NBA has some All-Star problems

After harping on some of the issues the NFL is facing with the Pro Bowl yesterday, I figured it was time to turn my attention to another All-Star game with major issues.

The NBA All-Star game is always a fun affair and usually well-attended. Instead, the issues the NBA has with it’s showcase game center more around who is involved and how they are selected.

Stephen_Curry2
Curry leads the NBA in scoring, but not in All-Star votes.

There is nothing wrong with fan voting, as long as the fans actually vote. Kobe Bryant received the most votes, (we will get into why that is an issue in a minute) barely edging out Steph Curry.

According to a NBA press release, Bryant led the way with just under 1.9 million votes. That is flat out pathetic. It is an uptick though from last season where Curry had the most votes while barely topping one million votes.

The Eastern Conference was even worse as LeBron James led the way with 1.1 million votes. Dwyane Wade was the next highest and could not even top the one million vote mark.

The NBA is a global organization. They have fans in time zones across the globe. Roughly 315 million people live in the United States and over seven billion people populate planet Earth. How is it that the NBA has players who cannot even garner two million votes?

Tom_Brady
Brady narrowly edged out Cam Newton for the most votes for any player.

Believe it or not, these numbers are actually really impressive when you compare them to the NFL. Tom Brady led all Pro Bowl vote-getters with a meager 700,000. However, fan voting is not the only thing that decides Pro Bowl rosters. Players and coaches give their input as to who should be playing in Hawaii and the fans players and coaches all pull equal weight.

For the NBA, it is solely decided by fans. Well at least the starters. Coaches determine the rest of the roster. Neither system is perfect, both probably need to be tweak and they definitely need to find a way to increase fan voting if they want to continue to rely on it.

Kobe Bryant
Bryant announced earlier this year that he will retire at the end of the season.

Fan voting also leads to some other issues, such as selecting players who do not deserve to be playing in that game. I mentioned before that we would be getting back to Bryant, who at the age of 39 is making his final All-Star appearance. Bryant will go down as one of the great players in NBA history, but based on his stats he has no business being in this game.

The Lakers’ shooting guard is in the midst of the worst shooting season of his career. He is hitting just 34.6 percent of his shots from the field, which is the worst mark among qualified players in the league, and only 25 percent from three-point range. There are 119 qualified players who shoot the ball better than Bryant and the next lowest one is Wesley Matthews at 38.9 percent. He is also on pace to put up the worst scoring numbers of his career in a season where he started at least 10 games.

What is even more disappointing is that Bryant’s presence prevents someone more deserving, like Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum or Andrew Wiggins, from participating in the game. Those three definitely deserved some All-Star consideration.

In short, Kobe should not be in the All-Star game, much less be starting. However, his inclusion brings about an interesting question. Does the NBA care?

The league is interested in putting on a fun-filled weekend for the fans and the All-Star game is the capstone of it. Including fan favorites like Kobe, who is on his farewell tour, boosts interest in the game. That should increase ticket sales and likely television rankings as well.

Dwyane Wade
Wade is making his 12th All-Star appearance in 13 years.

This applies to Dwyane Wade as well. While he is not as bad of a culprit here as Kobe, I don’t think he deserves to be starting in the Eastern Conference. Wade is more the product of being the most well-known player on a popular team. I think Wade has played well enough this season that he should be part of the game, but the fact that he is starting over Jimmy Butler and DeMar DeRozan is questionable at best. Both Butler and DeRozan have put up better points, rebounds and steals per game than Wade this season.

What the NBA needs to decide is which direction they want to take this in. Are they content with having the game be a spectacle for the fans, regardless of whether or not the most-deserving players are part of it? Or do they really want this to be a reward for players who are having incredible seasons and deserve recognition for their play?

Either way can work, but right now the NBA is promoting the second idea, while practicing the first.

And don’t even get me started on the fact that Tyronn Lue is coaching the Eastern Conference team. Give me a break!

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Why the Pro Bowl will help Odell Beckham Jr.

Everyone seems to be gearing up for another year where we ignore the Pro Bowl and laugh about the fact that it is even being played.

The running joke this year is the number of declined invitations leading to replacements, as we now have 33 new players participating. The quarterback pool includes Tyrod Taylor, who only threw for 20 touchdowns and 3,000 yards, Teddy Bridgewater, who had 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions, Jameis Winston and Derek Carr, who each turned the ball over 21 times this season. Needless to say, these guys wouldn’t make it most other years.

Odell_Beckham_Jr.
Beckham is playing in his second Pro Bowl in just his second season out of LSU.

So yes, the game itself will likely lack a little bit of the proven star-power we usually see. However, there is still a lot of value in this game being played. Most of it this year goes to the New York Giants.

As we saw this season, the Giants’ number one wide receiver, Odell Beckham Jr., continued his meteoric rise to stardom. Beckham has quickly become a fan favorite for Big Blue. He also showed us another example of why becoming a star so quickly can be dangerous.

Beckham earned himself a one-game suspension this season for his actions on the field against the Carolina Panthers. That game was talked up as a huge match up between Beckham and Panther corner Josh Norman.

Beckham let his temper get the best of him and was lucky not to be thrown out of the game. He cost his team valuable yards on multiple occasions for penalties called against him in what ended up being a very close game. His absence in the team’s ensuing trip to Minnesota was also felt in a 49-17 drubbing against the Vikings.

It became clear to everyone that Beckham’s early fame had gone to his head. He had become a prima donna, similar to Randy Moss or Terrell Owens. We saw what happened to those guys, who will always be remembered more for their attitude than their talent. I really think that Beckham would have continued down that path if it was not for the Pro Bowl this weekend.

No, I don’t think Beckham will learn anything physical or show great signs of route running development. I think he is going to get something he desperately needs. And that is a mentor.

Beckham is one of the two team captains for his Pro Bowl squad. That team is being coached by Jerry Rice, who is hands down the greatest receiver to ever play the game of football. In addition to that, Rice is also a great role model. He was never in the media for the wrong meetings. He was certainly a public figure and sometimes flashy, but he kept himself in check. He learned to share the spotlight with Joe Montana and Steve Young as well.

Odell Beckham Jr.
If Beckham straightens out his attitude, we can all enjoy these types of catches a little bit more.

That is exactly what Beckham needs to learn to do and there is no one better in the world for him to learn from. Rice not only handled his fame, he embraced it in a way that made him an icon and a lovable player. I’m not saying that Beckham needs for everyone one to love him, but he needs to get his attitude in check and make sure he is not a distraction to his team. Continuing to garner negative attention, like he did towards the end of the regular season this year, hurts your team, no matter how talented of a player you are. When you happen to be the star of the team, that just compounds the issue.

 

Rice came to practice every day ready to work and had that drive to be the best. So often we see young players rest on their laurels and bask in the glory of early career success, only to have it backfire. I have a good feeling that Rice is working on putting this kid on the right path.

We will have to see if Rice is able to instill these leadership qualities in Beckham. It seems like that he is off to a good start though.