Another Day, Another NBA All-Star Game Without Devin Booker

Illustration for article titled Another Day, Another NBA All-Star Game Without Devin Booker
Photo: Christian Petersen (Getty Images)

Nobody likes to get snubbed.

Whether it’s the Oscars, the Grammys, or that promotion we wholeheartedly believe we deserve, there’s nothing worse than busting your ass at work and getting zero recognition for it—especially when people who are far worse are showered with accolades.

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This is exactly why every time that NBA All-Star rosters are announced, Blu Ivy’s internet is flooded with exclamation marks and boiling rage because *INSERT NAME HERE* somehow didn’t make the team—even though there’s only a limited number of players allowed on each roster. The audacity! The unmitigated gall!

This train is never late.

On Tuesday, The Athletic’s Shams Charania revealed the reserves for the 2021 NBA All-Star Game—you can read all about the starters and their own mini-controversy here—and, well, while there are plenty of familiar faces, there seem to be some notable names missing.

As a lifelong fan of the Orlando Magic, I’ve gotta clap it up for Nikola Vucevic being recognized for his career year despite the rest of my Magic (13-19, 12th in the East) playing like absolute dog shit. Especially since coaches—who handpick the All-Star reserves—notoriously favor winning teams as opposed to recognizing players solely on their individual merit.

In recent years, we’ve seen superstar talents like Bradley Beal and Trae Young get a pass despite playing on trash-ass teams, but each was voted onto the team as starters by the fans (Trae in 2020, Beal this season)—not the coaches. So how in the hell did Vucevic get so lucky? Especially with players like Khris Middleton (of the Bucks) and Domantas Sabonis (of the Pacers) playing at such a high-level for winning franchises? And if Trae’s Atlanta Hawks have a better record than the Magic this season, why didn’t he make the team either? Is it because with stronger supplementary pieces, the expectations for the Hawks changed? And if so, what the hell does that have to do with Trae if he’s still putting up video game numbers?

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I always thought it was goofy as shit that superstar players routinely get snubbed solely because the rest of their team is ass, and there’s no greater example of this in the entire league than Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns.

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Despite scoring at least 22 points a game for the last five years straight and easily being one of the best players at his position, he has yet to play in a single All-Star game. The default excuse was to always blame the Suns for being trash. But now, with Chris Paul on board, the Suns (20-10) are 4th in the West and are on pace for a 54-win season (if COVID-19 didn’t force the league to shorten the season to only 72 games). And Booker still can’t make an All-Star roster? (Yes, he “made” the team in 2020, but only after Dame Lillard was forced to skip the festivities due to injury.)

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Some other noteworthy names left out in the cold include Utah’s Mike Conley—who at this point might be the greatest player to never make an All-Star team—a surprisingly efficient DeMar DeRozan, and the dynamic duo of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo in Miami. And before you pull that “Jimmy missed too many games!” bullshit, guess who’s played the same amount of games and still made the team? Kevin Durant.

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Yeah. Exactly.

I’m personally of the belief that the NBA should expand its All-Star rosters and I’m not alone. For one, it would do a much better job of celebrating its most prized talent—a pool of players that’s only getting better and clearly more expansive. But players often have incentives in their contracts for making the All-Star team. So imagine being one of the best players at your position and missing out on a million-dollar bonus—or worse—because your teammates are trash. How in the hell is that fair? Especially when the organization not paying you that bonus is directly responsible for surrounding you with players that could’ve made it a reality. Is that not in some way sabotage?

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With Anthony Davis out for at least a month with degenerative Achilles tendinosis, we at least know one of these snubs in the Western Conference will be redeemed. But in a perfect world, the NBA would just expand the All-Star rosters so we could celebrate the players who make the team instead of always harping on the ones stuck watching from home.

Menace to supremacy. Founder of Extraordinary Ideas and co-host and producer of The Extraordinary Negroes podcast. Impatiently waiting for y'all to stop putting sugar in grits.

DISCUSSION

The one saving grace in all this how exposed all these players are going to be in the playoffs (Kyrie playing a full season in four years? oh that’s a bet).
But it has to be the team, so i feel for Booker because NBA is still trying to make Utah a thing (even though they handedly closed the arenas), and that makes me laugh.