Lee Sang-min looks certain for victory in All-Star ballot

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Lee Sang-min looks certain for victory in All-Star ballot

At this rate, you might as well not hold the vote.

At the halfway point in the Korean Basketball League All-Star fan balloting, a familiar face is leading the votes again. Samsung Thunders guard Lee Sang-min has garnered 38,206 votes through Monday, according to the KBL. A total of 77,835 had been cast, and Lee was poised to become the leading vote getter for the ninth straight season. Since the KBL opened the all-star voting to fans, Lee has finished first every time. His name has been synonymous with the KBL fan voting.

The 37-year-old is a fine guard who has been the face of Korean basketball for more than a decade. But can fans be always right? Even Lee himself isn’t so sure.

“I am embarrassed because I don’t think I deserve No. 1 [this season],” he said. Lee is only playing 16 minutes per game this year. He is averaging 4 points and 3.8 assists per game - all career lows.

Fans can cast their votes on the major portal site Naver once a day. Lee, who has been a basketball star since his Yonsei University days in early 1990s, is famous for a huge group of loyal fans. That’s already a built-in advantage for him.

In Japanese professional baseball, eight players from Nippon Ham were voted as starters in the 1978 All-Star affairs. Two of them were taken off the lineup in exchange for players from other teams. In the majors, fans of the Cincinnati Reds stuffed the ballot box and voted seven Reds players to the National League All-Star lineup in 1957. The only position player who was not a Cincinnati player was Stan Musial of the St. Louis Cardinals. Commissioner Ford Frick decided to put Willie Mays and Hank Aaron in the starting lineup in place of two Reds players. The incident forced Frick to abolish fan voting, and managers, players and coaches picked all-star squads until 1970.

Last year, the Lotte Giants, which consistently draws the most home fans in the Korea Baseball Organization, had eight players voted on to the starting lineup.

At the time, Lee Jin-hyung, spokesman with the KBO, said the league considered changing the voting process but then decided not to “since All-Star voting is really a popularity contest.”

Kim In-yang, secretary general of the KBL, acknowledged change is in the offing. “We will consider making the fan voting count less than it does now, and letting players vote each other on to the All-Star teams,” he said.

By Sung Ho-jun, Yoo Jee-ho [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]

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