Point: All-Star Game is for the fans, let them choose who they want to see
The recent expulsion of Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook from the All-Star starters has raised a debate among basketball fans: Should fans be allowed to vote for the starters?
To me, the answer is yes. Obviously, it doesn’t mean that Zaza Pachulia should have a spot in the starting five thanks to huge support from Georgia. But, in general, fans are the main priority of the weekend.
From the beginning, the NBA All-Star Game is an exhibition game for public interest rather than a serious night of basketball. Fans check in the arena to see flashy player introductions and watch their favorite artists perform during halftime, then happily go home after a high-scoring game that most of the players play little to no defense at all.
If the NBA All-Star Game is a game dedicated to the fans, then sorry to Westbrook, but they have chosen James Harden and Stephen Curry over you. Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan started their final all-star games in the same way.
Furthermore, Westbrook will be named on the all-star roster. That’s all that matters. Everyone is going to remember how many times Westbrook is chosen to represent his conference, but no one cares how many times he starts the game.
He will get a decent 20-minute outing at New Orleans. Westbrook had a triple-double within that amount of time this season. If he seriously wants a shot at the MVP award to silence the critics, then he can do what he does best during that special occasion.
Counterpoint: Fans have their own role
From local mom and pop stores to multinational corporations, it is prudent business practice to listen to customer’s feedback on their products. This extends an olive branch of good will toward people, and in return, ensures customer loyalty. The NBA provides entertainment and drama to all our lives, but it is a business nonetheless. Commissioner Adam Silver and the rest of the executives in the NBA do a great job of engaging with fans through social media, community events and promoting player accessibility. The league is bringing in record levels of revenue and attendance is through the roof— as DJ Khaled says, “business is booming.” Fan bases across all 30 teams can point to tangible reasons to be optimistic, even small markets like Milwaukee and Oklahoma City due to resident superstars Russell Westbrook and the Greek Freak Giannis Antetokounpo. This is a happy, thriving marriage between a business and its consumers, however, there is one issue that needs to be sorted out: All-Star voting. Fans have a 50 percent majority stake in All-Star voting with players and media splitting the other half. Fan is short for fanatic, and given most fans follow a specific team, generally the one nearest to them, they often are unaware of players not named Lebron, Durant, Harden or Kawhi. This isn’t a slight at fans. They should concern themselves with their teams of choice and leave matters addressing the league as a whole to the people whose job it is to cover it. The game means a lot to players; it’s a symbol of recognition for their status as elite players, and has considerable contract implications. If a player makes two All-Star games within their first four years, they are eligible for a contract of up to 30 percent of the salary cap, rather than the 25 percent cap for players with less than seven years of experience. The fans have shown they cannot be trusted to appropriately handle this responsibility, look no further than Zaza freaking Pachulia, who finished second in voting for front court players. If the vote was 100 percent determined by the fans, Pachulia, averaging six points and six rebounds, would get the nod over the likes of Anthony Davis (28 points, 12 rebounds, 3 blocks) and Kawhi Leonard ( 25 points, 6 rebounds and leader for defensive player of the year). This is why we can’t have nice things.