Sunday, December 13, 2009

Should the fans vote for NBA All-Stars?

I have seen a lot of recent articles decrying the fact that Tracy McGrady is currently second among guards in the fan voting for the NBA All Star game. This outcry stems from the fact that McGrady has yet to play a game this year, having had knee surgery earlier this year. If he does in fact play in the All Star game, the contention seems to be, the process of fan voting will be proven to be a fraud, as it does not reward the best players in the league.

However, nobody seems to be questioning the fundamental assumption behind this line of logic. Does the NBA All Star game exist to serve as a reward to the best players at their positions, or does it exist for the entertainment of the fans? I would argue that it serves both purposes, but it is tilted far more towards fan entertainment. This being so, as long as a player is proven more popular(in this case, through fan voting), then I see little reason not to include them in the All Star game. If Tracy McGrady plays in the All Star game, it won't be because he is one of the best at his position, it will be because he is the most popular among the fans.

As the fans pay for player's salaries, I see no reason not to let the fans have their say. Although some will argue that the voting system is flawed, as not all NBA fans vote, and some vote multiple times, there currently exists no better method to ensure that the fans can enjoy an exciting game featuring their favorite players. Say what you like about the democratic systems and its low voter participation, but it is the only way to show what the fans want. Other methods, such as coach polls or media polls, would ensure that the darlings of the media and coaches would end up in the game. While some would argue that the media can better judge player talent and skill than the common fan, that is both a very patronizing view(interestingly enough, it is advanced by the media), and it still wouldn't address the fact that the All Star game is designed to showcase the players that the fans want to see.

The players who are the best at their positions are rewarded with rich, long-term contracts and endorsements. Most players would likely rather have the millions of dollars that contracts and endorsements bring than an All-Star game berth. While some players are certainly disadvantaged in terms of All-Star recognition due to their low national profiles, their contracts more than make up for this. Joe Johnson is a great example of this. Prior to 2008, he was not selected to the All-Star team, but he was widely regarded as one of the best talents in the league. He received a 5 year, 70 million dollar contract in 2005. While that the lack of All-Star recognition stung Johnson somewhat, he certainly received the recognition that he cared most about.

Ultimately, the All-Star game is more about rewarding the fans with an exciting game than recognizing players. While it would be great if the best players were always the most popular, this is not the case. Therefore, I will see no issue if Tracy McGrady makes the All-Star game this year. He certainly doesn't deserve it in terms of his performace, but the fans deserve to see the players that they want to see, and to suggest otherwise is an insult to the fans.