PBA All-Star team selections going down as a popularity contest
The Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) All-Star balloting has always been a popularity contest. It always has been and it will remain that way for the foreseeable future.
However, there’s no denying that it has become even more divisive in the age of internet and analytics — with individual statistics now more accessible for fans which can trigger the casual wrangling of who deserves spots on the teams or not.
“I acknowledge that,” PBA commissioner Willie Marcial told the Inquirer about the chatter over All-Star snubs swirling on social media. “But that’s the way the voting process has always been — it has always been controlled by the fans.
“It has been like that for the longest time. And that has also been the case for the [National Basketball Association],” he added.
Terrafirma’s Juami Tiongson and Converge’s Maverick Ahanmisi — guards on a tear this season — have emerged as poster boys of those left out from this year’s exhibition.
The duo, along with NLEX’s Don Trollano, have been regarded by some social media users as deserving of All-Star nods while raising eyebrows on the inclusion of former two-time Most Valuable Player James Yap, who has hardly played this season, freshman Gian Mamuyac and Ginebra’s Nards Pinto, another point guard who comes off the bench mainly as a defensive man for the crowd darlings.
Tiongson said it would be neat to be recognized in a contest where the league’s finest play. But Ahanmisi just flat-out said he was not interested in getting involved in the revelries.
The Terrafirma playmaker has sustained his fine play even a year after winning the Most Improved Player Award. The FiberXers guard, meanwhile, is seeing a resurgence in his game after years of being underutilized.
Despite a stark contrast in their predicaments, the two reached for the same refrain—one that is similar to that of the league chief’s.
“Let’s be real: People don’t like me like that,” Tiongson said on Saturday. “I’m not that popular. Guys like me don’t really win things like those. And that’s just the way that it is. Fans decide who they want to see, and the players they want to watch. That’s just about it.”
Pinto, meanwhile, said he’s aware of criticisms surrounding his inclusion over other deserving players.
“What happened was simply beyond my control,” Pinto, in Filipino, told the Inquirer in a separate interview, minutes before the Gin Kings were to play Blackwater Sunday night at PhilSports Arena.
Slot in question
Pinto garnered 1,146,069 votes after the two-week balloting that ended last Feb. 15, good for 23rd among 24 players selected to take part in the exhibition classic that is making a return after a four-year absence.
This despite Pinto’s numbers of 6.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.0 steals in the Philippine Cup and 2.4 points, 1.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 0.6 steals in Ginebra’s Commissioner’s Cup title run.
“We all know that there are players who deserve to have my spot, but I was voted by the fans,” Pinto went on. “Those who feel that I don’t deserve to play, that’s their opinion and we can’t do anything about it. I’m just blessed that I was voted in.”
“This is exactly why I don’t wanna join. It’s a popularity contest,” Ahanmisi said, also on Saturday. “People who are more deserving aren’t even getting voted in because it’s being overshadowed by people with big names and I’m not supporting that.
“I don’t want to be part of it,” the one-time champion and a two-time winner of the Obstacle Challenge added. “That’s just me. No knock to the people that do want to be part of it. But I’ve seen too many players deserving of it and they are never in it. So I just don’t want to be part of it.”
The 2019 edition had even more striking snubs in Sean Anthony, Matthew Wright, Christian Standhardinger and Ian Sangalang.
“What we can do is to make each staging feel different, apply some tweaks to the format on how it is played. But really, what are we to do with how the league’s fans vote?” said Marcial.
“Are we really going to put a limit on the list? Put certain players in place of people that garnered actual votes? I think that’s even more problematic,” he added.