The Wildest NBA All-Star Fan Votes We've Seen in the Last 10 YearsJanuary 14, 2022
The Wildest NBA All-Star Fan Votes We've Seen in the Last 10 Years
Fan voting for the NBA All-Star Game is a lot of things: fun, engaging, popular, the whole nine. It can also be random and egregious and churn out WTF moments. And with voting for the 2022 NBA All-Star Game in full swing, we might as well relive some of those dubya-tee-eff instances.
Criteria for this exercise is subjective. For our purposes, we want only the most "Holy crap" returns. This means looking beyond wildly high finishes for late-career or injured megastars. It should not surprise us that Kyrie Irving has popped up on the fan-vote radar this season, or that Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose, etc. have cracked the upper-echelon while on the shelf or past their heydays.
Inflated consideration for end-of-career sendoffs will be similarly excluded. (Think: Manu Ginobili finishing second in the 2018 West backcourt tally.) Powerful brands with a rational explanation behind them will also be bounced from the running (late-career Kobe, aging Melo, Jeremy Lin, et al.).
Only the top 20 spots from each category will be under the microscope, as well. There will, however, be a "They were playing for the Los Angeles Lakers" exception.
Kiddies and randos from the Association's flagship franchise regularly appear in the top 10 of their respective categories, so anyone wearing a Lakers jersey will qualify only if they finished inside the top five. This ensures we don't spend the balance of our time focusing on Lonzo Ball, Jordan Clarkson and Kyle Kuzma.
Joel Anthony (2012)
It turns out playing on the Big Three-era Miami Heat when All-Star voting included a separate ballot for centers has its advantages.
Joel Anthony checked in at fourth among fellow Eastern Conference centers during the 2011-12 crusade. To be fair, he was logging real minutes, and the crop of 5s wasn't all that deep.
To be even more fair, this is still preposterous.
Anthony finished ninth among all centers in fan voting. Like, in the entire league. At no point was he ever a top-five big in the East—nor a top-10 center overall. He ranked 17th among all 5s in value over replacement player by the end of 2011-12. Out of 29 centers who qualified for the minutes per game leaderboard that season, he placed 27th in points, 26th in rebounds and 16th in blocks.
Career years don't get more nondescript. But props to 2011-12 Heat fans and members of Joel Anthony's family tree. You all did a great job.
Omer Asik (2014)
Omer Asik's seventh-place finish among Western Conference frontcourt candidates in 2013 can technically be considered more farcical than his earning the 14th spot in 2014. But he at least played in every single game during the 2012-13 campaign while averaging a double-double for the Houston Rockets.
Make no mistake, that isn't cause for generating 80,000-plus more votes than LaMarcus Aldridge. Between Asik having all of Turkey and the Rockets' global recognition behind him, though, his meteoric rise to No. 7 in 2013 includes some trace of logic.
Whatever the hell happened the following year, in 2014, does not.
Asik still played for the Rockets and enjoyed the boost that comes with being an international player. But he was barely available prior to the All-Star break because of a right thigh injury and wrapped the season averaging a not-so-jaw-dropping 5.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game across much less playing time.
Based on availability alone, Asik never should've sniffed the top 50 of the West's frontcourt ballot, let alone actually snared a top-15 spot.
Zaza Pachulia (2016 and 2017)
Congratulations to Zaza Pachulia—and the country of Georgia—for landing two completely blasphemous finishes on the All-Star ballot. The big man bagged fourth place among Western Conference frontcourt members in 2016...and then grabbed second place in 2017.
Playing actual minutes for the dynastic Golden State Warriors during this stretch no doubt helped pump up Pachulia's stock. But there are zilch-zip-zero basketball reasons for his having any notable spot on the All-Star ladder. That he ever secured more votes than Draymond Green (2016) or every other Western Conference frontcourt player other than Kevin Durant (2017) is pure comedy.
Pachulia's fourth-place appearance in 2016, specifically, is oft-credited with changing how All-Star starters get selected. He finished fewer than 15,000 votes away from third place—and the starting spot that came with it. The NBA thereafter moved to a weighted process in which fans (50 percent), media (25 percent) and players (25 percent) all help choose the five starters.
Shifting to this method makes sense. Certain contract incentives are still tied to All-Star appearances. But the lover of absurdities in me more than half-wishes there would've been a world in which Zaza friggin' Pachulia had "2016 or 2017 All-Star starter" plastered across his basketball resume.
Alex Caruso (2020)
Alex Caruso received nearly 1.3 million fan votes in 2020—the fourth-most among Western Conference backcourt players and one of the 20 fattest tallies overall.
So, yeah, wow.
This is dramatic even by played-for-the-Lakers standards. Lonzo Ball, Jordan Clarkson and Kyle Kuzma never crept inside the top five at the peak of their combined market, social media and on-the-court popularity. Caruso is an anomaly of an anomaly.
His finish is even more unique when viewed against what typically draws hyperbolic All-Star consideration. Many hoops aficionados, along with every single points-per-game enthusiast, are pulled to high-volume bucket-getters. That has never been Caruso's M.O. He spit out a whopping 5.5 points per game during the 2019-20 campaign.
Perhaps fans were drawn to his defensive diligence. Or maybe, as someone who looks more like an overnight shift supervisor at Big Lots than an NBA player, he's just super relatable. Whatever the reasoning, it isn't good enough to justify a top-four finish in the West's backcourt. (He also placed eighth last year.)
Unlike other names #onhere, Caruso has proved himself as a genuinely valuable rotation player, someone who will warrant All-Defense love at the end of this season. Under no circumstances, though, is he All-Star material.
Tacko Fall (2020)
Tacko Fall finished sixth in fan voting on the 2020 Eastern Conference frontcourt ballot. That is...high.
It wouldn't be so steep if All-Star rosters were chosen according to super tallness and how that super tallness can translate to viral photos. Apparently, though, that is not how All-Star rosters are selected.
To his credit, it is impressive how well Fall's novelty appeal has endured. Three seasons into his career, he has yet to make even 40 regular-season appearances and is currently playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers' G League affiliate, the Cleveland Charge, after getting waived by the parent club.
Whether Fall can carve out a future at the NBA level is unclear. It seems unlikely at this point. Then again, we could make a case for him by cherry-picking per-minute stats without a shred of context.
In the spirit of disingenuously using numbers, here's a list of everyone who has averaged more than 12 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks per 36 minutes for their career (minimum 25 games played):
- Tacko Fall
And that's it.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference and Stathead.
Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@danfavale), and listen to his Hardwood Knocks podcast, co-hosted by NBA Math's Adam Fromal.