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Damian Lillard and the Injustices of All-Star Voting

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It takes more than voting to win a popularity contest.

2020 NBA All-Star - AT&T Slam Dunk Photo by Lampson Yip - Clicks Images/Getty Images

Let’s talk about voting. No, not the national election — I trust everyone reading this has already done their civic duty. Let’s talk about voting in the NBA.

Every Blazermaniac wants Damian Lillard to be an All-Star starter. He’s been indisputably one of the best four guards in the NBA for couple years now, especially if you factor in injuries to other elite players. But he can’t quite break into that starting role. What can we do about that?

The first and most obvious answer is that everyone should vote for Dame. That’s what we can do immediately to quantitatively support Lillard and make the NBA aware that he needs to be an All-Star starter.

But voting is only the first step. It’s absolutely integral but by now we know that voting without taking additional action is not going to be enough to get Dame into that starting role. There are institutional barriers and artificially created narratives in the way.

But we can change that.

The NBA, by necessity, will reply to popular pressure from fans. If they don’t then they risk jeopardizing the relevance of their product. So the first thing Blazers fans can do to help Dame is identify the institutional barriers in his way and pressure the NBA to dismantle them.

The most obvious one is the fact that the league still splits the All-Star vote by Eastern Conference and Western Conference. If the NBA dropped the conference distinction Lillard would certainly be one of the top four vote getters among guards and snag that coveted starting role. I mean, the competition is Kemba Walker and Trae Young. No disrespect intended toward those guys, but they aren’t on Dame’s level. It’s symbolic of a deeply flawed system. This artificial separation of the vote is even more galling now that the players draft teams, rendering the conference designation increasingly irrelevant.

Vehemently arguing against this broken institution by any means available is a good second step toward elevating Dame. If you’re a blogger then blog about it. If you buy season tickets then let the league know about it when they do satisfaction surveys. If you have social media clout then try to wake others up to this injustice. Take action to tell the NBA how archaic its voting system has become.

Secondly, once a player becomes popular enough the NBA bureaucracy will promote that player at the national level and help overcome the limits of playing in a small market (e.g. fewer fans to vote for you). It’s not a truly meritocratic system but Dame can still be elevated to the top despite playing in a smaller city. For example, think about how many national TV games the Pelicans had because of Zion Williamson. Fans of a certain age remember Clyde Drexler’s ascent to the pinnacle of NBA popularity.

Dame has already done his part by pushing his brand to the forefront, now if fans make it clear that Dame’s popularity means more revenue then the NBA will be forced to listen. Once that happens there’s a good chance he magically floats to the top of the All-Star polls.

I know this is a long shot, but it’s not impossible. If Bill Walton can win an MVP then Damian Lillard can become an All-Star starter. Keep raging against basketball injustice, my friends, and let’s see what happens.