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Allen Iverson Crashes the NBA’s All-Star Party

Posted on January 24, 2010 by Dean Hybl
Allen Iverson has been selected to the NBA All-Star team for the 11th straight season.

Allen Iverson has been selected to the NBA All-Star team for the 11th straight season.

At first glance, it doesn’t seem unusual to have Allen Iverson listed as a starter for the NBA All-Star Game. After all, Iverson has now been selected to 11 straight All-Star Games and has twice been named the game MVP.

However, what has made his selection to start the 2010 game somewhat controversial is that he is no longer playing at an All-Star level.

Iverson began the 2009-2010 season with the Memphis Grizzlies, but after three games was released and is now back with his original team, the Philadelphia 76ers. Though Iverson sports a 26.8 career scoring average, he is averaging only 14.3 points per contest this season and has only played in 21 games.

Even with his pedestrian performance, Iverson remained on the minds of NBA fans and was selected as a starter for the Eastern Conference.

As could be expected, the selection of a player clearly no longer among the best in the league has sparked a new round of controversy about the legitimacy of fan participation in selecting starters for league All-Star Games.

I have no intention of making a case for the inclusion of Iverson in the All-Star lineup based on his statistics this season, but I will spend all day if necessary defending the rights of the fans to have a say in which players appear in All-Star exhibition games for any professional sport.

For those who have forgotten, the original purpose of All-Star Games was to provide fans with a chance to see the best stars of the game, not necessarily to reward success in that specific season. While recognizing current greatness has become an integral part of the All-Star process, there should always be a place in these exhibitions for long-time fan favorites.

In all sports, there have been numerous examples of long-time stars continuing to be selected for All-Star appearances long after their days among the elite of their sport had ended.

Bpoth Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson made All-Star appearances late in their career.

Bpoth Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson made All-Star appearances late in their career.

Just looking at the NBA, you can find a number of examples of stars earning “curtain call” trips to the All-Star Game.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the all-time leading scorer in NBA history made All-Star appearances in each of his final three seasons despite averaging 17.5, 14.6 and 10.1 points per game respectively in those seasons.

Dr. J (Julius Erving) continued to receive All-Star invitations until the end of his career despite diminishing statistics. And perhaps in the greatest example of a player being selected for career achievement, Magic Johnson was named a starter (and game MVP) in 1992 despite having retired at the beginning of the season due to contraction of the HIV virus.

While it might be tough to put Iverson in the legendary class of Abdul-Jabbar, Erving and Johnson, he has unquestionably been one of the best players of his generation.

Though his occasional selfish motives have hindered his reputation among some basketball aficionados, Iverson has always been able to light up an arena and therefore been a player people have always enjoyed watching. Plus, with his diminutive size (6-foot, 165 pounds) in a game where size is usually king, Iverson has earned the respect of fellow players and fans alike for his spunk and toughness.

Iverson has twice been named the All-Star Game MVP.

Iverson has twice been named the All-Star Game MVP.

Iverson’s selection has led to some players calling for a change in the voting structure. In fact, the most vocal player has been Ray Allen of the Boston Celtics, who is not exactly lighting the world on fire this year with an average of 16 points per game.

In my opinion, if changes are made that reduce the impact of fan voting on the NBA All-Star Game I believe it would be a major error in judgment by David Stern and the NBA.

At a time when many fans of all professional sports are feeling disenfranchised because escalating ticket costs make it nearly impossible for them to see a game, I would think the last thing that the league should be thinking about is cutting out one of the few opportunities the fans still have to feel connected to the game.

After all, fans only pick the five starters for each team. The remaining players on the team are selected by the coaches and that provides plenty of opportunity to ensure that the best players of the current year are included.

Instead of chastising fans for voting Iverson into the starting lineup, fellow players should recognize the value of fan support and hope that as their career comes to a close that fans will still want to see them play on the NBA’s largest stages.

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