IN THE COURSE of the long NBA season, nothing perpetuates the glamor and glitz of pro basketball like All-Star Sunday. It's a day made in overkill heaven. You have rock stars singing the national anthem. You have movie stars preening in the audience. You have people in 125 countries watching on television. And you have a collection of the best and brightest stars of the world's most glamorous sport.

Or a reasonable facsimile.Unfortunately, this year we will also see a starting All-Star guard who doesn't usually start for his own team, a rookie who made the first team largely on the merits of his humility, and a player who made his name trash-talking with Spike Lee in last spring's playoffs - and has been shooting like Lee ever since.

You get the idea: lots of hype and fireworks, and a lot of people scratching their heads and wondering how these teams were selected.

The matter of picking an All-Star team has never been objective. Picking the team is like selecting a necktie: beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But in recent years, the All-Star balloting has become increasingly capricious.

In 1990, Jazz fans were incensed when A.C. Green of the Lakers drew more votes than Karl Malone. Green, who averaged just 12.9 points and 8.7 rebounds for the Lakers, ended up starting, while Malone - who averaged 31 points and 11.1 rebounds - simmered.

This year produced some equally strange balloting. The Eastern Conference team has Indiana guard Reggie Miller, who does a nice job of trash-talking with moviemaker Lee when the Pacers are in New York, but is less than perfect when it comes to converting his touted 3's. He's making 43 percent of his treys, which is only good enough to place him 10th in the league. He isn't among the top 20 in scoring.

Then you have Detroit rookie Grant Hill, who seems to be a good guy, starting for the Eastern Conference. But if being a good guy means you start on the All-Star team, Walter Bond would be a shoo-in. Hill, the first rookie ever to receive more votes than any player in the league, isn't among the top 20 in scoring or rebounding. He's a talented and promising young player, but better than Scottie Pippen? Larry Johnson? N-n-n-n-o.

People have become so tired of the trash-talking, in-your-facing, renegotiating style of today's young players, they'll vote for anyone who shows even a shred of humility.

Voters also tend to pick players they want to see, regardless of the kind of year the players are having. San Antonio's George Gervin was being named to teams long after his game had wilted. Isiah Thomas was well into his downhill slide when he was voted into the 1993 All-Star starting lineup.

It's a wonder George Mikan isn't still getting votes.

In the West this year, fans named Phoenix reserve Dan Majerle as a starting guard. Which means Phoenix must be a wonderful team, since he didn't crack the Suns' starting lineup until injuries dictated as much.

Utah's John Stockton and Malone, though named to the team by West by the coaches, were leading the Jazz to the second-best road streak in NBA history and Stockton was becoming the league's all-time assist leader. Yet neither was selected to the first team.

Meanwhile, Chris Mullin of Golden State outpolled Malone by over 71,000 votes. That despite the fact he had played in just two games when the voting closed, due to injuries.

It's like naming Valentino - who's been dead 68 years - the sexiest man alive.

The balloting process works like this: Every team receives 150,000 ballots, which fans fill out at the arenas. Ballots were also available this year at Foot Locker stores. After the home-team ballots are sent in - every crowd votes heavily for its own players - the other totals come from fans around the country. Thus, Charles Barkley, who receives wide national television publicity, claims a large number of votes from fans in cities other than Phoenix. Seattle's Shawn Kemp, who graces national commercials, will likely get more votes than Malone.

One of the sillier scenarios came last year when San Antonio's Antoine Carr - now with the Jazz - somehow finished with 26,000 more votes than Malone. That despite the fact that injuries limited Carr to just 34 games all year.

While fan balloting may produce the most popular players, it doesn't necessarily produce the best. If the league plans to avoid this kind of situation, the only answer is to revamp the process. Options could include limiting the balloting to coaches, players, media or the league office.

The way it is now, the process is badly flawed. Hill isn't better than Larry Johnson, and Jamal Mashburn isn't better than Malone. If picking All-Stars is intended to be a lightweight popularity contest, leave things as they are. If the intent is to show off the best players on the planet, here's a hint: Keep the fans out of the selection process.