NBA All-Star game neglects little guys in smaller markets

By Nathan Keil | Sports Editor

In October 2017 the NBA announced a new format for its All-Star game and the way it selects its participants. The process remained mostly the same with 12 players from each conference being chosen by a combination of fan, player and media votes. The leading receivers of votes at each position in both the Eastern and Western conferences were selected as the starters.

However, in a new twist, the top vote receivers from each conference, LeBron James from the Eastern Conference and Stephen Curry from the Western Conference, served as captains and selected their teams from the remaining players who were voted in.

The NBA decided to not televise the draft, but on Jan. 25 the rosters for Team LeBron and Team Stephen were announced.

Joining James on Team LeBron are New Orleans center Anthony Davis and forward DeMarcus Cousins, Golden State forward Kevin Durant, Boston guard Kyrie Irving, San Antonio forward LaMarcus Aldridge, Washington guards Bradley Beal and John Wall, Oklahoma City guards Russell Westbrook and Paul George, New York center Kristaps Porzingis, Indiana guard Victor Oladipo, Miami guard Goran Dragic, Detroit center Andre Drummond, Charlotte guard Kemba Walker and Cleveland forward Kevin Love. However, Love, Cousins, Porzingis and Wall will all miss due to injuries.

Team Stephen will consist of two of his teammates in Golden State, guard Klay Thompson and forward Draymond Green, Toronto guards DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, Milwaukee forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, Houston guard James Harden, Philadelphia center Joel Embiid, Minnesota guard Jimmy Butler and center Karl Anthony Towns, Boston forward Al Horford and Portland guard Damian Lillard.

The two teams will also be playing for either a local or national organization, with donations directed toward outreach efforts in Los Angeles. The two organizations have yet to be announced, but the winner will get a $350,000 donation with the losing team getting $150,000.

On the outside this looks like an incredibly innovative and new take on All-Star Weekend –– and it is, and I am all for fresh, innovative takes on the annual narrative. But there is a deep flaw within the system when it comes to selecting the players themselves.

I have no issues with allowing NBA fans to be allowed to vote for their favorite players. However, fans were allowed to vote once per day, every day while the voting window was open, drastically skewing the votes. This isn’t the voice of hundreds of thousands of fans, this could be the voice of a few select fans, dedicated to their computers and seeing their “stars” on the court.

Secondly, there are 30 teams in the NBA and 12 of them are not represented in the All-Star game, while Golden State boasts four players and six other teams boast two. Detroit, Charlotte and Miami are only represented because their players filled injury roster spots. How is this a celebration of the world’s best players and the league itself if not all 30 teams are represented in the game?

This is truly a shame, because there are plenty of All-Stars in the NBA not playing on Feb. 20 who deserve the opportunity to showcase their talent to the world. It is an unjust system that favors big-time players, like James, Harden, Westbrook and Curry –– big-time markets such as New York, Washington, Boston and the greater Bay Area –– and success of the team in Golden State and Cleveland. These are the teams that get the bi-weekly nationally televised games on ESPN and TNT. These are the teams and the players that get the exposure and, therefore, get the fan support. Yes, the NBA is a business, and it has its TV deals, but why shouldn’t it look to celebrate all 30 of its teams in 29 different markets? Why shouldn’t it allow some of the under-the-radar superstars more opportunities to impress NBA fans like Phoenix’s Devin Booker, the Clippers’ Lou Williams, Denver’s Jamal Murray, or Chicago’s Lauri Markkanen? These All-Stars continue to perform night-in and night-out and don’t get the appreciation they deserve.

Major League Baseball has all 30 teams represented in its All-Star game, why can’t the NBA do the same? I realize that the NBA rosters are smaller, but it could expand the roster to 20, allowing for all 15 teams in each conference to be represented and then give five additional spots to other fan favorites. I won’t make a push for a minutes limit on players, but the games are long enough, and with no defense played whatsoever, there’s no reason why all players can’t make the court at one time or another.

If the NBA continues to keep the roster sizes as is, and puts all the power in the hands of the fans, the same players and teams will always be the All-Stars, leaving those less seen, but every bit as worthy, players from smaller markets left to watch the game from home.

The 67th NBA All-Star game will air at 7 p.m. on Feb. 18 on TNT and will be played at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Nathan Keil is a graduate student at Truett Seminary from Northwood, Ohio.