The starters for the NBA All-Star Game were revealed last night, and there was one name that stuck out on the list of the final vote tallies for the Western Conference team.
Yes, that’s 31-year-old Mavericks center Zaza Pachulia, the guy who is averaging 10 points and 10 rebounds per game this season and calling that a career year, just barely getting beaten out by genuine superstar Kawhi Leonard for the final frontcourt spot. How did a clunky big man with a boulder for a head almost make the damn All-Star team?
Tweens and national pride. Pachulia is from Georgia, a small country with a population of about 4.5 million, and he had the full support of his countrymen. Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili campaigned for Pachulia:
And Georgian Facebook users were stuffing the ballot boxes, according to Georgia Today:
Georgian society has united to get basketball player Zaza Pachulia playing in the NBA All-Star Game. During an entire month social networks have been filled with #NBAVOTE Zaza Pachulia posts. Not only are ordinary citizens in on the craze, even the President of Georgia, ministers, journalists, public figures and foreign embassies have joined the action. As a result, now Pachulia has a real chance to play among the true greats of basketball.
But we all know that nobody really listens to politicians. If you really want results, you have to tap the power of the tweens, and that’s exactly what Georgian pop star Bera did. First, let’s check out one of Bera’s jams:
Nice jam. Anyway, that video was directed by Nash Grier, who is a tween Vine/YouTube star (he’s neat). Nash’s little brother Hayes is also a tween internet celebrity, and the two have millions of Twitter followers between them. So Bera appears to have pulled some strings, because he got Hayes—it’s okay, I’m also rolling my eyes—to urge his 3.2 million twitter followers to vote for Pachulia:
Bera recruited Wyclef to the cause, too!
Alas, Pachulia fell short of the starting five by about 14,000 votes, but he was still feeling pretty great about all of the support he received (from ESPN):
“Oh, man, it’s a great feeling,” Pachulia told ESPN.com. “I have a bunch of smiles. It’s all good vibes. I’m so thankful. I don’t think there is one player who is liked by everybody. Every single person has their own flavor. They like different players or whatever.
“What I’m thankful is that fans, without me asking anybody, they took it to this level. I was so close. It’s just an amazing feeling. I feel loved. That’s more important to me than being an All-Star, honestly. It’s not easy to be an All-Star, but it’s even more difficult to be loved by so many people and have so many people have your back, especially a guy coming from a small country like Georgia.”
Pachulia better be wary moving forward, though. He’s indebted to the tweens now, and the tweens always come for what they’re owed.