy with Yao Ming and Chinese fan voting there have been many other controversies involving popular players undeservedly getting a large amount of fan votes over less popular but better performing players. An example of this is former Golden State Warriors center Zaza Pachulia who received over 900,000 All-star votes in 2017 which placed him second overall in the western conference frontcourt voting. This perfectly illustrates the problem with biased fan voting as there is no statistical metric that justified Zaza, someone who was averaging 5 points per game, getting more votes than fellow big man Anthony Davis who was averaging 28 points per game.

Whilst the All-Star game is targeted towards the fans to see the NBA stars they want to see battle it out, the reason many people see this as a problem is because All-Star selections also have a very long lasting effect on the career, salaries and legacy of NBA players. Firstly, for many fans and analysts, All-Star selections are a big part of how players are ranked or judged when discussing their standing in all time rankings of players. However, the true victims of fan voting are the snubs who are on the brink of free agency. For many fringe All-Star players the difference between an All-Star selection and not could be what causes them to lose out on millions of dollars long term through not getting a maximum contract. 

As a result all star fan votes every year have left many NBA players seeking change as they believe people that themselves or their teammates were snubbed of a spot they deserved. This is something that the NBA will have to inevitabley address as more seasons go by with undeserving players making it over top performers due to fan bias. At the end of the day, the title of NBA all-star should be earned, not gifted through a popularity contest.