Today is the last day of voting for the NBA All-Star Game 2018. The names of the starters at the showcase event will be announced on January 18, while the whole team—including reserves as voted for by NBA coaches—will be announced five days later on January 23. Then, the whole team will be unveiled on January 25.
For the first time in the history of the league, three players of African descent are in the top three of different voting categories. The voting will end January 15, and with just a few more days to go, here are the boys from Africa, and the reasons you should add your vote to their cause.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks) #NBAVOTE
Antetokounmpo announced his intention to run with the elite of the league with his performance at the 2017 NBA All-Star Game. He had earned his first All-Star selection as a starter, but as the ‘rookie’ on an Eastern Conference All-Star team that had LeBron James and Kyrie Irving as starters, with Carmelo Anthony and Paul George as reserves, the ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ (or ‘Greek Freak’) was supposed to have a quiet All-Star debut. It didn’t happen.
Instead, Antetokounmpo led the East with 30 points, and had a sequence of scoring which included eye-popping in-game dunks, one of which had Steph Curry playfully running for cover. His 82.4 field-goal percentage also led the game. And the Nigerian-Greek has gotten even better since that game, and that is probably the reason he led in the first batch of voting results released by the NBA.
Giannis has seen his game and statistics improve with every season as his game keeps evolving, and Bucks coach Jason Kidd entrusts him with more responsibilities. The Freak is averaging 28.7 points, 10.1 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.7 steals per game. He currently leads all forwards, irrespective of conference, in Points/Rebounds/Assists as per NBA.com. Antetokounmpo will play at the All-Star Weekend as a starter, but he needs your vote to be the first player to be named captain of an NBA All-Star team.
Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers) #NBAVOTE
Almost every American, and followers of the NBA all around the world, with a social media account is aware that the Cameroonian center has been campaigning for an All-Star slot for a while, and were it not for the injury that ended his season in January last season, we may be talking about a second All-Star appearance now. The second-year Sixers big man says he wants a place with the elite at the All-Star Game so he could score a date with music superstar Rihanna. But that may well be just his playful part.
Because while Embiid is entertaining his fans on social media with different tweets and emojis, he is all business on it. And has shown that he arguably is the best center in the NBA. The first vote returns placed him third among forwards behind Antetokounmpo and LeBron James, but his total of 433,161 is the best of any center in the league—across both conferences.
The statistics, as per NBA.com, rates him third behind DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis, with his average of 23.8 points, 10.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists; the twin towers of New Orleans have not faced Embiid this season. He has embarrassed most of the centers he’s faced. Embiid needs your vote to play at the All-Star Weekend; the game is all about entertaining the fans, and there is none bigger than the Cameroonian on the hardwood.
Victor Oladipo (Indiana Pacers) #NBAVOTE
The departure of Victor Oladipo from Oklahoma City and his arrival in Indiana were low-key. The folks in Indiana ‘mourned’ the departure of Paul George, their All-Star forward who went in the opposite direction, while the fans of the Thunder celebrated the arrival of one of the best two-way players in the league. The Paul George trade dominated the headlines.
Three months into the season, the story has changed. The Nigerian-American is ranked eighth in the league in scoring among guards with an average of 24.5 points per game, right next to Russell Westbrook (24.8 points per game), his teammate from last season. He is third behind Kyrie Irving and DeMar DeRozan among guards in the Eastern Conference, when their stats across Points/Rebounds/Assists are taken into account. That is a higher ranking than Kyrie Irving (fourth), the leading vote-getter among guards in the Eastern Conference.
Oladipo is having an All-Star season according to the statistics; he needs your votes to confirm it.
By Akinbode Oguntuyi
@booday10 on Twitter
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