All-Star games are supposed to be about one thing—recognizing the current crop of elite players in a given league. The impact of an All-Star selection is immense. It’s not only a recognition of a player’s hard work, but it can also earn him some serious coin. Anthony Davis recently missed out on a $24 million dollar bonus, in part because he wasn’t voted an All-Star starter.
Being named an All-Star is supposed to be a big deal, but the rise of fan voting in the MLB, NHL and NBA has diluted the talent pool.
Fans don’t share a uniform vision for All-Star games. Sure, some vote for players who best represent excellence in the sport, but others have ulterior motives—they vote for players on their favorite team or players with the most recognizable names. Last season, fans of the Kansas City Royals voted over and over again for their hometown players. At one point, it looked like eight different Royals would be in the starting lineup, including several who had no business being there. Ultimately, the Royals that did get voted in deserved the honor, but it was a perfect example of how fan voting can quickly go awry.
With voting for the Midsummer Classic in full swing, we decided to look back at seven instances where fan voting for All-Star games horribly backfired.
1. Yao Ming Was Basically in Retirement for His Final All-Star Selection
Yao Ming was a productive player for much of his NBA career. The 7-foot-6 center from Shanghai, China holds career averages of 19.0 PPG and 9.2 RPG. However, his career was cut short by a series of foot and ankle injuries, which forced him to miss 250 games in his last six seasons. Many of his absences came in 2011, which would prove to be Yao’s final season.
By the time the 2011 All-Star game rolled around, Yao had appeared in only 5 games and was averaging 10.2 PPG and 5.4 RPG. But that didn’t stop his countrymen from stuffing the virtual ballot box and ensuring that he earned his eighth All-Star selection. Yao obviously wasn’t healthy enough to appear in the game and he retired shortly thereafter. The NBA: “Where Voting For Soon-To-Be-Retired Dudes Who Can’t Even Play Happens.”
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2. Kosuke Fukudome Was an Extremely Premature All-Star
When Kosuke Fukudome joined the Chicago Cubs in 2008, expectations were fairly high. For the past several seasons, he had been a superstar in Japan’s Nippon Baseball League; and the Cubbies were hoping he could follow the path of past successful Nippon exports such as Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui. Fukudome got off to a hot start in the MLB, hitting .327 in the month of April. He cooled off in the following months, ending the first half hitting .279, but the outfielder had by then already endeared himself to the Cubs’ massive fan base. Fukudome was voted in as a starter to the 2008 All-Star game, a decision that looks especially premature in retrospect. He went on to hit .217 in the second half and played only four more mediocre seasons in the MLB before returning to Japan.
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3. In MJ’s Absence, Bulls’ Nation Stuffed the Ballot Box for B.J. Armstrong
By the time Michael Jordan decided to spend the 1994 season playing professional baseball, the Chicago Bulls were already the most popular team on the planet. In Jordan’s absence, several other players saw their role in the Bulls’ offense increase. One was point guard B.J. Armstrong, who had averaged 12.3 PPG and 4.0 APG the previous season.
Jordan’s absence allowed Armstrong to get more minutes and chuck up more shots, and he was averaging a respectable 15.8 PPG and 4.0 APG by the time the All-Star game came around. Unable to vote for His Airness, many Bulls fans decided to give their extra vote to Armstrong. The result? He was selected as the starting point guard for the All-Star game, over players such as Mark Price and Kenny Anderson. It would be Armstrong’s one and only All-Star appearance.
4. Melo Averages 30+ a Game, Somehow Isn’t an All-Star
Despite playing like a superstar since he arrived in the league in 2003, Carmelo Anthony suffered some serious All-Star snubs early in his career. He averaged 21.0, 20.8 and 26.5 PPG, respectively, in his first three seasons, but he didn’t earn a single All-Star nod. However, that certainly looked like it would change in his fourth season, when Anthony came out on fire, averaging 30.7 PPG, 6.0 RPG and 4.4 APG during the first half. Those aren’t just All-Star numbers, they are MVP-caliber numbers. Yet somehow, the fans didn’t see it that way, and Melo was once again snubbed. He eventually made the team as an injury replacement for Yao Ming, but there was a real possibility a guy averaging over 30 PPG would be left out of the All-Star game.
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5. No One Noticed Josh Donaldson in 2013
It might be hard to believe considering he’s the reigning AL MVP, but in 2013, Josh Donaldson was far from a household name. Then with the Oakland Athletics, he had a torrid first half, in which he hit .310 with a .901 OPS, 16 home runs and 61 RBIs. The A’s also boasted an impressive 56-39 record, proving that Donaldson wasn’t putting up hollow numbers on an uncompetitive team. However, the fans completely ignored him, and he ended up sitting at home during the All-Star festivities. The good news is that it looks like there will be plenty of All-Star selections in Donaldson’s future.
6. Kobe Was Terrible in His Final Season But No One Cared
Kobe could have spent every game of his final NBA season eating nachos and taking naps on the bench, and the fans still would have named him an All-Star. That’s one of the biggest problems with fan voting—players often get in based on their reputation rather than their performance. Despite shooting an abysmal .349% from the field in the first half of the 2015-2016 season, Kobe was still voted a starter in the 2016 All-Star game. To be fair, even the Mamba hinted that his presence might’ve cost a more deserving player (such as Damian Lillard) a spot. “There are guys that have been out there playing extremely hard all year long,” Bryant said in an interview with TNT. “Players that are very deserving of being in the All-Star game that I think should be out there playing.”
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7. The John Scott Incident
This was a case in which fan voting technically “backfired,” but it did so to the amusement of many. During the first half of the 2015-2016 season, then-Phoenix Coyote defenseman John Scott lived up to expectations. Considering he had been on five teams in the previous seven years and had just five NHL goals to his name, those expectations weren’t terribly high. The 6-foot-8, 260-pound Scott is an enforcer—he plays only when his team needs to send a physical message to an opponent.
But when fan voting for the NHL All-Star game opened up, something funny happened—millions of people started voting for Scott. What probably started as a joke in a small corner of the internet spread like wildfire, and by the time voting closed, Scott was the captain for the Pacific Division team. Controversy followed as it looked like the NHL might not let Scott participate; but he ended up playing and playing quite well. Scott scored two goals to lead his team to victory and was named the All-Star game’s MVP. Now Scott and his agent are reportedly receiving offers for the movie rights to this incredible story.