How Much Did K-Pop Star BamBam Influence All-Star Voting Outcomes?

By now, anyone following the NBA has been introduced to Taiwanese K-Pop Star BamBam whose tweet supposedly influenced the upcoming NBA All-Star game. In theory, BamBam’s January 7th tweet and his over 9 million followers made a significant enough difference in All-Star voting. Andrew Wiggins received 3,452,586 votes, by far the most in his career and placing him 647,383 above 4th place finished Paul George. The question is “how many votes did BamBam influence?”

Understanding Twitter

To answer that question, we have to understand the subtleties of how Twitter works.  There is a small, but important, distinction between how retweets and quote tweets work. The idea that retweets propose the potential for exponential growth is a common misconception. A retweet added the original user’s tweet to a second users timeline. For instance, the below user retweeted BamBam and this is how it appears on his feed. Any of his followers who interact with the retweet have their interactions captured on BamBam’s original tweet. Since all of these interactions are tallied on BamBam’s initial tweet, we know their reach.

We know BamBam’s original tweet came out on a double vote day, where individuals vote count for 2. Provided all roughly 37,000 retweets occurred on a double vote day their impact would be over 74,000.

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On the other hand, quote tweets and comments do have potential for exponential growth. If a user quote tweets BamBam’s post it allows that user to add their own comment. Any subsequent retweets or quote tweets would require a lengthy process to discover their impact. Likewise comments on both the original post and could be amplified via a retweet or a quote tweet.

Presently the tweet has nearly 3400 quote tweets and 3,000 comments.  It is important to note that it is not clear how the NBA counts replies and quote tweets. Comments are most likely considered individual tweets and would need to have the hashtags #andrewwiggins #NBAAllStar to be counted. Quote tweets offer a little more variance as there are three ways they could be counted.

1. They could be counted like retweets since they contain the initial tweet. This would mean each quote tweet generated 1 vote or 2 if quote tweeted on a double vote day, giving the quote tweet a potential impact from 3400 to 6800

2. They could be counted as replies which would require the user to include the hashtags to be counted as a vote. This method means their range is from 0 to 6800

3. They could be a hybrid where a if a user included the hashtags it counts as a separate tweet as well as a retweet. This method would have the potential to generate up to 3400-13,600 votes.

For estimation purposes, we are working with method 1, but wanted to acknowledge the variance could be higher or lower.

That means the K-pop star with over 9 million followers generated 7,400 opportunities for exponential growth. Using BamBam as an example, his 9 million followers have 44,400 interactions. Assuming each interaction came from a different user, then the percentage 0.49% of his followers interacted. Calculating his BamBam’s followers’ followers can be done by looking at twitter user numbers. The site Techjury.net calculates the average number of followers on Twitters is 707, however, when you remove celebrity accounts the average drops to 453. These numbers are backed up by the tech site Review42.com calculates the medium number of followers for active twitter users as roughly 450.

If we assume each of the 7400 possible chances for additional growth came from users with 450 followers who all interact at the same 0.49% as BamBam’s following we can estimate their added impact to be 16,319 votes. There is potential for follows of the follower of BamBam’s followers to keep this going indefinitely, however, logically the further removed from the initial source the less likely users will be to interaction. That leaves us with an estimated impact from BamBam being between 37,000 and 121,000 votes. It is not a small number but as Wiggins received 3.45 million votes the highest end of BamBam’s reach influenced just 3.5% of his total.

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Timing

There could not have been a more perfect time for BamBam to have posted his tweet. Not only was it a double vote day, but January 7th was the day after the NBA released round of voting results. Looking at the first round of results Wiggins received 933,355 votes which surpassed his previous year’s total. He was in 4th place among Western Conference front court players.

It is important to note that first ballot results cover a 13-day span from 12/25/2021-1/6/2022. All subsequent results would only cover one week. In subsequent voting returns Wiggins received 896,378 in the second return, 814,838 in the third return and 808,015 in the fourth return. When we divide those results by the days of voting between returns Wiggins went from 71,000 votes a day in the first returns to 128,000 in the second spanning 1/7-1/13, 116,000 in the third spanning 1/14-1/20 and 115,000 in the fourth finishing out the voting from 1/21-1/27. 

Those numbers alone could be used to draw a correlation between the BamBam’s tweet and Wiggins finishing in the top 3. The spike in votes per day is far more likely to have come from increased interest as it is seen across the board. Wiggins’s daily vote total increased by 178%. The Lakers “Big 3” of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Carmelo Anthony saw their daily votes increase by 218%, 235% and 330% respectively. Overall, the second return of ballots saw an increase of 182% votes per day. Instead of BamBam’s tweet propelling Wiggins, he merely followed the average trend. Among all votes cast for the top 10 Western Conference Frontcourt players Wiggins received 11.45% on the first return prior to the tweet, 11.33% in the second return, and 11.23% and 11.22% in the third and fourth returns respective.

Similarly, Warriors’ teammate Draymond Green received the BamBam special shout out on 1/14 which was also a double vote day. This tweet only received 30,000 retweets in the coming weeks. Looking at Green’s daily vote totals and the average trend among Western Conference front court players he too failed to out perform the average voting pattern. His daily votes dropped from86,000 per day on the second return (prior to the tweet) to 81,000 on the third and 80,00 on the fourth after the tweet.

Steph Curry and Klay Thompson also received twitter endorsements from the K-Pop star and did not see a measurable bump in there average voting numbers. This leaves little doubt the BamBam’s tweet had an impact of greater than the estimated 121,000 votes.

If Not BamBam Then What?

If not the BamBam then tweet how did Wiggins get so many votes? Among players eligible in for front court votes in the Western Conference, James and Nikola Jokic were the only 2 of last season’s top 5 vote getters to remain healthy through the 2022 voting. Kawhi Leonard and Zion Williamson, who finished 3rd and 5th in 2021 fan voting, have yet to touch the court this season. Lakers big man Anthony Davis played just 2 games during the voting period. Even the 7th place finisher from 2021, Paul George was injured on 12/22 and did not play during the voting process.

With so many key front court vote getters missing someone had to fill the void. The top candidates from media and players were Draymond Green, Rudy Gobert and Karl Anthony Towns. There are valid cases for all three, but it should not shock anyone that the fan voting went to Wiggins who finished 6th in fan voting in 2021. He only had 771,737 votes but that was 1.8 times as many votes than Draymond Green, nearly 2 times as many votes as Rudy Gobert and nearly 3 times as many votes as Karl-Anthony Towns.

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His popularity as a player is at odds with media conception, but for many fans health, scoring, name recognition, and being on a winning team means a lot. In comparison to his teammate Draymond Green, Wiggins has played in 41% more games and is outscoring Green by over 10 points per game. In comparison to Gobert, Wiggins was a college star, the number 1 draft pick, who scores more and was on a team with a better record at each point in the voting process. Towns has Wiggins beat in scoring, and likely in name recognition for the average fan however record wise this was not close. Golden State was the 1st or 2nd place team in the Western Conference since October 19th. Minnesota began the voting period in 9th place (tied for 8th) and never got above 7th in the conference.

The NBA and Twitter Celebrities Moving Forward

The Golden State Warriors announced BamBam as their brand ambassador on 1/7 the same day as the Wiggins tweet. On Christmas day, BamBam tweets in support of Steph Curry for All-Star. The K-Pop Star is an NBA Fan. He helped energize the Venn Diagram of fans who love both K-Pop and the NBA. Yes, those fans exist and they are ecstatic about the endorsement. Looking at the comments there are plenty like the below user who loved the collaboration. As a Brand Ambassador, BamBam did exactly what the NBA would hope for. He helped shine a light on the league to what could be new potential viewers as well as connecting to existing fans who support him and the league. This is exactly what the league wants. This is how the league grows.

While BamBam’s lone Wiggins tweet did little to change the course of NBA fan voting it has had some major backlash. NBA fans have been lashing out at the K-Pop star and his fandom on twitter. Some takes have been calling it a travesty, a shame or voter fraud insulting the process while others are firing off direct insults towards BamBam, his followers and K-Pop stans in general.

Time for Changes

The hysteria far out measured the impact in this social media panic. By all accounts and measure, Wiggins would have been a starter this season with or without BamBam. Whether he is fully deserving is debatable, but it was not twitter that forced his selection.

That does not mean the NBA should not make changes to the process. BamBam had one tweet. Imagine if he tweeted every day. His tweet put Wiggins front and center, but he could have just as easily hidden the hashtags when announcing a tour. Imagine if Taylor Swift, a Tennessee native, announce her next album while putting in the hashtags #DesmondBane #NBAAllStar and repeated the process daily. Bane could end up being an All-Star captain. The NBA will likely want to establish and may already have some rules as to how many brand ambassadors a team can employ and how many times they can tweet on behalf of players or teams.

There have been other suggestions on how to fix the voting like abolishing the fan vote. That might have prevented Wiggins from being an starter but the most commonly proposed snub is Spurs guard Dejuante Murray. The NBA does not allow that selection. The NBA Requires 3 front court players to be selected for both the starters and the reserves according to NBA.com which states:

Voting Process: Conference affiliation still matters when it comes to voting, with 12 players from both the East and West earning spots. The 10 starters – two guards and three frontcourt players per conference – are chosen by a combination of fans (50% of the vote), current players (25%) and media (25%). The players and media were granted a vote in 2017 – only fans selected the starting lineup before then.

The 30 NBA coaches select the 14 reserves, voting for two guards, three frontcourt players and two players at any position in their respective conferences.”

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Sports Illustrated podcast hosts Rohan Nadkarni and Michael Pena talked at length incorrectly about how coaches can ignore positions for the reserves. Sports Illustrated ran their All-Star reserve selection pieces with that language before correcting it. This is a common miss conception among NBA Media members. Even ESPN Insider Zach Lowe offered a belief on the Lowe Post podcast that Coaches can change players positional designation, an option not available to fans, players or media. 

With the official ballots now revealed, including 3 reserve front court selections from each conference, it appears neither The Open Floor hosts or the Lowe post were correct on this one. The NBA, as they stated, requires a total of 6 front court players from each conference. Wiggins finished in 5th place in the player voting and 6th place in media voting would still place him on the roster had those bodies been able to decide his fate. It is likely facing the same choice coaches would have him in their top 6 too. To replace Wiggins with Murray the NBA would need to abolish or adjust the voting process in a different way then simply removing fan votes.

Proposal 1 – Change Positional Limitations

Removing position is a step too far. Does anyone want to watch a potential line up of Steph Curry, Chris Paul, Ja Morant, Donovan Mitchell and LeBron James? Actually, that does sound fun, but in earlier iterations of the league we could have seen a starting five of Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber and Dirk Nowitzki. That would not have made for a very functional team. Even in today’s position-less atmosphere players there is value in having a variety of player types.

I propose going with 1 point guard, 1 big man, 2 wings and a wild card for the starters as well as repeating for the reserves with an additional 2 wildcards. Point guards would be determined by as anyone who places 40% of their time at the position. Big-men would be classified as anyone who plays a minimum of 40% of their time at center. Wings would be anyone who plays at least 40% of their time as a shooting guard, small forward or power forward. 

This method keeps some guardrails in places but allows for a lot of flexibility. Giannis could get in as a big or a wing. Donovan Mitchell could be a point guard or a wing. Players like DeMar DeRozan are easily classified as a wing avoiding the current situation where a DeMar has played 0 minutes at guard this season is listed as a guard. 

Proposal 2 – Rank Choice Voting for the Media

If the NBA is hard set on keeping player distinctions as is, it could adjust its voting process for the smallest segment of voters; the media. With only 98 voters the media falls into quiet a bit of consensus voting. All 98 members voted for Jokic and LeBron. The remaining 98 votes saw 85 go to either Draymond Green or Gobert leaving just 13 vote for any other Western Conference frontcourt choice. Wiggins received 4 votes enough putting him in 6th place. Had those 4 gone to Green or Gobert Wiggins would have placed 8th tied with all other players who received 0 votes. As the NBA calculates placements weighing fan voting double he still would have finished tied for the 3rd starter spot.

If the NBA asked media members to rank their top 10 forward selections and assigned points in an inverse order so first place forward received 10 points second place received 9 and so on so forth they could expand variance among the media. This is a method similar to how All-NBA and MVP votes are awarded. It would better measure how many media members truly feel players like Towns who received 5 votes, should have been selected over Wiggins. Does the media really want Davis or Paul George who were hurt half the year over Wiggins? Rank choice voting gives them that option. 

It also provides some insight on otherwise decided races. In the Eastern Conference only 3 frontcourt players received votes. Who does the media prefer 4th place in player voting Miles Bridges or 4th place in fan voting Jayson Tatum? We do not know. Khris Middleton was 32nd among players 14th among fans but how does the media see him? We do not know. The added insight this would bring would be phenomenal and make for some great think pieces surrounding players.

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Podcast host for Hoops Temple and blogger for Temple Entertainment and Media. Studied Kinesiology with an emphasis on sports psychology and coaching basketball at Michigan State University. Coached at the High School level for 8 seasons.

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