In past seasons, the NBA All-Star Game was a tribute to the fans. After all, it was the viewers who had full autonomy over All-Star starters. With the click of a button, fans single-handedly determined the first players to grace the court on All-Star Sunday.
But that has changed this season. Autonomy is gone and it’s been replaced by democracy. This is for the better.
The NBA instituted a voting change during the off-season that stripped the fans of their sole power to determine the All-Star starting lineups. Instead, the process now includes media and player voting taking up 50 percent of the pie in determining the All-Stars starters.
What voting used to be
All-Star voting was simple — no metrics, no formula, just fans. Through Google, Twitter or the NBA’s digital properties, fans could vote for up to 10 players every day.
It’s how Kobe Bryant was penciled in as a starter despite career-low numbers during his farewell tour. It’s how Yao Ming garnered some of the strongest All-Star support in history. And it’s how a guy like Pachulia nearly cracked the staring lineup last season with Dallas after overwhelming social media support from fans in hometown of the Republic of Georgia.
What voting is now
Now, fan impact on the All-Star starting lineups have been sliced in half. Viewers are now responsible for just 50 percent of the overall vote. Media and players themselves have each inherited 25 percent of the vote as well, effectively leveling the playing field in determining starters.
Why it changed
This season, Pachulia — who boasts modest season averages of 5.5 points and 6.0 rebounds per game with Golden State — hauled in more fan votes than household names like LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin, Karl-Anthony Towns and Marc Gasol combined.
It was a fad that culminated last year with Grammy award-winning artist Wyclef Jean dedicating a short song to Pachulia’s All-Star campaign. The song went viral, and Pachulia fell short of the starting lineup by just 10,000 votes.
What the change means for fan votes
Fifty percent of the power is in the fans’ hands, and you see it with Pachulia still ranking atop the league, as well as the overwhelming support for Dwyane Wade, Kyrie Irving and Derrick Rose.
But the playing field has been leveled. All-Star voting has a direct impact on player salaries — some superstars have contract incentives to become an All-Star starter. Anthony Davis lost $23 million over the life of his contract in part because fans failed to vote him into the starting lineup last season.
Now, players can vote for themselves, and the oh-so respectable media members can do their part to ensure the right players get voted in, too.
How will it break down?
This is anyone’s guess. The new voting process leaves a lot of uncertainty heading into the selection show. Our Tom Ziller made his predictions. We can’t wait to see how it all shakes out.