Posted: Thursday February 2, 2006 12:00PM; Updated: Thursday February 2, 2006 11:42PM
For all of the ink Shaq and Pat Riley have garnered, it's been Dwyane Wade who has quietly kept Miami among the league's elite.
John W. McDonough/SI
When I was young and enthralled with baseball, I remember my outrage in 1957, the year that fans of the Cincinnati Reds (they were better known as the Redlegs then) stuffed the ballot box and voted in seven of their players as starters for the All-Star Game. I was not outraged because it was an outrage, which of course it was -- I was outraged because I wanted seven starters from my favorite team, the Philadelphia Phillies, which would've been a worse outrage since the Reds were pretty good and the Phillies were only average (literally, since they finished at 77-77 that season).
Eventually, commissioner Ford Frick kicked Wally Post and Gus Bell off to make room for two stiffs named Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. No such intervention would be made these days because leagues just love that they get fans involved by letting them vote for All-Star teams.
Look, this is hardly the most serious issue in sports, but let's be clear on this: Fans shouldn't vote for All-Star teams. As Thomas Jefferson might've put it, the reason they should not is self-evident -- fans vote with their hearts and not their heads. This is such an obvious point, yet one made in such obvious futility, that I should just give it up.
But looking at the fan vote for the NBA All-Star team (incomplete as I write this on Wednesday evening) demands that the point be made again. At last look, Houston's Yao Ming was the starting center for the Western Conference, even though he has missed 22 games and probably wouldn't deserve to start even if had not been out with a foot injury. In the East, meanwhile, the Detroit Pistons won't have a single starter, even though a not altogether unreasonable case could be made that, Redlegs-like, all five of their starters could legitimately represent the East. (I would not make that case -- I'm just saying it's not altogether unreasonable.)
Anyway, with the announcement of the fan vote due later on Thursday, this week's five-pack will tell you who the starters should be. The criterion is simple: Who, in the 2005-06 season, has played the best. Keep in mind that, for this game, position is unimportant.
GUARDS:Chauncey Billups, Detroit, and Dwyane Wade, Miami.
Billups is my choice as the midseason MVP. He is the best player on the league's best team. Wade is averaging almost 27 points and shooting almost 50 percent. He, not Shaquille O'Neal (who has played about half as many minutes as Wade) is carrying Miami ... just like last season.