Friday, January 31, 2014

Voting Changes for NBA All-Star Game are Needed

By: Micah Sokolsky

The starters have been announced and the 2014 NBA All-Star Game is only a few weeks away; February 16th to be exact.  The fans have spoken and voted to see their favorite players participate in the mid-season classic:  a game filled with dunks, alley-oops, fast breaks, and zero defense always provides entertainment for the viewing audience.  Who doesn't want to watch Blake Griffin jump over everybody or LeBron James soar to the hoop and have every player on the floor watch it happen?  Unlike in baseball, the NBA All-Star Game is for the entertainment of the fans and players alike, and has no real value.  Win or lose, everyone has a great time.

Over the past thirteen years, Los Angeles Lakers guard, Kobe Bryant, has been a part of the All Star Game.  However, this year is the first time since the 1998-99 season in which he will not participate in the event.  As you can see, Kobe has played in a total of six games this season.  Yes, I said SIX total games, as he was recovering from his Achilles injury suffered against Golden State towards the end of last year, and has most recently fractured the lateral tibial plateau in his left knee, against the Memphis Grizzlies, to keep him out of action for another few weeks. 
While we have seen Kobe in a suit and tie more often than the Lakers purple and gold this year, the fans voted for him to start in the 2014 NBA All Star Game.  Really?!  What a small sample size to deem if a player is worthy enough to start.  We all know Kobe is one of the best players in NBA history and will eventually be inducted into the Hall of Fame, but to be voted to start the All Star Game after playing for two weeks?  It makes no sense.

Being as humble as Kobe has grown to be, he stated, “With all due respect to the fans that voted me in, I certainly appreciate that, they know how much I appreciate that, but you got to do the right thing as well.  My fans know you got to reward these young guys for the work that they've been putting in” and will not participate in the 2014 showcase. 
Yes, he received a total of 988,884 total votes, putting him second behind Stephen Curry (1,047,281) and ahead of the most recently injured, Chris Paul (804,309).  Kobe had more votes than Eastern Conference starters Dwayne Wade (929,542) and Kyrie Irving (860,221), each of whom have played the entire season.  Meanwhile, Paul has played almost six times the amount of games as Kobe and has been vital to the Clippers in helping them to the top spot in the Pacific Division (the Lakers are in fourth, a half-game out of last place).

In my eyes, there are several guards from the Western Conference who deserve to start in the All Star Game:  James Harden, Damian Lillard, and Ricky Rubio to name a few.  But when you travel the world and mention the name, “Kobe” almost everyone you speak to knows who you are referring to.  If I were to travel to France and mentioned the name ‘Damian Lillard,’ I would receive a bunch of blank stares. 
 Voting for the NBA All-Star Game starters is a popularity contest, as it is for almost every other professional sport.  Is there a way to determine which players are deserving of an All-Star Game start while still keeping the fans involved?  Should there be a minimum amount of games a player must play before being put onto the ballot? 

I propose the NBA make it a fifteen game minimum before putting a players’ name onto the ballot.  This is a large enough sample to see how the player has performed over the course of the season and gives him a fair enough chance to play consistently well after coming back from injury.  This can help eliminate the possibility of the fans voting in a player who has barely played throughout the course of the season.
At the end of the day, I think Kobe did the right thing by declining the invitation to play in the 2014 NBA All Star Game.  It shows his professionalism and allows some of the more deserving players the opportunity to put their skills on display in front of a national audience.

Micah Sokolsky is a Pre-Junior Sport Management major at Drexel University with minors in Spanish and Business.  Micah hails from San Francisco, CA and was a participant on Drexel Sport Management’s College Sport Research Institute (CSRI) team last year in Chapel Hill, North Carolina in 2013.  Micah completed his first co-op with the Camden Riversharks minor league baseball team in their Marketing and Promotions department.  A member of the Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity, Micah is involved on campus as the Athletics Chairman for the Inter-Fraternity Council and as a Resident Assistant in Race Hall. Connect with Micah on LinkedIn.

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