The WNBA announced its 2011 All-Star starters during tonight's game between the Seattle Storm and the San Antonio Stars. As in the NBA, the game's starters are chosen via fan voting, with reserves selected at a later date by the league's head coaches.
Indiana Fever star Tamika Catchings led all players in votes, and Storm guard Sue Bird was tops in the Western Conference. Many of the leading vote-getters are past All-Stars, but a few, like rookie Maya Moore, are up-and-comers in the league.
In the last few years, the practice of putting fans in charge of selecting All-Star starters has become more and more troublesome in the men's game. The most egregious example of the system's flaws was Rockets center Yao Ming being selected as a Western Conference starter for the most recent NBA All-Star Game, despite his playing in just five games in the last two seasons combined. It's great that Yao can drum up support, particularly in his home country of China, but the All-Star Game isn't a popularity contest -- at least, it shouldn't be.
Players who legitimately have earned the honor of being named an All-Star should not miss out because the fans aren't aware, or aren't as appreciative, of their accomplishments. So many athletes are voted in on name recognition, and are rewarded for their past achievements, while the guys who are having true All-Star seasons are overlooked. I think the NBA should have its head coaches select all of the starters and all but one of the reserves in each conference, leaving the fans to vote in just the final guy for each squad -- like MLB's "Final Vote."
In the case of the WNBA, I think the importance of fan interaction changes things a bit. I believe the best case scenario would be to see the best ballers in the league on the All-Star roster, but I think involving fans in the voting is very important for a growing league like the WNBA. Player appeals, whether videos, online commercials or just Tweets, are also a great way to drum up publicity for the game and the league.
When the votes are counted and the All-Star starters are announced, players and coaches just have to hope that the fans got it right. Moore managed to squeak into the All-Star Game despite her just-average debut because fans adore her from her days at UConn. Is she better than some of the more established women in the league? Probably not. But her participation at the All-Star Game will draw more fans, and help get more people hooked on the WNBA.