The state of the fan vote for the 2017 NBA All-Star Game snagged headlines left and right. The big news wasn’t about the top vote-receiver, Golden State Warrior Kevin Durant. It was about his teammate, Zaza Pachulia.
When the fan vote totals went public last Thursday, they showed Pachulia at 439,675 votes and in line for the Western Conference’s second starting position up front. His numbers put him ahead of league staples like San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard (341,240), New Orleans’ Anthony Davis (318,144), and Warriors’ teammate Draymond Green (236,315). (Durant, by the way, clocked in at 541,209 votes.)
Pachulia handled the voting surge with good humor, crediting his native country for his high vote count. It’s ironic, given that the league made adjustments to its fan-voting process after the towering Georgian came just a couple thousand votes short of an ASG bid last season — also thanks to his homeland.
But this isn’t the first time that a professional sports’ All-Star Game fan vote went an unexpected direction. The fan-voting process in the big leagues has changed over the years, with active players and media members now having a say in the process as a means to keep the fan voting in check. Yet season after season, from hoops to baseball, the direction of fan voting and how the leagues decide to “balance them out” makes big headlines ahead of any All-Star Game. The power of the fan vote and how it shapes All-Star rosters is an interesting thing, especially when it comes to giving some unexpected players the opportunity to perform on the big stage over others.
We take a look at what goes into the fan-voting process, what gets unexpected players in an All-Star Game scenario, and the chain reaction that can follow.