Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers looks on from the bench against the Denver Nuggets at the Wells Fargo Center
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Joel Embiid Cannot Crack the NBA All-Star Game's Starting Lineup. Here's Why.


Last week the NBA announced the starters for the 2023 All-Star Game in Salt Lake City, Utah. It's a familiar cast of players, led by 19 time All-Star LeBron James and 7 timer Giannis Antetokounmpo, who led their respective conferences in votes and will serve as captains. Rounding out the West pool of starters are Stephen Curry, Luka Don?i?, Nikola Joki?, and Zion Williamson, while the East will be represented by Donovan Mitchell, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and Jayson Tatum. 

The one glaring omission from that list? Joel Embiid. You know, the dude averaging 33.5 points and over 10 rebounds per game for the team with the third best record in the Eastern Conference. 

Embiid Looked Over

Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers looks on against the Phoenix Suns

Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

How is Embiid not an All-Star starter? Well, some of it comes down to semantics. The NBA classifies players as frontcourt and guards for All-Star voting, with each conference selecting three frontcourt players and two guards as starters. The Eastern Conference frontcourt is loaded. With Embiid, Tatum, Antetokounmpo, and Durant, you're basically looking at four players for three spots. Someone was gonna get snubbed. 


In 49 games played, Tatum is averaging over 31 points, nearly 9 rebounds, and just under 5 assists per game, while playing top-notch defense and leading the Boston Celtics to the best record in the NBA. Antetokounmpo is averaging 31.8 / 12.2 / 5.2 in 40 games played, while Druant checks in at 29.7 / 6.7 / 5.3 in 39 games. The numbers are all pretty comparable, and these are the four best teams in the Eastern Conference. 

So how did Embiid end up the odd man out? Let's look at the way All-Star starters are selected

Three groups determine the starters: fans, NBA players, and the media. Fans make up 50%, with the other two groups each getting a quarter of the say. 


Out of the four frontcourt starters, Antetokounmpo was closest to consensus, ranking first in the player and fan rank, second in media rank. The Boston media mafia helped boost Tatum's rank to 1st, while players had him fourth. Durant was second in player and fan rank, but fourth in media voting, probably because of the timing of his injury.

If it was just up to players and the media, Embiid would've earned a starting All-Star spot. However, he finished fourth in fan voting, about 300,000 votes behind Tatum

A Different Kind of Snub

Nikola Jokic guards Joel Embiid

Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Last season, there was a big debate about whether or not Embiid should make the All-NBA First Team. Crucially, the positional guidelines for All-NBA are different than for All-Star. Instead of having two guards and three frontcourt players, All-NBA teams consist of two guards, two forwards, and one center. 

This means that Embiid was competing with league MVP Nikola Joki? for the first team spot. Embiid still received 57 first team votes - eight more than first teamer Jayson Tatum received - though that was a bit behind the 88 for Joki?, leaving Embiid on the All-NBA second team. 


Let's just call out that it's pretty ridiculous that the NBA has different sets of positional criteria for its two most important player distinctions. And it's definitely a bit of an injustice that Embiid - who finished second in MVP voting - was not on the All-NBA first team. But it's more a quirk of history that he happened to have an MVP caliber season at the same time Joki? had an even better season while playing the same position. 

Who Do We Blame? Twitter!

Joel Embiid reacts to the crowd during the 2022 NBA Playoffs.

Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

So ultimately, who's to blame for this year's All-Star snub? Really, no one is. It was an impossible decision and someone had to get left off. But that is not a fun answer! We need a scapegoat! And for that I give you: Philadelphia 76ers fans. The difference came down to fan voting, and the fans did not vote enough.

Where were you guys? Where was the Brotherly Love for Embiid? Let's give the fans the benefit of the doubt and say they were too busy following the Eagles' run to the Super Bowl to vote for their best player to be an All-Star starter. Ok, sure, lame excuse, but fine. Then it's up to the 76ers PR team to get out the vote!

A quick comparison of the Celtics and Sixers twitter accounts shows a pretty big gap between how frequently they urged fans to vote for All-Star. Between the start and finish of All-Star voting, I counted 55 tweets including the terms "all-star" or "vote" or "voting" from the Celtics twitter account, and just 40 from the Sixers in the same time span. In both accounts, a few of those tweets were dedicated to actual voting in the November election. 


In each account, the urges to vote were not solely to vote for Embiid and Tatum. Both teams were pushing their potential All-Star guards, James Harden and Jaylen Brown, just as much. The Celtics even included a few pushes for Marcus Smart, who actually finished 13th in fan voting amongst guards, despite ranking 19th overall. 

What's fascinating is that the difference in the fan vote between Embiid and Tatum is roughly in line with the difference between Harden and Brown. Tatum received about 320,000 more votes than Embiid, while Brown got around 205,000 more votes than Harden. 

To draw a grand conclusion from a not so rigorous investigation: the twitter push from the Celtics PR team may have made the difference.

Elections Have Consequences

Brett Brown talks to Joel Embid before a game at the TD Garden in 2019.

Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Lesson to be learned here? Campaigns matter! Why do we get bombarded with texts and phone calls and emails from politicians in the weeks leading up to Election Day reminding us to vote? Because it works! Why do non-profit organizations send breathless emails about how important your donation is to their work? Because it works! 


Embiid should be an All-Star starter. His stats back it up, and his swagger makes him perfect for an All-Star game. If he has beef, he should take it up with the 76ers marketing team.

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