Twelve days into NBA All-Star voting, the league’s leading vote-getter is not LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, James Harden or any other established NBA superstar. Instead, with 863,416 votes, it’s Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, whose performance in the early returns suggests fans recognize him as the next NBA superstar.
It’s hard to blame fans for showering the Greek Freak with votes. Giannis may not be the single most qualified All-Star in the league (That would be LeBron or the newly injured Harden), but he’s certainly up there, averaging 29.1 points a game on 54.9 percent shooting, with 10.4 rebounds and 4.7 assists per contest. After winning Most Improved Player last year, he’s got a case to claim it again. Plus he’s thrilling to watch, with a fascinating backstory unlike that of any other star in the league.
Giannis’ rise is great news for the NBA, a league lives and dies with its superstars and is always seeking the next guy it can market to the masses. The Greek Freak has established himself (for now) as the best player in this new Embiid/Towns/Porzingis/Simmons class of stars, and his strong showing in All-Star voting suggests he is resonating with fans as well.
Yes, All-Star voting is mostly meaningless in measuring greatness, but it does convey the will of the people. Last year’s leading vote-getter was LeBron. The year before that it was Kobe Bryant in his final season. Before that Steph. Before that LeBron, and before that Kobe. Getting more votes than anyone else requires massive popularity, and Giannis, 23 and just getting started, seems to have it.
Elsewhere in NBA voting, the fans are doing a remarkably reasonable job. Here’s what the starting lineups would look like if voting ended today
G — Kyrie Irving
G — DeMar DeRozan
F — Giannis Antetokounmpo
F — LeBron James
C — Joel Embiid
G — Steph Curry
G — James Harden
F — Kevin Durant
F — Anthony Davis
C — DeMarcus Cousins
It’s early, but those lineups look about as good as you could ask for. If you’re really inclined, you can probably quibble with certain selections, but on the most part it’s tough to complain. For NBA All-Star voting, that’s a dramatic change.