It won’t be long until someone claims that Putin and the Russian government hacked the NBA All-Star voting polls as well. That, or Kevin Durant sat by his computer one night and casted a few million fan ballots without Westbrook’s name on one of them, just ‘cause. This could very well go down as one of the biggest all-star snubs in the history of sports. Not only does Russell Westbrook lead the league in scoring, ranks second in assists, and is the only guard to rank in the top 15 in the league in rebounds, but the MVP caliber performance that he displays on a nightly basis is consistent enough to go down as one of the best statistical seasons this league has ever seen. This isn’t to say that we aren’t impressed with Steph’s ability to shoot the three ball the last couple years or that Wilt Chamberlain’s rebounding ability will ever be matched, but no one in the last 50 years has managed to succeed with flying colors in all aspects of the game like we have seen Westbrook do this year.
He is on pace to average a triple double, something that the NBA has yet to see since Oscar Robertson’s historical season in 1962. Westbrook had 18 triple doubles all of last season. So far this season, he’s racked up 21. The 10 all-star starters combined? Only 19 (13 of which belong to James Harden), but you are way off if you think I’m about to sit here and argue for five paragraphs on why this is such a big deal, because truth be told, this could not be less important. Is his failure to be voted as an all-star starter a bit surprising? Yes, but it makes sense if you really think about it. If the all-star polls were solely controlled by the players and the media, Russ would have been one of the two backcourt starters for the Western Conference that were announced last night. However, the all-star game isn’t supposed to be a reflection on the media’s preferences or entertainment for the players. It’s for the fans and it always will be.
James Harden is having a career season and the Rockets are only a few games out of the top spot in the West, so it’s no surprise that he got the nod. This leaves a spot for one more guard. A lot of people are most likely utterly confused as to how Steph Curry managed to land a spot in the starting five over the guy who is one of two clear cut favorites for the league’s MVP. However, when you take away the votes that each player got from their respective home fan bases, it should be no surprise that Curry received more fan votes than Westbrook. Curry isn’t having a bad season by any means and the two-time MVP continues to receive worldwide praise for his rare shooting ability. That combined with his personality that an NBA fan can’t help but to love (unlike Westbrook’s), it should not shock anyone that Curry received this honor.
All in all, the fans have the biggest say in who gets voted into the starting five for each conference. When the voting numbers get close, it ultimately comes down to a popularity contest. Unfortunately for Westbrook, unless you’re from Oklahoma City, a diehard UCLA fan or a loyal basketball enthusiast from Seattle, you don’t really like Russell Westbrook. You may praise his talent and respect the heck out of his game, but you also probably recognize that the guy whines more at the referees than Tom Brady. He constantly complains about calls and has the temper of a five year-old whose tokens got stuck in one of the machines at Chuck E Cheese’s. He’s also tied for the league lead in technical fouls this year with Demarcus Cousins, a player who is arguably the best big man in the entire league who also was not voted a starter by the fans. There’s definitely a trend here.
This may be the biggest snub that we’ve seen in the NBA in awhile, but it is far from the most foolish voting result we’ve ever seen for the all-star game. Let me remind you that Kobe Bryant had a player efficiency rating of 14.0 and shot 34.9% from the field on the second worst team in the league last year, and was voted in as a starter. If that doesn’t make you scratch your head, allow me to recall that time in 2011 where Yao Ming was voted in as a starter in a year in which he played FIVE games. FIVE. There’s no surprise as to why Kobe was voted into his 17th all-star game in his final year and Yao basically had all of China casting ballots for him, but my point is that the results don’t always make sense. Those two scenarios are more about recognition and respect, but at the end of the day, it comes down to who the fans would rather see on the court at tipoff.
The truth is, Russell Westbrook couldn’t care less if he was left off the team completely. It saves him a travel. See what I did there? He is much more concerned about chasing a ring, something he most likely won’t get this year either. Russ has put on quite the display of talent this season, and I’m sure he isn’t in much need of any more media attention than he is already getting. Is there anyone more deserving of starting in this year’s all-star game than Russell Westbrook. Not. Even. Close. However, the all-star voting isn’t a fault-free system and it showed this year. If anything, this is just more motivation for Westbrook to win his third straight all-star game MVP. This time, he’ll just do it off the bench like he did in 2015.