And the Celtics' Ray Allen has a problem with that.
Allen spoke out this weekend against the process of fans selecting starters for the All-Star game every winter, saying that he respects the fans but that "I don't think it should be 100 percent" up to them.
Allen, who has played in six consecutive All-Star games but has never made a start, might be onto something. After all, the latest returns from fan balloting, released on Jan. 7, show both Tracy McGrady and Allen Iverson on pace to start the February exhibition. Voting closes on Monday, and we're running out of time for the NBA's truly elite talents to rise to the top. It may not happen.
McGrady has a slim lead for the second guard spot on the Western Conference All-Star squad — Kobe Bryant is a clear shoo-in for the first spot, but McGrady remains ahead of Steve Nash despite only appearing in six games and spending more time demanding trades than playing. Nash, meanwhile, is a perennial MVP candidate.
Iverson has made more headlines off the court than on it this season, fleeing Memphis after three games for personal reasons that may have had something to do with his lack of playing time. He ended up back in Philadelphia, where his journey began 13 years ago — and the results haven't been much better. Too much ego, too many missed jumpers, too much losing.
Iverson is stealing a spot in the Eastern Conference lineup from many, many more qualified guards — among them Joe Johnson, Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose and yes, Allen himself. Clearly, A.I. doesn't deserve to represent his conference in the All-Star game, much less start. But because the fans have all the control, it appears that he's bound to do just that.
And maybe there's nothing wrong with it.
McGrady and Iverson starting the All-Star game is a joke. Absolutely. But it's the fans' joke. They have the right to select whomever they please — and even if they get the selections wrong, that's their prerogative.
The All-Star game isn't a meritocracy. It's a popularity contest. And that's entirely the point — the game isn't about valuing the gaudiest numbers or the best team players. It's about the players who make headlines, who make millions, who have shoe contracts. It's about the storylines that the fans love to follow.
McGrady has been a good story. He's been struggling to find a winning team his entire career, battling to stave off injuries and stay on the court, looking to find a way out of Houston and a chance to begin anew somewhere else. Whether you're rooting for him or not, you can't deny that his journey has been compelling.
As for Iverson, there's no better saga in the NBA than his. A malcontent one day, a retiree the next — and now, he's seeking redemption in Philly, back where it all began. How can you not love that?
The NBA All-Star game isn't a big deal, in the grand scheme of things. It's not like in baseball, where the Midsummer Classic decides home field advantage for the World Series. It's an exhibition and an exhibition only — nobody gives their all, nobody plays defense, the scores climb into the 140s and a good time is had by all. It's not about basketball; it's about entertainment.
Ray Allen, sadly, isn't one of the NBA's best entertainers. He's a great player and a definite Hall of Famer, but he's not on the same level as a celebrity like A.I. or T-Mac.
Allen is a nine-time All-Star and a zero-time starter. Is that what he deserves? Maybe not. But that's up to the fans to decide.