At its best, the NBA is a competitive league with the best athletes in the world playing at such a high level that it shames the fans watching over the age of 25 (who have come to grips with the fact that they are terrible athletes in a perpetual decline) and inspires fans under the age of 18 (who still have the youth on their side and unbridled confidence that they can do anything). At its worst, the NBA is a league in which overpaid athletes coast during games and fans fail to truly care about the game. Every year, without fail, the worst example of this is the NBA All Star game.
This year has left me especially irksome. There are two projected starters that have been either been benched for the good of the team (Tracy McGrady) or have taken the big drop in the latter stages of their career (Allen Iverson). Meanwhile, two of the best young players in the league are being ignored because they play in cities the majority of people do not want to live or visit (Oklahoma City, a poor man’s Tulsa, and Salt Lake City, where the Mormons live).
Now, it would be silly on my part to naively believe that the NBA is the only league in which this happens and that the NBA front office has any issue with this.
The MLB’s starters are routinely an odd collection of guys, half of whom had peaked five years earlier and have essentially earned tenure among the elite until they retire.
On the basketball front, the league executives know that they have a huge problem with the fan base and have no issue letting these travesties continue to avoid alienating that base any more. Rolling out a number of somehow under the radar players would only drive away a majority of that fan base quicker than a San Antonio Spurs NBA Finals.
I openly declare that I understand that the NBA is a business first and a sports league second, that the league cannot do anything to lose more fans, and that the basketball fans have every right to be disinterested in the league before the second of the season.
Still, this event (the voting is marketed as an event itself that fans can actively take a part in) disappoints me every year. I am chronically annoyed that undeserving players are pulling a Ralph Nadar and that the truly deserving stars are ignored. Particularly, two contemptible choices and two shamefully neglected players infuriate me this season.
I must make a note here. I do not hold the players in contempt. This is contempt for fans who do not even take five minutes to look at a stat sheet. The players are both currently second in voting for the guard spots in their perspective conference ballots, making them starters.
The Houston Rockets Tracy McGrady has not played since a lone six-game stretch in the middle of December. He has openly been told he is going to be traded and is a perpetual DNP-Coaches Decision. McGrady is currently second in the Western Conference with 746,625 votes and has scored a total of 19 points this season. To put this in perspective, McGrady has received the 10th most votes in this sham election and is averaging 39,296 votes per point he has scored. Hopefully Fanhouse’s Brett Pollakoff is correct and Steve Nash will pull ahead of him as the voting period comes closer to an end.
Allen Iverson is one of the best shooting guards of all time. If an NBA Magazine had a Pound-for Pound Player Award like the boxing publication Ring Magazine then he would go down as the toughest player ever. He averaged over 20 points a game as a player shorter than 6-feet tall and a mere 165 pounds driving to the rim in the height of the prison ball era of the late 1990s and early 21st century.
Still, this season he complained his way out of a contract with the Memphis Grizzlies to sign with the Philadelphia 76ers after they lost their point guard to injury (and to sell 76ers tickets). His Sixers season numbers have him averaging 15.3 points and 4.3 assists a game and shooting 45 percent from the field. These are not bad numbers, but they are not starting All Star numbers. This is a more defensible pick in the Eastern Conference given the recent suspension Gilbert Arenas, but there are still better players out there that deserve to start.
These two players are not the two players that should be starting McGrady and Iverson’s place (Steve Nash and Joe Johnson for those wondering). These two players are stars that are routinely recognized only after somebody mentions their name.
Deron Williams has been brilliant…again. He is averaging 19.6 points and 9.7 assists a game. He is third in the NBA in assists and is the third best scoring point guard in the league. He is the reason that the Utah Jazz are in the playoff hunt every season, including this season.
Currently he is 8th in the All Star voting for Western Conference guards. I am not stating that he should a starter, but he should not be behind Aaron Brooks, Jason Kidd, and probably a couple of the other guards. It is not his fault that he was drafted the same year as Chris Paul or that he plays in Salt Lake City, yet I imagine that those two factors will be the two most damaging facts when his legacy is decided by the fans. It is kind of like being a shooting guard playing in Portland during the Jordan years. Clyde “The Glide” Drexler will forever be knocked down a notch simply because he is not MJ.
Durant has been a force on a surprising young Oklahoma City Thunder team that is 21-16. He is also the fourth leading scorer in the NBA with 28.8 PPG in just his third season as a pro (at the age of 21). The mere mention of his name gets most NBA fans excited. We all know he is going to be great, but only after somebody else reminds us that he exists.
Some detractors may note that he still takes bad shots and does little else but score, but he still has managed to place third in the 2009-10 preseason Hollinger rankings for small forwards.
This guy is 6-9 and listed at a generous 230 pounds, yet he seems bigger because he is all arms and legs and can go off any night from any range. Despite all this, he is still fifth in the Western Conference forward ballots. Admittedly, the players ahead of him are all great players, but I feel like a scoring machine like Durant should be more than 50,000 votes ahead of Trevor Ariza and he should be threatening to jump ahead of Pau Gasol on the ballot.
This fear may be a little preemptive, but the fact that he plays in a small market (Who knew Oklahoma City could carry a professional sports franchise?) and receives shockingly little national television attention (How many Miami Heat games do I have to watch on TNT and ESPN?) could be a detriment to his career. People are arguing that LeBron needs to play in a bigger market to become the best player he can be, but I would argue that Durant needs a bigger market much more to prove just how good he really is.