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NBA All Star Game: How Popularity Outdoes Actual Basketball

The NBA All Star Game ballots have revealed something that we’ve all already been aware of for sometime. The whole thing is a popularity contest, plain and simple. Fan voting – and making this available on various platforms online – has made sure of that.

That’s not to say this is a bad thing for a game that doesn’t affect the regular season record. However, the NBA All Star Game does intend to showcase the best of the best. But sometimes the fans’ cheer doesn’t really fit that bill.

Presenting Durant, Leonard, and… Pachulia?

The initial returns of this year’s NBA All Star voting shows us exactly what’s going on. The top vote-getter for the East’s frontcourt is, unsurprisingly, Kevin Durant. Durant remains a force to be reckoned with. But the next highest on that list is Zaza Pachulia, who’s averaging 5.3 points and 5.7 rebounds. Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis and Draymond Green, all have less votes.

The first #NBAAllStar Voting presented by @verizon returns! Voting ends 1/16/17: NBA.com/vote

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That’s right: Pachulia, who has spent the last four years hopscotching around different teams, is somehow earning more votes than Leonard, a Finals MVP blossoming into a franchise player. All probably because he plays for the Golden State Warriors, and voted in by Warriors fans seeking representation. Or, a whole load of sarcastic fans just want to see how far they can sabotage the NBA All Star Game.

Zaza isn’t the only one getting listed alongside these high-caliber players. Jeremy Lin of the lowly Brooklyn Nets, who is currently injured, scored 8th among guards. Traces of Linsanity, perhaps, but Lin certainly doesn’t deserve more votes than Boston’s Avery Bradley.

League and Media Veto

Perhaps, sniffing out the fans’ conspiracy to include Zaza in the NBA All Star Game, the League has since announced it would be changing the format of Starter All Star voting: 50% of the weighted average vote would be determined by fans, 25% by a media panel, and 25% by the players. This introduces a simple but effective check-and-balance system.

It is likely that media members would take the vote more seriously, so this is no surprise (even though there are still some biases from media darlings). Players’ vote is also an interesting inclusion. Who better to vote for the league’s best than the people playing them? In other words: less power to popularity, more to actual basketball. Given this, it’s unlikely that Zaza will still make his way to New Orleans for the game.

And yet, it would have been fun to see him hit a block on an attempted LeBron James dunk. Can you imagine the highlight reel?

Read More: NBA All-Star Game: 5 Players Who Should Get Their First Nod

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