I’ve worked, and practically lived, on the internet for a decade, and I’ve learned one irrefutable fact: Never, ever, ever underestimate the power of K-pop fans. When mobilized, they can make literally anything happen online.
Case in point: Andrew Wiggins, NBA All-Star Game starter.
NBA fans were a little flabbergasted last night, Jan. 27, when it was announced the Golden State Warrior would be a starter, meaning he was effectively named one of the five best players in the Western Conference. To be clear, the former No. 1 overall pick is a good player and has done a heck of a job shedding his previous reputation as somewhat of as a draft bust. But uhhhh, All-Star starter felt like a bit much to a lot of fans.
Wiggins stats are good — if not great — and he’s been a wonderfully valuable player, but by almost no experts’ estimations is he cracking the top 10 in the NBA. Look at his stats vs. a player who wasn’t even close to earning a spot.
But here’s the thing. All-Star selections are not totally left to the experts. The starters are determined by a weighted voting system: 50 percent to the fans, 25 percent to media voters, and 25 percent to player votes. Wiggins made his hay with the fans, in large part thanks to K-pop stans. Just four media members voted for Wiggins — in comparison, 98 voted for fellow starter LeBron James. Just 46 players voted for him — less than teammate Draymond Green (58 votes) and Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (52 votes), who were not chosen as starters.
Yet Wiggins got 3,452,586 fans votes, which easily put him in third place for Western Conference frontcourt fan voting. Clippers forward Paul George, who came in fourth, trailed by more than 600,000 votes.
And for that, you can thank K-pop stans. No, really.
It mostly comes down to a couple posts from BamBam, a K-pop artist from Thailand and massive global star. You might not have heard of him, but he’s a huge deal. Like HUGE. He has nearly 10 million followers on Twitter and more than 15 million on Instagram. BamBam, who also happens to be a huge Steph Curry fan, was named the Warriors global ambassador just a few weeks ago.
Acting like a good ambassador, BamBam, a member of the band GOT7, tweeted in support of Wiggins’ All-Star Candidacy in early January. The post went super viral, racking up some 40,000 retweets, 3,000 quote retweets, and 68,000 likes.
Each tweet with the official All-Star hashtag and a player name counts as a vote. Retweets count, too. It’s difficult to fully quantify the impact of BamBam’s post but, as SFGate pointed out earlier this month, the only other NBA All-Star post with even comparable engagement was… aa tweet from BamBam about Steph Curry. And that’s not even taking into account how many K-pop fans then tweeted their own votes after being inspired by BamBam.
Now, to be clear, this is funny as hell and amazing. People getting legitimately upset about Wiggins starting the All-Star Game need to go outside for a bit and take a deep breath. Touch some grass. It’s a game.
But it also goes to show how the internet makes everything connected. K-pop and U.S. professional basketball are just one superfan away from being inextricably linked.
It also goes to show that, yet again, K-pop fans can do literally anything online. They’ve overwhelmed Q-Anon followers with fancams. They effectively shuttered a snitch cam aimed at arresting protesters. They took their power of amplification and redirected it from K-pop groups to promoting the #BlackLivesMatter movement after the murder of George Floyd. Online, K-pop fans can make anything happen — from the good to the bad to the downright chaotic, like disrupting All-Star votes.
So yes, it is a bit silly that Wiggins is now an All-Star starter. And sure, it’s hilarious that one person has this much influence. But you’ve got to hand it to the Golden State Warriors: It’s kind of genius to co-opt BamBam’s power.
The franchise seems to understand a universal truth: Never underestimate K-pop stans.