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The NBA All-Star Game Is Coming, But Will All The All-Stars Be There?

By Yong-yi Zhu

COLUMNIST

It’s the time of the year when we get to see the flashiest dunks, the craziest alley-oops, and what basketball would be like without coaches. That’s right -- the NBA All-Star game is this Sunday. But are all the All-Stars going to be there? Is someone who doesn’t deserve to be there going? There is a huge problem with the way the All-Star team is chosen, and this year’s selections highlight some key problems.

The fact that Ray Allen, Steve Nash, and Amare Stoudemire will not start for the Western Conference is a complete shame. They have played for two of the year’s complete surprises and have been pivotal in getting the Seattle Sonics and the Phoenix Suns to the top of their respective divisions. Maybe Kobe scores a few more points. Maybe T-Mac has been playing well. But we should not forget to give credit where credit is due. For example, I do love the pick of Grant Hill. I think the battle that he has fought to get back to this stage merits him his All-Star starter position.

True, the fans should have a say in who goes and who doesn’t; it is, after all, their game. However, there should not be total autonomy granted to them.

Remember when Nomar Garciaparra was the leading vote getter (at one point in the season) as an AL shortstop last year even though he hadn’t played a single game up to that point? It shows that fans don’t always vote for the player who has been performing best.

Besides, fans can be very biased in their selections. Why do you think Yao Ming is now the leading vote getter of all time for an NBA All-Star game? Maybe if Argentina had over 1.2 billion people, Manu Ginobili would be a starter. Or if Russia had that many basketball lovers, we would see Andrei Kirilenko play Sunday night despite being out for more than a month. It simply means that the All-Star game is more about fan popularity than about how much a player deserves to go.

Take Brad Miller. I think he might be as good as Yao Ming, yet he is not even going to play. Sure, he scores a couple fewer points than Yao and doesn’t get as many blocks, but Miller grabs more rebounds per game despite being half a foot shorter. That says a lot about him. The reason he isn’t going to play is that he is surrounded by stars, so the attention on him is lessened, translating into less popularity around the league and less recognition by the fans.

Here’s another selection that doesn’t make sense: picking Vince Carter over Dwayne Wade as a starter. Sure, you can argue that Carter has had an unbelievable February, but Wade is still superior to Carter in most statistical categories. He scores more points, gets more assists, grabs more rebounds, steals the ball more often, and blocks more shots. How can you possibly choose Carter over Wade? But the fans don’t necessarily pay attention to all that. They simply point and click on the Web site, and whoever looks to be the most familiar name usually gets the nod.

Perhaps something more analogous to what the NFL does is more appropriate for all leagues. In their system, the fans get a third of the vote, the coaches get a third of the vote, and the players get a third of the vote. This way, there will be more than one perspective taken into account.

All three parties are critical parts of the NBA. They should therefore be given a chance to speak up equally about the stars of the game. Allowing one group to elect the starters truly hinders some of that objectivity and in a way, damages some of the purity of the All-Star game.