Today, the NBA announced the starting rosters for the league’s All-Star game, which will be held in February in Los Angeles. Amare Stoudamire is the first New York Knicks player to start in almost 20 years; Derrick Rose is the first Bulls starter since Michael Jordan. Kobe Bryant now is one away from tying three players for most All Star game starts in NBA history. Golf claps and approving nods to all three. I don’t have a problem with 90% of the players named as starters. I have a problem with one: Yao Ming.
Ming has played in 5 games this season. Five. He hasn’t played since November 7th. Yet he was voted the starting center for the Western Conference, over more deserving players like Al Jefferson, Nene, or even Darko Milicic (I kid of course, but he does lead the conference in blocks). Ming being voted as an All Star starter just strengthens my belief that the fans should never be allowed to choose their sports’ All Stars. Year after year, fans put players on their ballots and starting rosters who have no business being recognized as the best of the best. Current Piston Tracy McGrady was almost voted in as a starter last season, despite having played in six games of the season by the midway point. Back in the 2001 season, Jerry Stackhouse was voted into the All Star game from a bad Pistons team, despite being a turnover factory and taking more shots per night than a Birmingham girl on her 21st birthday.
The only way to solve the problem is to take the vote away from the fans. I know, it’s supposed to be a game for the fans. But the All Star vote increasingly has less to do with deserving players, and more to do with popularity in certain geographic regions (::cough:: CHINA!::cough). But if David Stern really wants his All Star Weekend to “mean something” to the players and fans in attendance and watching around the country/world, he has to realize that participation in the event itself has to mean something. Make the starting rosters the selections of players and coaches, the people who actually know who the All Star-caliber players are. Have the fans vote on something less meaningful, like the slam dunk contest. That way, if the fans pick Kobe Bryant (who can’t dunk with 32-year old knees), it doesn’t cheapen the entire weekend.