NBA All-Star Game Needs to Make Major Format Changes

By Greg Sulik
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The starters for the NBA All-Star game were announced yesterday, and once again they were a complete joke. Kobe Bryant is starting for the West despite having appeared in just six games this season. The idea that Bryant made the starting lineup over outstanding players like Damian Lillard, James Harden, Tony Parker, Goran Dragic and Monta Ellis is absolutely laughable.

In the East, Kyrie Irving, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony were all handed undeserved starting spots. Anthony has been good despite his low shooting percentage, but the fact that the New York Knicks are 15-27 has to count for something. Roy Hibbert would have been a much better choice in the frontcourt. In the backcourt, John Wall has clearly been better than both Irving and Wade, and he actually has his team winning, unlike Irving. Finally, Wade has missed 13 games and is averaging the lowest point total since his rookie year, and his assists and rebounds are below his career averages as well. Kyle Lowry, Lance Stephenson and even DeMar DeRozan all have a case to make the team over Wade.

The All-Star game is supposed to recognize who is having the best season. Not who has the best career or who is the biggest name, but which players are playing the best basketball this season. Unfortunately, in its current format the All-Star game repeatedly fails to recognize that, and because of that major changes are needed. As some have pointed out, fan voting is obviously to blame for this problem. The NBA needs to either admit that this is simply a show for the fans and stop pretending that it recognizes the league’s best players, or they need to dramatically reduce the fans’ influence on who gets in.

If the NBA is smart, they will turn much of the power over to the coaches, players and media, as they are far more likely to vote in the most deserving players than casual fans that simply vote for big names. The league should also institute a minimum games played clause, removing players like Bryant from the ballot entirely. Finally, the NBA needs to take the NFL’s lead and move to an unconferenced format. The West clearly has far more deserving players than East at every position except small forward, and top players from the West won’t make the team while the East searches for a respectable roster. The game should be about having the best 24 players, regardless of conference.

Why does this matter? Because the All-Star game is viewed as big honor, and that status has an influence on the game. Obviously, this will have no impact on Bryant’s or Wade’s legacy, but it could affect Dragic’s next contract or Wall’s next endorsement deal. That simply isn’t fair to players who have earned that recognition. The All-Star game simply doesn’t work in its current format, and it is time for the NBA to step up and make some major changes to preserve the integrity of the game.

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