When the stars in the galaxies of the National Basketball Association (NBA) set out on a collision course, sentiments and heated emotions from the fans of the game in the United States also run wild. The NBA All-Star is the biggest show of the American NBA bringing together all the super big names. All of the biggest stars in the game play in the United States where the game flourishes the most and enjoys immense support from the populace.
Among these said biggest stars are those who are voted from the two zones that comprise the NBA – the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference. Players who would be so called super stars fit for the All-Stars games are those that have distinguished themselves in the course of a full season (regular season and the playoffs) with personal statistics to show for it, and this has been the tradition of selection of the NBA for some 64 years now. The super stars are separated into two teams depending on which of the conference zones they play in, and are made to compete for glory against each other- Eastern America against Western!
Now, of the 64 times that the NBA All-Star Game has staged, there are only a few players who have been in the games more than 16 times. Only players in the culture of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and their likes ever so made it. Kobe, for instance, never failed to repeat messianic performances that have seen him singlehandedly win laurels in his Los Angeles Lakers career. When asked for how he feels after breaking the record of his revered model and one touted to be America’s greatest Basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan, he replied by saying he feels great to be part of the culture of the legendary clan that had his boyhood heroes.
Players who make the All-Star list are voted in by the fans and if a player’s fans are loyal, he gets voted in on this premise of fan loyalty irrespective of current form. In other words, sentiments have a role to play in player selection. Sentimental as fans of popular players might be, the neutral voting fans have come out hard against the game organisers, some of them calling for an amendment of the mode of selection to that which will see the line-ups determined by a special NBA constituted committee and not by fans. This call became more strident in the last selection because there have been grudges about some “undeserved” inclusions in the All-Star Game of 2015 that came up between February 13 and 15, 2015.
When the two lists for both conferences were announced, critics continually challenged the inclusion of prominent names like Kobe Bryant and players of his ilk who leveraged on an outstanding Public Relations (PR) coupled with their big names and not on current performance. Some folks have even concluded that being an “All-Star” has nothing to do with performance contrary to the supposed ideal of how that basketball should be an athletic team sport, engaging the entire physique and mind of only the best and fittest players – a prerequisite they claim Kobe doesn’t meet.
They challenged how he got a starting position over Harden, when the stats are plain and simple. Popular opinion had it that though the NBA All-Star Game is mostly show time, but to put the likes of Kobe into the starting line ups is a little bit puzzling. The voting fans who are not loyal to Kobe think Kobe’s inclusion is a big snub for Paul Millsap of the Atlanta Hawks who has had a phenomenal year, and that Mello should give a big bonus to his PR team for making sure he didn’t miss starting five. The reason for the disapproval has been that Kobe has had a lousy individual year without playing any defence in matches, in an awful Lakers team and that at least six guys, including Kevin Durant, Westbrook, James Harden, Lillard, Thompson, Kawhi and Paul Millsap could have been on Kobe’s place.
While some shared the sentiment that the surprise element of some inclusions and exclusions were pretty typical so that players in big markets could make the starting five even though their teams are terrible, others think that the All-Star player selection is not always based on current form of players alone but also on public perception. For instance the fans of Kobe might just have wished to see him again against the likes of LeBron James for the last few remaining seasons left in his playing career, before the legend bows out of active playing. And why not – as long as the sight of him playing sparks off a feeling that they cannot get from any other player?
This set of people are sentimental and it’s okay to show sentiment to him who has five NBA rings and is a definite future Hall of Famer. It shows that the All-Star voting is a popularity contest as much as it is about who is playing well- I mean, if having Yao Ming start every year while he was on the Rockets over Shaq did not prove that, then everyone had been sleeping. Kobe does not deserve to start, but he is arguably the most loved (or hated) and consequently the most popular player in the NBA.
But the other side of the argument stems from the postulation that All-Star weekends are to give the fans an exhibition game of the best of the best and because bragging right is at stake if a loss is recorded for any one of the two Conferences, selection should therefore be based on the players’ season performances not their dusty fame. But then again, Kobe’s vote-getting incidence was seen as prejudiced voting given that he had hardly played at all in the season due to his injury. Some insinuation of Kobe being replaced by James Harden in the starting five, as in the last edition of the All-Star Game which had spread like wild fire finally became reality because Kobe could not fully recuperate from his injury. Thus the “really deserving” Harden reclaimed his place in the starting five.
Highpoints of Kobe Bryant’s illustrious career include raking in an all-time second highest individual game points (81 points) in a single NBA game – a game where even a 40 pointer is considered very high. He was also selected to play in the NBA All-Star Game on 16 occasions with his latest selection being the 17th, in spite of being injured. He also won All-Star MVP Awards in 2002, 2007, 2009 and 2011 (he shared the 2009 award with Shaquille O’Neal).