Kobe Bryant Would Be the Second-Worst All-Star Selection in 35 Years, Second Only to Kobe Bryant
All-Star selections are quite the controversial topic. It’s broken down into four voting groups: Western Conference frontcourt, Western Conference guards, Eastern Conference frontcourt, and Eastern Conference guards. Obviously, if the talent disparity is big enough, a top-20 player won’t make it (like DeMarcus Cousins last year, for example).
The big issue with All-Star selections: we’re not really sure, as a basketball community, how to interpret a selection. BasketballReference.com has a Hall of Fame probability model, and they have found five predictor variables: height, NBA championships, NBA points, NBA peak win shares, and All-Star selections. The fact that All-Star selections and Hall of Fame entrance are strongly correlated isn’t a problem in itself, but it certainly is with the current voting process and the popularity-contest-style that it’s become. If the All-Star game is supposed to be pure entertainment and fun, that’s fine. If it’s going to define players’ legacies, then we have a problem.
This problem has reared its ugly head specifically in the past two seasons. Players who are at the end of their career are getting voted in despite still not being at the level of play demanded of the younger guys looking to crack the rotation for the first time. Take a look at the 10 worst seasons in the past 35 years (since 1980) by players who were selected to the All-Star game.
Kobe Bryant was selected last year (although he didn’t play due to injury) and will likely make it again this season. His current WS/48 mark of 0.010 would be second worst in the past 35 years. It’s only better than last year’s dreadful mark of -0.097. Bryant was a great player in his prime and has deserved many of his All-Star selections. He did not deserve it last year and definitely does not this year.
In 2000-2001, a 22-year-old Dirk Nowitzki posted 14.6 win shares (0.224 WS/48) and didn’t make the All-Star game. That was the most egregious omission in our 35-year time period, but it won’t hurt Dirk’s Hall of Fame chances. He’s a lock. However, a guy like Kyle Lowry last year? His 11.7-win-share season last year was the 13th-highest since 1980 to be left out of the All-Star game. Could that hurt his legacy in the future? It’s certainly possible if we continue to judge players’ careers by All-Star selections.
If Kobe gets selected this year, it will probably mean some better player, be it Klay Thompson or Gordon Hayward, will be left out. And that’s fine if fans just want to see Kobe in the All-Star game. But if that happens, let’s stop pretending the number of All-Star selections a player has is in any way a meaningful criteria to use for Hall of Fame voting or how to judge a players’ career.