Kobe Bryant has no business being in the All-Star Game, and the suggestion that he should be is flat out ludicrous. That didn’t stop Adam Silver from making such a proclamation, though. Dan Feldman of ProBasketballTalk.com scribed Silver’s comments to SiriusXM Radio:
I hope to see him there. I think he deserves to be there.
He’s going to retire as one of the NBA’s greatest players.
He’s done, even beyond his play on the floor, he’s played as great a role as anyone in international expansion of the game. Right now, I’d say in China, there’s still Kobe and everyone else. I think because he was such a hit there when he was there with the national team for the Beijing Olympics, and I know he’s made so many trips to China over the course of his career in the NBA. I think the same thing in India and Africa and Latin America and of course Europe, where he grew up. He’s just one of those great global ambassadors of the NBA. And I hope in the same way that Dikembe Mutombo now is a global ambassador of the NBA that we find a way to keep Kobe involved.
So, we’ll what the fans and the coaches decide, and then, we’ll go from there.
And there’s a certain “business” way of looking at it where you can say there’s a sliver of reason for him being there, but really? He’s popular in China? That’s why we should make him an All-Star? I thought it was about who was most deserving based on what they did on the court this year, not how many jerseys they sold in China.
I suppose some could argue that this is just an exhibition game and that it means nothing. Let the fans see who they want to see play. But the problem is, we don’t treat such things in hindsight. Were he to be selected, it’d mark Kobe’s 18th All-Star Game, and people will count that when chalking up his legacy. It doesn’t count now, but it’ll count later, as bogus as it is. Yet, at a minimum, it’ll be the third consecutive one where he’s admitted purely on the “Kobe factor” where he gets to go there because he’s gone there.
And I’m not being hyperbolic in stating that his last two were undeserving. Based on Win Shares, his previous two selections count as two of the five worst seasons by an All-Star in NBA history. And this year will be even worse. This year he’s having one of the worst seasons in history, period, regardless of whether he’s in the All-Star Game or not (although admittedly, he’s starting to look like a competent player again).
And there’s a part of me that wonders, would a man with the pride that Kobe has even want to be in when he’s admitted that he sucks this year?
Having been there in the past doesn’t make him more deserving now. This is supposed to be an honor for those who are playing this season. And it might even be palatable if there were an infinite number of slots to fill or a dearth of deserving players in the West, but there are not.
Kobe Bryant is listed as a frontcourt player on this year’s ballot. There will be eight such slots likely chosen for All-Star game. Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Kawhi Leonard, DeMarcus Cousins, Draymond Green and Marc Gasol are all easily more deserving. Then there’s a whole other tier including DeAndre Jordan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki (and if we’re discussing legacy, shoudn’t Dirk and Duncan get the same due?). There’s rising stars such as Andrew Wiggins, Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors (not to mention the injured Rudy Gobert).
It could be that Duncan or Nowitzki would miss their last deserved selection or someone like Derrick Favors could miss his first — and possibly only — selection.
So maybe we game the system and put him in as a guard. Just because.
Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Chris Paul should all be mortal locks over him. Damian Lillard has been infinitely better than Bryant this year. It’d be a crime if any of them weren’t in.
Then there’s the next tier of players including Klay Thompson, Brandon Knight, Eric Bledsoe and C.J. McCollum. You have resurgent seasons from Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo and Tony Parker.
There were six guards on the final Western Conference roster last year. That means probably only one of the players in the paragraph above makes the game. None if Kobe is there.
Chalking out a list of players deserving isn’t hard. It’s hard enough to narrow them down without outright stealing a slot from them to satiate an over-indulgent fan base by bestowing yet another undeserved appearance on the Mamba.
But because of Kobe’s undeserved appointment, there will be a deserved selection that gets ignored. Maybe it’ll be Knight or Bledsoe, and maybe it’ll be their only chance ever to get to one. Why should a player let his only chance — which he earned — at All-Star Weekend be robbed from him for someone less deserving?
The previous slights were “solved” by Bryant not being able to play. He was injured, and others started in his place. This year, that (hopefully) will not be a problem because I’d love to see Kobe finish out his national tour.
And that’s the sad issue with Silver’s word choice. There’s nothing “deserved” about it. This isn’t the Hall of Fame. It’s about this year, and this year Kobe isn’t deserving.
If they wanted to do something special to honor Kobe during the game because of his great accomplishments and pending retirement, I’d be all for it. If the NBA opened up a “legacy” spot on each roster, so guys who are no longer at an All-Star level could get an All-Star sendoff in their final year, I’d be down with that.
But the Kobe fans are going to show up for their guy. Who cares about whether he deserves it? He’s Kobe and that seems to be just the answer for everything. So there’s a distinct chance that Silver will get his wish and Kobe will get his third undeserved selction. And another player will be asked to give up what may be his only chance so that Kobe can get it.