The 2003 NBA All-Star Game was an embarrassment. If you watched it, you cucked Michael Jordan. You are guilty by association. By watching it, I too cucked Michael Jordan. And I didn’t enjoy it one bit.
The whole event was a prolonged Michael Jordan love-in. As it was to be Jordan’s last ever All-Star game, in his final season before his third and only retirement, we were treated to the sight of his balls being polished mercilessly by everyone in the game, around the game, and Mariah Carey. Everything Michael did throughout history – excluding the previous 18 months of course – was to be glorified and indulged one more time to such a lavish and excessive degree that, if any of us had forgotten how scarily good and frighteningly popular he was, we would never do so again. They had documentaries, they had interviews, they had montages, they had songs, they had a dress represented two of his uniforms on….they had everything.
And, you know, fine. He’s the legend and it’s his final year, for real this time.
Unfortunately, there was a slight problem. Jordan wasn’t voted in as a starter by the fans. And it’s hard to be the most important player on the floor when five other people get there first.
Never mind, though. Into the confusion stepped Allen Iverson. Voted in as one of the starting guards ahead of Jordan, Iverson magnanimously volunteered to give up his starting spot for Jordan, so that he may start the game and take the first 40 shots or so. Tracy McGrady, one of the starting forwards, made an identical gesture a few days later, once again showing sympathy-inducing deference to an older man’s inferior play. However, the other starting guard, Vince Carter, did not make the same offer, even when pressed to do so.
People turned on Vince Carter. Because he didn’t feel the need to give up what was rightfully is, like the others had done before him, he was vitriolically defamed, cursed and besmirched, suddenly deemed “disrespectful” for not giving Jordan something that he didn’t earn. (And no, he didn’t earn it. Michael Jordan’s career up until that point saw him justifiably earn immeasurable fame, fortune and respect aplenty – giving him this starting spot, that he hadn’t justifiably earned, would not have changed this.) Not working in Vince’s favour was the fact that he had missed most of the year up until that point with injury – in this respect, he too hadn’t earn the starting spot. However, Carter had gotten it anyway, because the fans wanted him to have it. But now, they wanted him to give it back. It made no sense, and Vince became a victim, stuck in a position where he could do no right without doing wrong.
Eventually, he relented. A mere matter of minutes before the game, Vince yielded his starting spot to Jordan, whose initial public claims to have not wanted the spot anyway seemed to disappear as he took Vince up on the offer, the same one that he claimed to have previously turned down from Iverson and McGrady. I distinctly remember an interview with Carter just before the game started, in which a pissed-off Vince spoke some clichéd poppycock about how it was the right thing to do to respect the history of the game, and of the “greatest player, probably, to put a pair of basketball shoes on”. (Note: quote comes from a time when Vince was still insistent on not giving up his spot.) Had Vince had black eyes, cuts, and a distinct hobble that befitted a kneecapping victim, I wouldn’t have been surprised – he didn’t look like a man who had made a heartfelt gesture. Yet, regardless of what duress he was under, he made it anyway.
Jordan then came out and shot a Morrison.
Cut to the present day. This year’s votes on the All-Star Starters are in, and Allen Iverson is one of the starting Eastern Conference guards alongside Dwyane Wade. Vince Carter was third in the fan vote, narrowly missing out on the second guard spot. (Luke Ridnour was fifth, proving once again that this system is still stupid.) However, despite his popularity barely waning, Iverson’s skill level has started to drop, and he is no longer truly deserving of any award that claims him to be (implied or otherwise) the second-best guard in his conference. On the season, Iverson averages only 17.9 points, 3.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 2.8 turnovers, finally declining like the 33-year-old that he is. He’s good still, but he’s not great any longer. Several players behind him in the voting, Carter included, are better players than he is now. (Note: Luke Ridnour isn’t one of them.) And while the concept of the fan vote is to see the most popular players, not necessarily the best (which incidentally is another damning slant on the whole idea of giving up the spot for Jordan in the first place; the fans clearly didn’t want him to start), it shouldn’t be.
Therefore, let’s put it right. I want Allen Iverson to give up his starting spot for the better player this year, and the more deserving player over Jordan six years ago, Vince Carter. I realise that it is hypocritical to condemn the idea that Carter was forced to give up his spot in the first place, and then later in the same blog post to infer that Iverson should give up his spot this year to make up for it. And for this, I am sorry. But sometimes, two wrongs do make a right.
(The fan vote system doesn’t work, by the way. Yao Ming was an All-Star starter way before he deserved to be, and Yi Jianlian and Bruce Bowen came dangerously close to being voted onto the team this year despite never coming close to All-Star calibre talent. The NBA All-Star Game should be to showcase the NBA’s best, something which this system does not necessarily do, and therefore it needs abolishing. But that rant is for another day.)
This isn’t a knock on Allen Iverson, whose initial 2003 gesture seemed sincere and genuine, and who isn’t to blame for the fans voting him in over other, better players. But the NBA owes Vince Carter something, and this would be a fine time to give him it. Iverson doesn’t personally owe Carter anything, and as such he will have done nothing wrong if he starts the game as chosen. Like Vince before him, Iverson has no obligation to give up what is rightfully his, and it is rightfully his, even if it shouldn’t be. But the entire NBA World owes Vince Carter an apology, as well as an All-Star start, and Allen Iverson can make this happen. As hypocritical as it may be for me to want to see someone else give up their spot, Vince Carter deserves some justice, no matter how much you dislike him.
Please do this, AI. We’ll be brothers for life if you do. I’ll never let anyone defile you again. No one. No one will disrespect this thing of ours. La Cosa Nostra. Me and you. Ride or die. Let’s do this.