Ever since Chris Bosh donned a cowboy hat and bolo tie to sell us on his All-Star credentials, NBA players making goofy videos aimed at convincing fans to vote them into the All-Star Game has become something of an annual staple. Deron Williams, Amar'e Stoudemire, Kevin Love and Rudy Gay (and probably quite a few more that I'm forgetting at the moment) have all received Internet attention for their attempts to go viral in search of votes in recent years. At this point, if you're a not-quite-superstar who's not working on skits in an attempt to curry fan favor, it's almost like you're not trying.
The forays into comedy have largely been unsuccessful in their primary objective — of the players listed, only Stoudemire in 2010 got enough votes to start (it's worth noting that he'd also started the previous year, before ever teaming up with David Spade), though all except Gay were eventually added to the team as reserves or injury replacements. They've performed another, perhaps even more important function, though — showcasing a different side of the players involved, and providing personality-infused introductions to players who might not have a lot of visibility outside their local fan-bases. That sure as heck seems to be what's going on with this vote-requesting video dropped by Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson on Tuesday night:
Shaggy wig, giant bowtie, horn-rimmed glasses, frequently snapped suspenders, pants-tucked-into-socks, loud and raspy exclamations ("HE CAN HOLD THE BALL LIKE MJ") ... let it never be said that Lance isn't very serious about being silly.
Stephenson's balloting bid is all but certain to fall well short of its goal. As of the third round of voting returns on Jan. 9, he ranked ninth among Eastern Conference guards with 77,364 votes, more than 640,000 votes behind top East guard vote-getter Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat and more than 575,000 votes behind second-place Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers. That's a lot of ground to make up, even if people wind up *loving* Sir Lancealot.
He could have a shot at a reserve slot, though — of the six players between Irving and Stephenson in voting, only Washington Wizards point guard John Wall seems to have a stronger claim to a roster spot than "Born Ready," who has continued his postseason emergence by locking down the starting shooting guard spot for a Pacers team that's raced out to a league-best 30-7 record. His reserve-spot chances only improved on Tuesday, when the Pacers' 116-92 win over the Sacramento Kings ensured that they'd have the East's best record among eligible teams* by Feb. 2, meaning head coach Frank Vogel will head up the Eastern Conference All-Stars in New Orleans next month.
* Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra coached the Eastern All-Stars in Houston last season, which makes him ineligible.
While it wouldn't be anything new for a coach to pick one of his own players for a reserve spot in recognition of work for his home team, Stephenson's case has merit on its own. He's one of just three players (alongside LeBron James and Nicolas Batum) to average at least 13 points, six rebounds and five assists per game, and he's doing it on career-high marks on both 2-pointers and 3-pointers. He's turned in a league-best three triple-doubles through 40 games, and he's playing an integral role on a Pacers defense that, with
one game four games remaining before the halfway point of the season, ranks as the stingiest in the last 10 years — Indy's allowing 92.6 points per 100 possessions, a mark only the 2003-04 San Antonio Spurs (91.6-per-100) and Detroit Pistons (92.5-per-100) have topped since 2000, according to NBA.com's stat tool.
Also, watching the 25-year-old freight train can be quite a bit of fun in the open court, as he showed during the second quarter of Tuesday's blowout over Sacramento:
As poker pro/NBA wonk Haralabos Voulgaris noted on Twitter, while the hop-step/between-the-legs dribble was flashy, the best part of the play was Stephenson taking the ball off the rim, creating a now-signature one-man fast-break, and finishing 1-on-3 against the Kings' defense. "Like the Q train to Coney Island," as Sir Lancealot might say.
After the video — apparently dreamed up by Stephenson, his cousin and fellow Pacer Rasual Butler, and featuring a backing track by Indiana rapper Ricky Freezer — began to spread Tuesday night, Stephenson spoke about the production with Indianapolis Star reporter Candace Buckner:
"I was just trying to do something different and have fun with it, also get everybody to vote for me at the same time," said Stephenson, who was beginning to get first returns of feedback by the end of the night. "Everybody is saying it's funny right now. I haven't really looked to see what people are tweeting about, so I'm going to see right now when I go to dinner." [...]
"I just like to do fun stuff, I'm just happy coach is in there," Stephenson said.
"I just like to do fun stuff" seems like as good a reason as any to vote Born Ready to the Big Easy. Heck, if Kobe doesn't want your vote, you might as well give it to somebody who does, right?
Hat-tip to the great Pacers blog 8 Points, 9 Seconds.
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