Voting for NBA All Star Game starters used to be a much simpler endeavor back in the pre-internet days.
You go to a game, you grab a ballot (or handful of ballots), punch out the holes for all of your selections, and slip the ballot in the ballot box. Generally, through the 80's and 90's, the results of this methodology were fairly predictable -- two five man permutations of big market scoring champions, starters on NBA championship teams, and guys who had been in multiple All-Star games.
To a degree, unless your name was Michael Jordan or LeBron James, there was a "career accomplishment" bar that needed to be cleared to get the respect of fan bases around the league and compel them to poke out a chad on your behalf.
Well, the internet has certainly altered the process in two clear ways.
First, it's made the voting available to anybody with a computer. You don't have to attend an NBA game nor even live in the United States to vote for the starters in the game (Yao Ming is aware of this.), which in a way makes the voting a more unilaterally democratic process.
Secondly, Internet voting combined with the "hyperlink room service" of social media has made it much easier for fan bases to engage in mass voting campaigns, better known as "stuffing the ballot box."
Oddly enough, a process that, while more inclusive, would appear to be potentially more flawed yielded a fairly accurate group of NBA All-Star starters for the upcoming 2014 All Star Game in New Orleans. The process also revealed that Houstonians are either surfing porn or downloading music or trolling chat rooms or pretty much doing anything except voting for NBA All Stars in their internet time.
Analysis in a moment, but without further ado, here are the starters in the East and the West:
EASTERN CONFERENCE Forwards: LeBron James (MIA), Carmelo Anthony (NYK), Paul George (IND) Guards: Dwyane Wade (MIA), Kyrie Irving (CLE)
WESTERN CONFERENCE Forwards: Blake Griffin (LAC), Kevin Durant (OKC), Kevin Love (MIN) Guards: Steph Curry (GSW), Kobe Bryant (LAL) Observations on this group:
1. For those who don't know, the format this season eliminates the center position and just blends all forwards and centers into a "front court" category. That said, Kevin Love apparently passed Dwight Howard in the final week to beat him out by 8,000 votes, proving the power of social media and mass voting campaigns. The Timberwolves rallied hard for fans to vote for Love, attaining not only the All-Star starter's berth but the tangential benefit of showing Love how awesome Minnesota thinks he is!!! (Love can opt out of his contract after next season.)
2. Further, the Western Conference front court is loaded. The starting front court is Durant, Love, and Griffin. The next three after them, in my mind, would be Howard, Anthony Davis, and LaMarcus Aldridge. The second three are having almost as great a combined season as the first three. (Durant's superhero level play since the first of the year tips the scale, but still...)
3. Only one real godfather pick (or maybe better phrasing would be "grandfathered pick") by the fans -- Bryant, who has been injured for much of the season, but what with him winning as many career NBA titles (five) as the rest of the starters from both teams combined (Wade 3, James 2), he probably deserves an exemption. Again, if all of you from Houston spent less time playing Candy Crush and more time stuffing the ballot box, James Harden would have gotten in. Losers.
4. Kudos to the fans for getting a few of these medium/small market picks correct. In years past, a small market guy would have needed scoring titles or several years of deep playoff runs to finally get recognition. But the internet process has obviously availed the voting to some smart fans who saw fit (rightfully) to include Curry, George, and Irving. All deserved, especially Curry who rarely comes off the floor for Golden State and was an egregious snub last season.
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5. Four of the ten starters play for teams with sub .500 records. That has to be some sort of record.
For Rocket fans awaiting the invitations for Harden and Howard (I'd like to say Chandler Parsons, too, but man, is the West loaded), you'll have to wait until next Thursday when the results of the vote by all of the head coaches is announced. Coaches in each conference will vote for two guards, three front court players and two players regardless of position.
The Internet will have no say.