The NBA All-Star game is all about the fans. They select the starters, vote for the dunk contest winner, and watch idly as the league holds several insignificant events primarily designed to prop up its corporate sponsors. It's one big party, a time for basketball lovers to revel in what makes the sport so fun.
In many ways, though, voting procedures have fallen behind the times. The concept of a paper ballot is woefully outdated, and Internet-savvy fans are increasingly less likely to visit a single website, click on eligible players, and submit full lists of starters that also requires them to opt out of receiving promotional emails. Why do that when tweets and status updates are so much easier.
We now live in a social media world. So, when the NBA unveiled the All-Star ballot for February's game in Houston, it also announced that fans would be able to vote via Twitter and Facebook. From the press release:
2013 NBA All-Star Balloting presented by Sprint gives fans around the world the opportunity to vote daily for their favorite players as starters for the 2013 NBA All-Star Game in Houston. For the first time ever, NBA fans can vote via social media networks, including Facebook and Twitter, and Sina Weibo and Tencent QQ in China.
Twitter voting will allow fans to tweet a vote for one player each day throughout the All-Star balloting period. The tweet must include a player's first and last name, along with hash tag #NBABALLOT. Facebook voting will allow fans to fill out one full ballot (three frontcourt and two guards from each conference) per day, through a custom application on Facebook.
It's unclear exactly how the NBA intends to check thousands of tweets every day (hashtag or not), because fans and bloggers have already done their best to make things more difficult, whether inadvertently or not. So far, we've seen misspellings ("Dwayne Wade"), incomplete names clearly intended for a particular player ("C. Anthony"), Twitter handles in lieu of full names ("@rickyrubio9"), former BDL editors voting for themselves ("Trey Kerby"), and various bloggers tweeting with the hashtag to purposely make an NBA intern's life a living hell. There's also a chance that allowing fans to vote for only one player per day on Twitter will make for some unbalanced vote totals, or that fans will create programmed bot accounts to vote for particular players every day. Keep this in mind when some jokester figures out a way to get Vince Carter into the game.
This system clearly needs some work. But it's also a step in the right direction as the NBA extends its fan base beyond people who attend games or spend lots of time on their official website. The idea here isn't only to conform the voting process to fans' habits, but to make the voting method itself more casual so that more people can get involved and invest themselves in the All-Star game. It takes a very low amount of effort to fill out an online ballot at NBA.com, but it still requires more thought than tweeting "Rajon Rondo #NBABallot." Plus, in a viral environment, simply seeing a hashtag makes others more likely to participate.
There's a potential worry that opening up the All-Star vote will cause the fans to pick starters who don't deserve the honor, but the ballot has never been about accurate assessment of the best players in the league. It's about getting the most fans possible to care about the game, and this change should succeed in that goal.