Call it the Yao Ming Incident(s), but we are long past due needing a new way for fans to vote for the All-Star Game. Yao Ming continues to be named the starter in the West year after year, which was becoming absurd at times because he was in there over more deserving/stat-worthy/popular (in the US) players like Amar’e Stoudemire and forcing Tim Duncan to be listed as a PF so that Chinese voters would allow him to start, but now it’s to the point of mind-bendingly idiotic because he’s only played 5 games total over the past two years but has won the vote at center each season.
I agree with the line of thought that fans should have a say in the All-Star Game since, frankly, a star by definition is someone the fans see as a star. If Allen Iverson and Tracy McGrady are still stars to fans as recently as last year’s All-Star Game voting, then they were still stars. But the continuation of over-the-top ridiculous voting that gets in the way of far more deserving players’ inclusions, which has been capstoned in many recent years with the Yao Ming Incidents, must be stopped. Here’s how we can restore some sanity to these outcomes while still giving the fans the strongest of voices.
First, let coaches vote for all 12 spots on their conference’s All-Star roster. Coaches currently only vote for the 7 reserves for each squad, which is why the game’s bench players all seem fairly logical with no Yao-like inclusions. Sure, people might argue about which specific Western forward deserve to be named as the conference’s final reserve this year (either Kevin Love or Blake Griffin will be excluded – good luck figuring that one out), but we know whoever does end up wearing the hideously stylized red jersey on Feb. 20 will be a much more logical decision than Yao Ming or Carmelo Anthony.
I’ll be the first to admit that NBA coaches are still affected by the winds of accepted groupthink within pro basketball, often simply repeating the accepted conventional wisdom in the league. There are company lines in the NBA, and the company men repeat them. But they’re at least comparatively wise enough to give us a more logical bench in the All-Star Game than what the fans do with the starting lineup. So first things first, let the coaches pick all 12 players for their conference.
Step Two, let the fans vote on the starters from the list of 12 players the coaches have come up with. The fans still get to choose all the starters, but now we have some bumpers in place to avoid those ugly gutter balls that the child-like intellect of fans as a whole have been throwing for years. Guys who have no place in the game certainly don’t deserve to be starting it, and this process will eliminate that embarrassment for good. The coaches can pick their list of 12 players three weeks before the game, which would be now (just like the naming of the starters last night), and then put it to internet vote. We don’t need ballots at the arenas because there are already 8,000 needless distractions for the live audience. Put it on the net, hype it up however you feel needs to be done, and name the starters a few days before the game.
This is simple, logical enough to put nothing but deserving players on the team, and still gives the fans the ultimate say over who starts. Could the fans still end up voting for Steve Nash to start over Chris Paul? Sure.
But at least we’ll have no more Yao Ming Incidents.