Gorch on the Porch: Pro players might be dumber than fans

Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James (23) reacts after being fouled by Golden State Warriors Draymond Green (23) in the second quarter on Monday, Jan. 16, 2017 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group/TNS)

It’s that time of the season in winter high school sports when all-state and all-conference teams will be coming out, and published in The News-Dispatch, leading to eventual all-area teams and/or player of the year packages.

And sometimes, a player or coach gets robbed out of a deserving all-state or all-conference honor because of his or her not being popular enough with peers.

That also goes for college and professional sports.

You see, the “popularity contest” of all-star teams doesn’t only exist among fans like you see in the major pro sports. In fact, the fans aren’t as dumb or biased as the athletes themselves, as was shown this week in the National Basketball Association (NBA) when the annual All-Star Game voting was revealed.

Most pro all-star teams for several years have been almost totally fan voting. I still remember loving to grab Major League Baseball All-Star Game ballots when I attended White Sox game, fill them out, and drop them in the box before leaving the park.

And it seems like every year, a player or two made the team when they didn’t deserve it in the eyes of experts.

But the NBA supposedly devised a plan this season to prevent that from happening as it changed the all-star voting to a combination of fans (50 percent), players (25 percent) and select media members (25 percent).

Sounds full proof, right?

Well, not so much. Just ask former Chicago Bulls’ guard and current Golden State Warriors’ coach Steve Kerr, who stood on his soap box the other day and ranted about this year’s voting results.

“I am very disappointed in the players, though,” said Kerr, who will coach the Western Conference in the game, before the Warriors lost 105-102 at Miami on Monday night. “I mean, they've asked for a vote, and a lot of them just made a mockery of it.”

Why did he say that? Well, out of the 324 players who voted, 128 did not vote for Cleveland’s LeBron James.

You know that guy … the consensus best player in the league and one of the top five or 10 players of all-time, depending on who you ask.

What? You say you don’t like James either? Okay, but you’re a fan and the players who wanted the chance to vote are supposed to be smarter and not as biased.

Want another example of player stupidity? Golden State’s Kevin Durant, who switched teams in the offseason, much to the dismay of many fans, but is still one of the top three or four players in the game today, did not receive a vote from 154 colleagues.

And Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, who is averaging a triple-double more than halfway through the season, wasn’t voted as a starter.

Let me repeat that: Westbrook is on pace to accomplish something that has only been done once in NBA history — average a triple-double for a full season (only done by Indiana’s very own Oscar Robertson) — and the combination of fans, players and media voted two other guards ahead of him in the Western Conference.

Does playing basketball really kill that many brain cells?

For the record, media members voted for Westbrook and Houston’s James Harden overwhelmingly (93 and 91 votes, respectively, while Golden State’s Stephen Curry received just six votes), and the players also voted Westbrook and Harden 1-2 with 167 and 149 votes, respectively, while Curry had 63. It was the fans that had Curry first and Harden second, so in this instance, the fans aren’t very smart. Then again, with a popularity contest, the reigning two-time MVP will usually get lots of fan votes.

But looking at the player results, it looks like many used their one for themselves.

How else do you explain Bulls’ reserve players Jerian Grant and Denzel Valentine getting votes? Grant actually got two, so assuming he voted for himself, another player was just as dumb. Former Bulls’ reserve Tony Snell, who was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks for Michael Carter-Williams, got two votes.

Dumb and dumber, again.

Boston’s Tyler Zeller got a vote. That had to be a vote for himself because not even his brother Cody, a former Indiana University standout who plays for the Charlotte Hornets, would vote for him.

“I saw the list. I saw all the guys who got votes … are you allowed to vote for yourself?” Kerr continued. “Are guys voting for themselves? I mean, there were 50 guys on there who had no business getting votes. I just think if you're going to give the players (the vote), I think they should take it seriously. That's my own thought."

Maybe it’s unfair to call any players dumb because of their votes. But if they’re not dumb, they’re unworthy of the privilege they asked for, uncaring of the game they’re getting paid millions of dollars to play, and unethical.

If you’re curious about the votes, they’re for all to see at official.nba.com/nba-all-star-2017-voting-results/. Maybe you can explain how Milwaukee’s Thon Maker got two votes when he’s only averaging 2.3 points in 4.9 minutes per game.

Reach sports editor Steve T. Gorches at sgorches@thenewsdispatch.com or (219) 214-4206. Follow him on Twitter @SteveTGorches.

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