Originally published in SLAM 75

The 6th Man: I’d like to take this opportunity to talk to you all about your right to vote, and how you can best use that right properly. No, not in Presidential elections—judging from the last one, it’s not like our votes count anyway. No, I’m talking about an election that is far more important, one that you can take part in right now no matter how old you are, or what country you’re a citizen of. And the ballot makes sense everywhere, even in Florida. I’m talking, of course, about the NBA All-Star voting.

Honestly, I think I’m just tired of the same guys getting voted in, even when they’re injured (Grant Hill, anyone?) or not playing particularly well. I understand that the process is—and will remain—a popularity contest (just like the California governor’s race!). But still, let’s take a step back from the ballot and take a deep breath. First off, you definitely shouldn’t have submitted a ballot yet. I know that they’re available at roughly the third game of the season (which, coincidentally, is the All-Star break for the WNBA), and the temptation to start stuffing the ballot box immediately is there, especially with teams badgering you into voting for their players. But don’t. Wait a while. See what happens. See who actually deserves it.

This is for guys like Rod Strickland, who never made an All-Star team in his 17-year career despite averaging 17-plus points and 8-plus assists per for five straight seasons. Honestly, he might have never made one anyway, but he should have. And this isn’t in any way a dis of Magic Johnson, who was voted a starter in 1992 despite the fact that he had retired the year before. (He played, and won MVP—one of the greatest All-Star memories of all-time.) But I look and see a website pushing people to write in Michael Jordan as a starter this year (nope, not giving you the URL), and it just makes me ill. Grant Hill and Vince Carter have both been voted starters when they couldn’t even walk. They both always end up stepping aside for someone else anyway—both Vince and Grant have always been gracious to a fault—but why even get to that point?

So this year, try something different. Vote with your head instead of your heart. Let’s see a year where the All-Star starters are the players who are playing the best at the break, no matter what their names are. But if you want to write in “Rod Strickland,” I’m not going to complain.


Russ Bengtson

P.S. Two covers. Suns and Pistons. Find ’em both. And in case you’re reading this, Coach Brown, that tall guy in the back behind Big Ben, Chauncey and Rip is Darko Milicic. Just so you know.

SLAM 75 Pistons
SLAM 75 Suns