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Andrew Wiggins kicks off the NBA-All Star Game, and there are a lot of angry people blaming a K-pop tweet.
Wiggins probably isn’t one of the top five players in the Western Conference this season. Its success was driven in large part by its 3.45 million fan votes, which account for half of the selection criteria.
Controversially, some of that fan vote was influenced by Warriors global ambassador and K-pop star BamBam Tweeter in support of Wiggins. Every tweet and retweet is counted as a vote, and BamBam has been retweeted 38,000 times. Now BamBam and his army of K-pop fans are widely publicized mocked through NBA fans and delegitimized by some in the media for bringing Wiggins into the game.
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Hatred is troubling in many ways, but here’s the most important to me: If you have a problem with a K-pop star influencing the vote for NBA All-Stars and you don’t have the same level of vitriol when other celebrities influence the vote, like Kendall Jenner telling her followers to vote for her boyfriend Devin Booker or Grizzlies minority owner Justin Timberlake urging to vote for Ja Moranttake a second and think about why.
It should go without saying, but your celebrity interests or ethnicity shouldn’t factor into the legitimacy of a vote on which basketball player you like to watch in an exhibition game. For many people, this is the case.
There were no criticisms of the mentions of Jenner or Timberlake. The same cannot be said for BamBam. I’ve read various articles and listened to NBA podcasts ridiculing the K-pop star’s influence over the past week. Each time, it makes my blood boil in the face of the double standard that is perpetuated.
Some of BamBam’s criticisms are motivated by the idea that Wiggins doesn’t deserve a spot on the team. But there’s also a clear element of access control that sets it apart from the Timberlake and Jenner tweets. There is an underlying belief that people of Asian descent or those who follow K-pop stars should have their views marginalized.
This is nothing new for people of Asian descent. There is a strong sense of otherness that unites many of these communities when it comes to engaging in broader cultural dialogue. We often feel invisible or ignored, our participation being tolerated rather than encouraged.
This idea of otherness extends to league players. Jeremy Lin, the first Taiwanese-American to play in the league, was routinely arrested by arena security guards who did not believe he was an NBA player.
“In opposing arenas, it happens all the time,” Lin told ESPN’s Michael Wallace in a 2016 interview. “I’m used to it now. It’s part of being Asian in the NBA.”
This underdog status has permeated my own life countless times, including during my league coverage work. A quick example:
During one of my stints covering the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, I was sitting in the media room when an angry white man frantically entered the room. After scanning the area, he locked eyes with me and walked towards me.
“Do you speak english?” he asked me slowly, mimicking his hands in a cartoonish manner in a conversational motion. I replied that I did indeed speak English.
“Oh, thank goodness,” he said. “Who is Ding? »
I informed him that I had no idea what he was talking about, much to his disappointment.
Later, I learned that he was a longtime NBA reporter whose team signed a Chinese basketball player named Ding Yanyuhang. I haven’t covered this team, the Chinese Basketball Association, and I’m not of Chinese descent. I didn’t know who this reporter was. But for him, the color of my skin was the only thing that mattered. It was a dead giveaway that I could only be there to cover for a Chinese player named Ding.
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People of Asian descent are increasingly part of the NBA. Hyunjung Lee, a Davidson-born South Korean junior who has received almost no national attention, will most likely be drafted into the league next year. Jonathan Yim of the Blazers and Daisuke Yoshimoto of the Knicks work as assistant coaches in the league. There is a growing number of players, executives, members of the media and fans of Asian heritage. All are just as good in the league as their non-Asian counterparts.
The irony in all of this is that BamBam’s tweet probably didn’t even influence Wiggins’ selection. He was fourth in fan voting a day before BamBam’s tweet. After the tweet, he edged out Paul George, who hasn’t played a game due to injury since voting began. It probably would have happened anyway. Wiggins finished solidly in third place with over 600,000 votes. More importantly, even if Wiggins hadn’t edged out George, he would still have been named the starter due to his high scores in the other selection criteria. The only thing BamBam’s tweet really accomplished was providing a target to laugh at.
You can certainly quibble over whether Wiggins deserved to be a merit-based starter. But there were plenty of serious fans who thought it was, and their opinions matter. Part of the All-Star game is to reward fans with players they want to see. Wiggins unquestionably earned his selection based on these criteria.
There are strong access control elements when it comes to all things NBA. You have to like the right players, watch the right teams, and have the right opinions to be considered a true fan by a lot of people. Ultimately, however, this is an entertainment product. The All-Star Game is meant to be an inclusive showcase to help grow the game. Everyone’s participation is legitimate and should be welcomed, no matter the color of your skin, the type of music you like, your geolocation data or any other silly criteria meant to keep people away.
The K-pop Army Won the NBA All-Star Vote Battle, But They’re Losing the Guardian War
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