Devin Booker may not be the best player in the NBA, but the fact that he wasn’t originally chosen as an All-Star is just preposterous. Booker has been putting up big numbers while holding a team on his back. This year many factors came together to initially deny Booker of an All-Star position: a terribly engineered voting system, a lack of attention and praise, and an absence of wins for his team, the Phoenix Suns. It wasn’t until Portland’s Damian Lillard sustained an injury and graciously suggested Booker as his replacement as an All-Star, that he was invited to join his peers for the big game. The fact that a player of his caliber, having a career season and not being selected, is degrading to him and his talent.
Booker has been dropping huge numbers this year, despite his team lacking depth and overall skill. Booker is averaging 26 points, 6.5 assists, and four rebounds per game. These stats are better than solid, they’re remarkable– not to mention his fantastic 49% field goal percentage. “He just works hard and never backs down from any opponent,” says fanpage @legend_booker. Many backcourt players that were included in the All-Star game had less impressive stats. Take Chris Paul for example: a great, well known player that recently joined the Oklahoma City Thunder. Chris Paul is averaging 17.5 points, 6.5 assists and five rebounds per game. While Booker may not have the leadership skills or the popularity Paul holds, purely based on stats, he has the obvious advantage. Despite Booker’s impressive statistics, it’s his team that draws attention away from him and his All-Star worthy versatility and skillset.
Many believe Booker didn’t make the All-Star game because of how poorly the Suns have been performing. When asked why he thinks Devin Booker didn’t get chosen originally, NBA fan Luke Ramsey puts it plain and simple: “He’s talented, he’s a good shooter, a good scorer: He can’t win.” At the All-Star break, the team had 22 wins and 33 losses, a less than impressive season. The Suns fan page @suns_land says, “If Booker was on a successful team, I believe he would be an All-Star easily.” @legend_booker, @suns_land, and @suns.army all agree that to be an All-Star next year, Booker needs to show that he can win. This may be the truth, but it’s a very unfortunate truth. The All-Star game is all about individual players and giving these world-class athletes a chance to show off their own exceptional skills. It’s about giving the best players, no matter their team, a chance to prove themselves surrounded by players of the same caliber. During the three point contest, as a replacement for Lillard, Booker did just this, coming in second after sinking an extraordinary 18 threes in just over a minute. This performance goes to show how incredibly undervalued he really is.
Unfortunately, Booker’s team wasn’t the only reason many believe he wasn’t selected.
Basketball fanatic Casper Eichman believes Booker didn’t originally make the cut because of what Casper calls “brand”; “Devin Booker’s brand, in general, isn’t bigger than the guards chosen above him… I feel like Chris Paul and Donavan Mitchell are more beloved players than him… He doesn’t have that media presence yet to get there.” It’s true: All-Star voting is a popularity contest to some extent, but this is not the purpose of an All-Star game. Fans should choose the fundamentally best players that deserve the spots, not those who are most active on social media, or have fancy signature shoes. Franklin women’s basketball player, Stella Holt-Dupey says, “I think it would be best if people were to vote on players depending on talent and stats… There are many fans who don’t understand the game and only vote for their favorite players or players that are ‘flashy’ and have good moves, but not as reliable stat lines.” This year among the top players in the voting were Alex Curuso and Tacko Fall, both incredibly entertaining players; however, they’re not nearly deserving of being All-Stars. At the time of the All-Star break, Fall had only scored 19 points in the entirety of his NBA career, and Caruso was averaging just over five points per game. This shows that uneducated fans often just pick their favorites or the ones they see on all the highlight reels. Booker isn’t a very “flashy” player; “He just has the raw ability to score at will,” says Casper. The All-Star system isn’t a perfect system, but never before has it failed a player as badly as it failed Booker.
The fact that Booker, a player putting up huge numbers, while leading his team to more wins than they’ve gotten in the past four seasons, slipped through the cracks is disgraceful. Just because he doesn’t have “flash” and is on a losing team, doesn’t mean he should be overlooked. The All-Star game is a showcase of the best players around the league, not just those that fans find fun to watch. Given that fans make up half the vote and are unlikely to educate themselves, the other half of the voting power—coaches, and media— must give more weight to individual stats and skill sets, so players like Booker can get the acclaim they deserve. Luckily, Lillard recognized Booker’s true talent and helped put him on the stage he was meant to be on.