Zaza Pachulia almost became an NBA All-Star thanks to some unexpected help

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Amid the fanfare of Kobe Bryant's election to his 18th and final All-Star game, Zaza Pachulia's name became as popular as any in the entire NBA when the 13-year veteran was nearly voted in as the starting center for the Western Conference All-Star team.

When the results of the NBA All-Star voting were released almost two weeks ago, Bryant was revealed as the leading vote-getter (1,891,614), holding off the Warriors' Stephen Curry (1,604,325).

However, Pachulia, in his first season with the Dallas Mavericks, received 768,112 votes – trailing Spurs' forward Kawhi Leonard by just under 15,000 votes for the final spot, per ESPN.


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In the midst of arguably the most productive campaign of his career, Pachulia expressed his gratitude for the fans' support:

"What I'm thankful is that fans, without me asking anybody, they took it to this level,” Pachulia told ESPN after the announcement.

“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."

That small country of Georgia actually played a big role in nearly sending Pachulia - currently the only Georgian-born player in the NBA - to his first All-Star game.

A native of Tbilisi, the largest city in Georgia, Pachulia hails from a small country with a population of just 3.7 million people. 

However, the biggest voice in the country, president Giorgi Margvelashvili, tweeted out support for his fellow countryman:

Pachulia's teammate and Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki jokingly said to reporters that Pachulia "told every Georgian there to get online every day and vote for him."

Pachulia, 31, is averaging 10.4 points and 10.7 rebounds entering play on Jan. 29 and has missed the team's last three games due to right leg soreness.

As mentioned by FOX Sports, Pachulia is one of just nine players in the NBA averaging a double-double; a list that includes perennial All-Stars such as DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Drummond, DeAndre Jordan, and Anthony Davis. 

For a player who is considered the prototypical contributor off the bench, Pachulia's support became so vocal, it had to be turned into music. That's where the support escalated, as multiple-time Grammy Award-winning artist Wyclef Jean sang his support for the 6 feet 11 center, much to Pachulia's delight.

Support from singers and endorsements from politicians are great, but most of Pachulia's support came courtesy of 15-year-old Vine star, Hayes Grier.

Through a couple of unexpected, last minute tweets, Grier urged his 3.25 million followers to vote for Pachulia. His efforts likely helped Pachulia procure an additional 50,000 votes, per SB Nation.

All of that support - from some of the unlikeliest of places - almost put Pachulia in the same starting lineup as Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, and Russell Westbrook.

A drastic change of pace for a player that only started in 317 of his 815 career games before this season for the Orlando Magic, Atlanta Hawks, and Milwaukee Bucks, respectively.


This past offseason, Pachulia wasn't even a glimmer in the Mavericks' eye. The team was hellbent on singing the aforementioned DeAndre Jordan and at one point, struck a deal with the talented center.

However, in a much publicized and scrutinized ordeal, Jordan backed out of his commitment to the Mavericks, electing to re-sign with the Clippers.

Needing to fill a void in their frontcourt, the Mavericks acquired Pachulia in a trade with the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for a second-round draft pick. Pachulia's play has helped the Mavericks to a 26-22 (.542) record, good for sixth place in the Western Conference.

As he approaches his on-court return, the soft-spoken big man appreciates being appreciated:

"I'm so humbled by it," said Pachulia. "Words can't describe how happy I'm feeling with the love I'm feeling from the fans, from the Mavs fans and my people in Georgia. They appreciate what I do."

Milwaukee Bucks
Central Division
Eastern Conference
Dallas Mavericks
Southwest Division
Western Conference
Kobe Bryant
L.A. Lakers
Pacific Division

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