If you genuinely think Carmelo Anthony and Ryan Anderson deserve any NBA All-Star votes, then I have some oceanfront property in Boise for sale that is just lovely this time of year.
Now let’s not start off on the wrong foot about NBA All-Star voting guidelines or anything. Voting for players like Dwyane Wade or Derrick Rose to the All-Star game might draw complaints, but these two (among others) earning reserve spots makes sense. Wade’s current season is his swan song, so it’s understandable that fans would want to see him in one more All-Star game. As for Rose, if you’ve paid any attention to his performance this season, you would see that his play merits both Sixth Man of the Year and Most Improved Player nominations. Fans appreciate players who earn redemption.
The fact that both players finished second at their positions in the respective fan votes is therefore makes sense. Remember, ‘fan’ is short for ‘fanatic’ —fans are intense and often subject to what media outlets they follow and where their passion might lead them. They’re going to vote for who they like every single time!
When it comes to the players, though, there has to be better voting practices. They are inside the game, and should have insight unavailable to the average fan; it shouldn’t be that difficult to vote for ten other players who are legitimately having All-Star caliber seasons. While it might seem unnecessary to decode the voting approach of the players, All-Star selections have real consequences.
This isn’t a life or death decision or even as important as the collective bargaining agreement (CBA), or Bird rights, but it does impact how the league is viewed. While the NBA is very popular, it is getting a reputation for favoring certain players; this would be a way for NBA commissioner Adam Silver to address that criticism directly. Furthermore, selections to All-Star teams impact the perception that fuels All-NBA teams, which can then impact the types of contracts offered, which in turn can influence a player’s free agency choices. Where the league’s best players go relies on it.
Changing How Players Vote For the All-Star Game
There are some easy solutions for players to start taking All-Star voting seriously, and it begins with how you incorporate it into their responsibilities. We talk about ‘NBA Careers’ – this needs to be part of the job.
The average fan may not realize it, but all incoming draftees participate in the Rookie Transition Program, a week-long seminar designed to help new NBA players adjust to the league. In recent years their catchy acronym has been ‘Be a PRO – professionalism, responsibility, and opportunity’— what’s more professional than using what you learn in the aforementioned seminar to recognize fellow players who are worthy of recognition, and asking those same colleagues to do the same for you? It would be easy to emphasize the importance of serious voting to players from the moment they entered the league.
For everyone else who isn’t a rookie, it can easily be included in media training. Professional athletes regularly receive guidance on how to interact with the media, from the team and often from their own representation as well. If the league was instituting a real policy concerning voting, it would be easy to hold a one-time-only session to inform players of the new rules. The guidelines would be something simple, such as:
•All-Star votes must go towards players who have played at least 51 percent of the season so far
•Votes must go towards at least five different teams per conference
•A player cannot vote for more than two teammates on their ballot
•A player cannot vote for himself
•Players will fill out the ballot as a part of their required service to their communities and the league
Why There Might Be Player Pushback
Putting guidelines on the All-Star ballot might be viewed as taking some of the fun out of it, but if it’s properly disseminated, there shouldn’t be too much pushback. When DeMarcus Cousins, who has barely played a half a dozen games this season, receives over a dozen votes from other players, the current system loses its luster, and harms the NBA as a sport and a brand.
It might be considered to be taking voting too seriously if the above guidelines were to be included in the upcoming collective bargaining agreement in 2021. But teams could choose to include it, and if passed the public would never know, per section L (Disclosure Rules) of the current CBA in place.
At the end of the day, this could turn out similar to the 2005 debate about the dress code. At the time, it was seen as an overreach of a league too bent on wielding their power. Now, as players have used the code to become fashion icons in their own right, it has contributed to the league reaching new fans and new heights. Bringing legitimacy to the All-Star voting could do the same.