Democracy, at least when it comes to voting for NBA All Stars, is overrated.
Fans proved that this week when they failed to vote in Russell Westbrook as a backcourt starter for the Western Conference All Stars, as huge a snub as I've ever seen in any sport, ever. Westbrook's season is hard to put into words -- he is on pace to be the first player since Oscar Robertson to average a triple double on the season. Westbrook has 21 triple doubles on the year. This isn't supposed to happen. Not at this rate. He's making it seem mundane, too. But don't be fooled, 21 in a season is mind-boggling. Kobe Bryant had 21 triple doubles in his entire career.
How did the fans screw this up so badly? (And yes, it was the fans who were the ones who voted in Stephen Curry over Westbrook.) And more importantly: Why are we letting fans vote at all?
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I know this flies in the face of democratic ideals, flies in the face of fan involvement, etc. etc. But it's clear the NBA already knew this was a problem. The league made moves to limit fans' involvement in the All-Star selections this year, cutting them down to 50 percent of the vote. It wasn't cut down enough.
The problem with fans getting in on the vote is that there's no way to separate or discern knowledgeable fans from those who are not, and if we are trying to measure who the best in the NBA is, you'd prefer to have people voting who, you know, have watched some games. The current setup is vulnerable because the All Star vote comes down not to the actual play on the court but to marketing and popularity.
Stephen Curry is right now the most popular player in the NBA. He deserves this. He's changed the game, been absolutely unreal for two years. He should absolutely be in the All-Star Game. But he shouldn't be starting. That is partly because he's taken a step back in his role this year for the Warriors with the arrival of Kevin Durant, and partly because James Harden and Westbrook are having two of the greatest statistical seasons ever.
But everyone loves Curry, and people adore the Warriors style of play, and he got the votes. It's hardly surprising.
But it shows that fans really shouldn't be involved in this. There's not enough distance, not enough objectivity, and the teams with the biggest fanbases will yield outsized results. The Baseball Hall of Fame has its own major voting issues, but can you imagine if fans made the picks? We'd just get six Yankees players voted in every year with a few Red Sox players sprinkled in for good measure. That's not to say fans are stupid, it's just to say that there are a lot, lot of Yankees fans and they love their great players. It's simply numbers.
Similarly, there are a lot of Warriors fans, and they love Stephen Curry. Curry got enough votes from the players and media to keep it close, then blew away the competition by finishing first in the fan vote. The new NBA measures made it more reasonable, but it's still too much.
You might be asking: Why does any of this matter? It's an exhibition game. No one plays defense. Who cares? The sad thing though is that these games are used as a historical measure in evaluating players. This is how the game keeps track of its history, how players' legacies are evaluated. It may be silly, but All-Star Game starts is something that is measured when evaluating a player's chance, for example, to get into the Hall of Fame.
Westbrook was cheated of history because he happened to play the same position in the same conference as the most popular basketball player alive. The NBA needs to cut down the fan vote, or remove it altogether, to prevent this from happening again.