Mark Cuban: Fan-led All-Star voting system 'positively broken'

Mark Cuban: Fan-led All-Star voting system 'positively broken'

The NBA All-Star Game is an exhibition contest. It has absolutely no relevance in the overall championship race. It is designed purely for entertainment purposes, a mid-February distraction pitched on basic cable television. It’s important to remember that.

All-Star appearances, however, are often used as negotiating tools when it comes time for players and teams to cobble together contracts. Even by those that understand that All-Star appearances shouldn’t count much as a way to tally up a player’s career accomplishments, the amount of All-Star nods are still treated like currency when it comes time to discuss a player’s Basketball Hall of Fame viability. On top of that, even the most even-keeled of NBA media types still like to hammer out arguments over who should start over whom. Even if they don’t deign to a write a haughty column over it, they’ll still think about it in passing while washing dishes or talk back to the radio or TV when others put their picks on the line.

For some reason, these things matter; and yet All-Star voting is left in the hands of fans that will typically turn the process into a popularity contest.

This isn’t why Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban wants to stop fan voting, though. He’s not upset that the fans voted in Kobe Bryant to start when a dozen other Western guards would have been a better choice. No, he wants to do away with fan voting (which Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry led with over 1.5 million votes) because of a perceived bit of apathy regarding the process from voters. Cuban thinks that 1.5 million, in the grand scheme, isn’t nearly representative of the breadth of NBA fandom.

From a talk with ESPN Dallas’ Tim McMahon:

"In context of everything, that's no votes," Cuban said. "That's such a small number considering all the different options you have to vote that it's almost embarrassing. It's just no one's really looked at it that way. ... I mean, think about it. Of all the people who go to games, all the people who watch games globally, to have [1.5] million means that system's broken. Absolutely, positively broken."


"They go hand in hand," Cuban said. "We have that few votes, you're going to get one team or one player or one part of the world that skews everything. Again, if we were getting 20, 30, 50 million votes, which shows that fans just love it and wanted to participate, that'd be one thing. Then the fans have spoken.

"But when the number of voters isn't enough to even get anybody to notice ... That means basically .01 percent of NBA fans cared enough to vote, and that's saying every fan voted just once. Probably, if you include global, that means .00001 percent of fans thought enough to vote. That just shows nobody cares."


"S---, nobody even tried to hack it," Cuban said. "That's how bored they are. So, yeah, I think it's time to do away with it because we're just not getting the response that matters. I don't know how votes have trended in terms of numbers versus past years, but it's obviously not something that fans really care about, given the numbers of votes. And if they don't care about it, we shouldn't do it. We should find a better way."

Voting numbers rose this season despite a smaller time frame in which voters were allowed to place their ballot. Cuban’s point is well taken, though. The NBA has an ungodly amount of fans, and All-Star voting (which can be as simple as taking the time to write out “James Harden #NBAballot” on a Twitter account that you barely use) is easier than ever. For Steph Curry to rank as the most popular player with “just” 1.5 million votes does seem a little slim, comparatively.

Does that mean the fans should have the privilege taken away from them?

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It is worth noting that, unlike in many other years, the fans more or less got this round right. Outside of the Bryant and Carmelo Anthony (who at least is having close to an All-Star season) bookends, these starting lineups are just about spot-on. Western center Marc Gasol, working in a small market without flashy stats and rarely positioned on national TV, received a due nod. Kyle Lowry may have made the starting lineup because a pair of pop stars encouraged their Twitter followers to work on his behalf, but Kyle Lowry is still starting over Dwyane Wade.

To a lot of fans, this one included, the whole thing does seem like a silly enterprise. Personally, I’ve obsessed over this league for years and spend most of my nights warmed by League Pass’ sustained glow, but I haven’t filled out an All-Star ballot since the 1999-00 season – the first that allowed for online voting at the league’s website. Even then, it was a bit of a crank call: I chose less-deserving players like Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Theo Ratliff just to see their names pop up the list.

That’s one NBA obsessive that hasn’t bothered to vote over the course of five different Presidential terms. For the NBA – a personality-driven league with incredibly rabid and intelligent fans working not just in North America but also in the Philippines, China, Australia and dozens of other outposts – to top out at 1.5 million for its most popular choice? This does seem like a slighted representation of overall interest in the league.

The fans aren’t losing their votes, though. And Mark Cuban will be the first to admit to that.

Some 1.5 million checkmarks might not be enough, but 25 million votes were cast, and probably twice as many lame “#NBAballot” jokes were made on Twitter. The system encourages fans in far-flung places, fans that will never have the chance to work up a physical paper ballot while watching a live NBA game (as was the process in years’ past), to feel like they have an impact. It allows for the league’s various social media sites and its own official website to take in click after click. It allows for discussions like these, at the midpoint between the fan results and the NBA coaching community’s own picks for reserves.

It drives chatter. For an exhibition game on basic cable on a Sunday.

Mark Cuban doesn’t think that Stephen Curry’s league-leading amount of votes is representative of the whole of NBA fandom, and he’s probably right in that regard. That doesn’t mean the NBA’s fans won’t get another chance to tally things up all over again in 2015-16, though.

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Kelly Dwyer

is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!