Despite his status as the greatest ever, and his 20.2ppg average on the season to that point, Michael Jordan was not voted in as a starter to the game. The fans were given an opportunity to say if they wanted Jordan to start, and they didn’t. That should have been the end of it.
But it soon transpired that, voting system aside, deciding who started wasn’t the fans’ decision after all. Iverson, voted in as a starting guard, was the first to magnanimously offer to give up his starting spot for Jordan, and leading Eastern conference votegetter Tracy McGrady soon followed with the same. Jordan declined both; inevitably, attention turned to the third guy-who-wasn’t-a-big-man, Vince Carter, to make a similar offer.
He didn’t. Despite only playing 15 games in the season to that point, Carter nonetheless recorded the third-most votes of anyone in the league, 360,000 before the next Eastern forward (Jermaine O’Neal), only 15,000 behind his cousin McGrady for the overall Eastern lead, and 218,000 ahead of Jordan. Fans voted for Vince knowing that he had barely played, because they wanted to see him start anyway. More so than Jordan, it seemed.
The voting system is not truly representative of consensus. After all, this was the year that Yao tallied the fourth-most votes in the league, starting ahead of a prime Shaq, despite having less than half of his averages and barely a trillionth of his legacy, all because the Chinese made it so. Nevertheless, it represents something. If it wasn’t regarded an honor, it wouldn’t matter that Jordan wasn’t starting.
However, not only did Vince not offer his place, but he also came out and said that he wasn’t going to offer it, that he felt doing so would be letting down all the people who voted for him. Even if you read between the lines of that logic, and conclude that Vince didn’t give up his starting spot because he simply didn’t want to, that is fair enough. He didn’t have to do anything.
That is, not until everyone told him otherwise. After Iverson and McGrady’s gestures, and in light of his season to date, the media pile-on of Carter began. And with an about an hour to go until the tip-off, a totally shocking thing happened — the pressure took and Vince offered Jordan his starting spot, presumably upon pain of death. And Jordan — who had said all the perfectly correct things in declining his two previous offers — was now somehow willing to accept.