The NBA announced Monday that 50 percent of its All-Star Game voting was being taken away from fans and split equally between players and media members. Given players’ longstanding opposition to media votes deciding year-end awards, there was bound to be a gripe or two about the decision.
“It is what it is, honestly,” Irving told reporters after Monday’s practice. “I guess they’re trying to fix the deserving factor maybe. Leaving it up to the players, that’s good as well. Leaving it up to the fans, that’s good as well. But the other 25 percent I think they need to throw out. … They just do. They just do. Everyone is going to be biased anyway, so it’s cool.”
Irving took issue with broadcasters and beat reporters who he believes will favor the team they cover, and the Cavs star even asked for a list of names on the estimated 75-member media panel, per Fedor.
That list has not been made public by the league, and Irving is not wrong about bias. There are always broadcasters and beat reporters, mostly ex-players serving as the former, who err in favor of the team they see play most often, but those votes are often ridiculed by the many other media members who take their roles seriously. (Count me in favor of the NBA reviewing this media panel annually and considering the removal of those who make laughably biased or outlying votes three years running.)
As for Irving’s claim, “Everyone is going to be biased anyway,” that is most definitely true for fans who vote for their favorite players — the very reason the NBA has limited their voting role — and most likely true for players who are allowed to vote for themselves and their teammates. At least the media panel is the only voting entity that’s supposed to be unbiased. Whether or not they will be is another matter, which is why it’s a little curious the league plans not to disclose player and media votes. That way the fans who had 50 percent of the vote taken away from them could help hold both accountable.
The root of Irving’s media voting animosity is unclear. It may come from a collectively bargained agreement to grant media the power to determine a player’s eligibility for a significant pay raise after his rookie deal — an anomaly that cost New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis some $23 million in May. It’s also a concern that has been publicly called into question more by media than players.
For those not following, a player coming off his rookie contract is eligible to earn 30 percent of the salary cap — instead of the customary 25 percent — if he is voted MVP once, makes at least two All-NBA teams or is selected as a starter in two or more All-Star Games in his first four seasons. Similarly incentivized pay raises are expected to be extended to veterans in the new CBA. By taking half the All-Star voting away from fans, the league has now given media even more power in determining a player’s earning power, while at the same time granting players at least some say in this discussion.
Irving earned three All-Star nods in his first four years. He was selected as a reserve by the league’s coaches twice (a part of the selection process that isn’t changing) and voted as a starter by fans once. The media voted him onto one All-NBA team, in 2015, and he never won MVP (although he did capture the 2014 All-Star Game MVP honor), so he failed to qualify for the NBA’s 30 percent max salary standard. Irving also didn’t make either the All-Star Game or an All-NBA roster in 2015-16, since he missed the first 24 games of last season, but he is undoubtedly one of the best players in the league.
And if I was one of the five best people at my position in the world and something as arbitrary as voting by fans, colleagues or, God forbid, commenters determined whether I got a 5 percent raise — a mere $18,868,624 in Irving’s case — I’d be pretty pissed, too. Even if that anger might be misdirected.
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