Fan voting has long been a staple of many professional sports all-star games. In Major League Baseball the fans vote in the starters for both the AL and NL, excluding pitchers, and in the NHL, up until last year fans were solely responsible for the selection process.
What happened that forced the recent change in the NHL All-Star voting is the same sort of occurrences that has forced the MLB to rethink their voting policies and for the NBA to change their voting policy to include players and the media in the voting process for the first time since the 1974-75 season.
In baseball there is a history of fans stuffing the ballot box dating back to 1957 when Cincinnati Reds fans filled out ballots sometimes by the thousands and was, according to local legend, a requirement before buying a drink at some pubs. As recent as last year, MLB fan voting stirred up controversy when the Kansas City Royals’ faithful nearly cast enough votes to elect eight of the nine AL starters, Royals.
Also, last year in the NHL, fans voted journeyman enforcer John Scott as an all-star captain despite him being traded mid-season and by the the all-star break, not even playing in the NHL but having been demoted to the Montreal Canadiens’ AHL affiliate. The NHL has changed the rules for this season to make sure that players voted to the all-star game do, in fact, currently play in the NHL.
The NBA has drawn its fair share of flak as well with fans voting with Kobe Bryant and Yao Ming being voted in despite injuries, and in the latter case the player having only played in five games in the past two seasons due to injuries.
Even in 2015, the Atlanta Hawks had a record-tying four all-stars despite maintaining a solid, but unspectacular 31-24 record.
All of this has culminated with the NBA changing the rules for this years All-Star game festivities in New Orleans, now giving fans 50 percent of the voting share, with the rest being divided up between the players and the media.
Even with this years changes, it will certainly be doubtful that fans and media alike will be satisfied with the results of the all-star voting. With the addition of superstar Kevin Durant, the Golden State Warriors very likely could distort all-star representation yet again. Golden State has three sure fire all-stars in Durant, Steph Curry and Draymond Green, but we could see even more Warriors if fan voting holds enough weight.
If fan voting was still the only method of voting, the Warriors would have a record-tying three starters and a record shattering six total players, including 14th-year veteran center Zaza Pachulia, who is not exactly setting the world on fire with his 5.5 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.
It is clear that the NBA needed to make a change, but is this new voting methodology enough? The NBA has maybe the best All-Star festivities of any pro sport with prime time events like the game itself, the Slam Dunk Contest, as well as a bevy of other fun supplements like the three-point shootout, skills competition and celebrity game, so why not make the most of this?
Maybe make the fan vote equal to the media and players as done in the NFL Pro Bowl. Since the game has no major impact to the season like the MLB All-Star game, give fans a reason to tune in by having the best of the best showcase their talents.
The NBA has seen its TV ratings steadily rise in the past few years, but as NFL ratings have shown, even for the most popular sports, nothing is guaranteed. Fans are obviously interested, how about we make sure you give them the best?