In politics getting your name on the ballot is as simple as having enough money to run a campaign and good enough looks not to be off putting to the public. It doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with actual qualifications, at least not all the time (see: former professional wrestlers turned politicians.). In the NBA it’s slightly different.
Sure, both political elections and the All-Star game vote boils down to a popularity contest, but to have your name printed on the ballot in the NBA is a sign of respect and superior skill. It’s something that many players don’t take lightly.
Goran Dragic is one of those players.
While growing up in what is now Slovenia (then Yugoslovia), he used to wake up at 2 a.m. — an hour that most kids his age only woke up at to cause trouble — to watch NBA games being broadcast live. Fellow countrymen like Vlade Divac and Drazen Petrovic helped ignite his passion for the game and names like Jason Kidd and Michael Jordan became his American favorites and kept the fire alive.
Spending many early mornings watching those idols of the hardwood in a far off land built a love for the game and a desire to play at the same level someday within Dragic. They taught him what success in the league meant and what he wanted to accomplish if he were lucky enough to get there. All of the players he loved to watch, with the exception of Petrovic, whose brilliant career was cut short with his untimely passing, made the NBA All-Star game at least once and found there name on the ballot numerous times.
Now, it’s the 26-year-old’s turn.
“It means a lot. I was working all my life to try to be in this position,” Dragic said about being included on the 2013 All-Star Ballot. “When I was a kid I had a yearning to play in that all-star game and I still do. I know it’s a long way to go but I’m working hard every day and every game to get better. Hopefully someday I’ll be in that game.”
His coach, Alvin Gentry, who saw Dragic enter the league and has witnessed his maturation process since from both near and far, is proud of his young point guard.
“Just to be on the ballot, in this league, is an unbelievable accomplishment,” Gentry said. “Especially for a guy like him. I would like nothing more than to see him make it. Also, that would reflect that this team is doing well. That would reflect this team is doing well also.”
Gentry attributes the honor for Dragic to the guard’s renewed belief in his self, his instincts and his game.
“I think he’s played with a lot of confidence,” the coach said. “He’s really confident. The thing I like best about him. I think he’s comfortable enough to come and say ‘hey coach in [certain] situations can I stay in a little longer.’ He’s playing at a high level and with a lot of confidence.”
Dragic realizes that on the ballot doesn’t mean anything without building upon his fast start as the team’s starting point guard, but he realizes it’s an honor just to be nominated. He also realizes the only way to accomplish that is to play hard and prepare even harder on and off the court.
“This is only a reward for hard work,” he said. “The most important thing is that I’m trying to play hard every night and try to give everything for my teammates and fans to try to make the playoffs.”
Goran Dragic may never run for local or national office, but seeing his name on the All-Star ballot is more powerful for him anyways. Being on the ballot is only half the battle though. We’ll have to wait and see if in this NBA election season, the Dragon Party can show up and help Dragic the popular vote.