Choosing the elite of NBA calls other to strive to do better
Following the selection of the NBA All-Star starters and reserves, one of the more well traversed sports complaints has surfaced yet again in response to the stars and snubs: the All-Star rosters should be expanded.
This is both a silly notion and one that would tarnish what makes the All-Star game so intriguing.
West starters: Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins (replaced for injury by Paul George). Reserves: Russell Westbrook, Damian Lillard, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, Draymond Green, LaMarcus Aldridge and Karl-Anthony Towns.
East starters: Kyrie Irving, DeMar DeRozan, LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid. Reserves: Kyle Lowry, John Wall, Bradley Beal, Victor Oladipo, Kevin Love, Kristaps Porzingis and Al Horford.
Now of course everyone thought that Paul George should have been more than a fill in, that Clint Capela or Chris Paul should have found a spot on the roster and that Kemba Walker had at least a viable case to be made. There are definitely players that could, and maybe should, be on the All-Star team, with either their stats or the impact they have on their team. Does this mean they should expand the roster? Or take out conferences, merely selecting teams based on the entire talent pool?
Both are the wrong answer. The All-Star game creates the necessity to be the definition of elite, with even that qualification sometimes not enough to make the cut. But this has bred not only fantastic competition for spots, but has created some stunning post-All-Star break runs by players who felt that they were snubbed from participation.
Much like the dangers of allowing more teams into the football playoff system, the lowering of any talent bar allows for a lessening of talent to become acceptable for accolades. This rewarding of lesser accomplishment would erode the performance expected. Players at a high level getting left on the sideline increases the level of play in the regular season, meaning that now we have maybe the widest, most diverse well of talent in the NBA to make a run at such spots.
Why does this matter in an exhibition game? Because in the NBA, All-Star spots are a form a pride, a measuring stick that fans and players alike use to judge the consistent greatness of a player throughout their career. Basketball is the only team sport that can be so heavily influenced by having an All-Star level talent on a team, meaning that the achievement is a lofty one for the player and the team.
Because there are so few spots, paired with such a depth of talent, this keeps every team’s best player striving to be better than just the collective group of starters. Working their way to the upper tier of NBA talent. The struggle to be the elite of the elite, the storylines around both those who make it and those who do not, along with the arguments to be made for players on both sides, is part of what makes the NBA regular season so compelling.