The NBA All-Star Game, where we fans choose who we want to watch do battle for the honor of their conference. It’s a glorious time for American democracy, with fans deciding the players that twinkle-twinkle-little-starred enough to earn their votes and while purists might hope for a game between the most talented – they are still sometimes outvoted by more exciting or reputable peers. Consider this year’s All-Star Game and the fact that, despite maybe the least efficient season of all time, 4x All-Star Game MVP, Kobe Bryant accrued the most votes of any player with over 1.2 million despite his legendary 35% shooting rate. That’s respect.
We'll get into more of the Kobe '16 particulars during the list, but the inclusion of the Bean is illustrative – sometimes current talent takes a backseat when votes come to shove, with reputable geezers or vertical leapers calling shotgun. While olden votes may have been placed by American fans, the current hierarchy of voting power is as follows: Computer hackers, the Chinese (and other nationalistic citizenries, like Zaza Pachulia's loyal Georgia), and the Twittersphere. Small-market players who put efficiency too far above flash are due to miss out on votes, but maybe they should have prioritized All-Starring over Larry O'Brien. Young ballers with impressive stat-lines might miss out because we like older players, so maybe they should have tried to hasten their birth. It’s hard to figure out how democracy works, but if the most luminous stars are supposed to embody basketball excellence in the weekend’s festivities – then, aside from failing to vote in the entire Golden State Warriors roster to represent the West this year, these are the 15 biggest screw-ups made by fans in NBA All-Star Game history:
15 Eddie Jones: 1999-00
Eddie Jones is the man. It's only fitting that the 15th worst starter chosen might have been a decent choice. But, despite EJ’s indomitably bucketrous output - there were still a couple guys overlooked in fans' zealousness for Eddie's flash. A Charlotte Hornet at the time, Eddie's sting looked like big yams, ranged buckets, and more steals than the Ocean's 11 franchise – getting a super buzzed 20p/5r/4a/2.7s stat-line. Meanwhile, fellow Eastern scorers, Detroit's Jerry Stackhouse and Indiana's Reggie Miller were both putting up 24p/4r/5a and 22p/4r/4a respectively, yet were no match for Eddie’s flight and plucks when pen came to ballot.
During the big game itself Eddie chipped in a solid 10 on 57% shooting in 23 minutes, and, to help prove my point, superior all-star starter candidate Jerry Stackhouse dropped 8 on 57% as well… but in 14 minutes! Concrete evidence of fans’ fault! Choosing a boisterous EJ over Jerry is alright, still wrong, but alright.
14 Andrew Bynum: 2011-12
Andrew Bynum is a bum. He chomped the league for a bit, inciting faith that the West had returned to having great centers and enticing the 76ers to start the tank early. The year he was chosen to start in the ASG, Bynum was putting up 19 points, 12 boards, and 2 blocks a game for the Lakers. While it seemed like Andrew was disproving Kobe’s original concerns, showing his worth as a starter during the regular season and All-Star Weekend – Kobe was right all along as Bynum made like a mackerel on land and flopped, both in the All-Star Game and eventual seasons.
Bummynum didn't deserve the big man all-star starting spot, Kevin Love and his 26p/13r did, and the world will never live it down. In the game itself, Bynum rewarded voters with a grand total of 5:31 minutes played and an even grander total of zero points. Meanwhile LeBron’s eventual disappointment K-Lo must have wanted to give me something to talk about – dropping 17 points and 7 boards in 18min on 58% shooting.
13 Steve Francis: 2003-04
Stevie Franchise is cool. A small hooper’s stature, but a huge problem for opponents – Steeze was out there throwing himself alley-oops, knocking in pull-ups, crossing people up, letting them get back on D, and then crossing them up again. Back before he was putting out bad rap music, Franchise had dimes and yams out the building, but an All-Star starter? Over the Sonics’ Ray Allen and the Timberwolves’ Sam Cassell?
Franchise was averaging 17p/6r/6a on 40% shooting and flashier than a creep in trench-coat, but RayRay was getting 23p/5r/5a on 44% and my man Sam Cassell, origin of the greatest ball-rap lyric of all time (Jadakiss: “And I’mma get Bucks like Milwaukee, ‘cause like Sam, I ca’sell”), was averaging 20 points and 7 assists on 49%. Francis had been an all-star for the past few years, couldn’t the fans just help the legendary ET-look-alike get a start in his only all-star appearance? I’m team Sammy Cash.
12 Maurice Lucas: 1982-83
Maybe it’s because there was a shortage of domineering bigs in the West, or because big ‘ol Maurice Lucas aka Mama Lukes seemed like he’d take your lunch money if you didn’t vote for him, or maybe even because the big fella was averaging 17 points, 10 boards, and bullying teams like the ABA was a public school he had just transferred from. Whatever the reason, the Suns’ Mauritia Lucius started in the 1983 All-Star Game over the bucketeer Kiki Vanderweghe and big-man, big-time Jack Sikma (aka Trap Sickma). Kiki was putting up 27p/5r/3a on 55% shooting, and Sikma was putting up 18p/11r – both meriting consideration over Mo.
In the actual game, Lucas got 6, spending 27 minutes shooting 38% while Kiki (7 in 14, 75%) and Sikma (8 in 17, 67%) got their game on. I’ll admit, I haven’t watched much of any of these guys – but, 27 on 55% shooting, from a 6’7 fella? Maybe it’s the small-ball in the air, but Kiwi looks like the type of guy you start on All-Star weekend.
11 Grant Hill: 2004-05
Grant Hill is loved by the entire basketball community. A star with a career shortened by injuries, when Grant was around he shined bright. For the Magic in the '04-05 season, Bill Simmon’s Grantland Hill treated the league to a substantial 20p/5r/3a box-stuffing, earning himself an all-star starting spot for the East. That sounds reasonable, if it wasn’t for the crop of guard/wings left on the bench: Dwyane Wade (24p/5r/7a), Gilbert Arenas (26p/5r/5a), and Paul Pierce (22p/7r/4a). How Grant made it over any of those three is beyond me. His game isn’t flashier and his stats weren’t poppier, so I’m chalking it up to, what will be a running theme here: respect.
Grant proceeded to get outscored by each of the Gil/Pierce/Wade trio in the All-Star Game (despite Gil’s best efforts in sabotage).
10 Alvin Robertson: 1985-86
Alvin Robertson, aka Aloe Rob, shot 51% for the 1985-86 season, en route to a 17p/6r/6a and 3.7 steal stat-line. All-Star worthy indeed. Like the last four, Al’s selection certainly made a good amount of sense – but the people he made it over increase his unseemliness. Aloe Rob started, while Clyde Drexler (19p/6r/8a on 48%) and Rolando Blackman (22p/4r/3a on 51%) were left to the pine. It’s true that Aloe had a quadruple-double during that season, and maybe we should make a rule that any quadruple-doubler instantly starts during all-star weekend – but, come on, that’s Clyde and Rolando we’re talking about.
Al proceeded to drop 4 points on 33% in the All-Star Game, as Rolando gave 12 in 22 minutes (55%) and Clyde 10 in 15min (71%). I’m not saying All-Star box-scores justify anything, but they might a little bit. Let’s all appreciate Alvin, especially after he was literally slapped by Shaq, but the people should really want to watch the Drex and Rolando.
9 Kobe Bryant: 2015-16
I get it, I get it. He’s really old and has always given his all. He dropped 38 to start February off right. Kobe’s a legend, and if we’re doing the whole “respect over talent” thing, then he should start in the All-Star Game. But, Damian Lillard is not an all-star at all. There have been 19 seasons in the past 20 years of 24+ppg/7+apg, and Damian Lillard is the only non-all-star of the bunch. While Kobe’s currently classified as a forward, so I can’t technically complain that he’s starting over Lillard, James Harden, or Klay Thompson, that means he’s starting over Anthony Davis, Draymond Green, and big dawg himself: DeMarcus Cousins.
Demarcus is putting up 27p/11r and even knocking down treys at a higher rate than Kobe – hitting 34% while Kobe sits at a magnificent 26%. How many chucks will we have to put up with before talented youths get some props? One more year’s worth (and then hopefully he goes to average 40 on vacation in Italy).
8 Vince Carter: 2004-05
We’re talking 2005 All-Star Game fiasco again. Except now, instead of respect earning Vince his start over Arenas, Pierce, and Wade, it’s that damn vertical. A year earlier, Vince was chloroforming and desecrating opposition for the Raptors, getting over two million votes for the All-Star Game in a weekend that had been made his ever since those insane dunk-contest shenanigans. But in the 2004-05 season, Vince was actively trying to get traded to another team and putting up 16p/5r/4a on 41% shooting – you might want to scroll up to remind yourself of just how distant that is from the stat-lines of the Wade aka Flash, Arenas aka Hibachi, and Pierce aka the Truth.
It’s no wonder that when the game finally came, Agent Zero threw a tantrum by shooting 27% during his 15 minutes on-court. Gil might be the grumpier Kanye of the NBA.
7 B.J. Armstrong: 1993-94
My theory here is that people felt bad for BJ, and were more impressed by him, because the Chicago Bulls had just lost Michael Jordan to retirement. The little fella was putting up a solid 15 points & 4 assists, with as much poise and relentlessness as his skill and vert could muster. I’m all for rewarding the guy who went from having the greatest player ever on his team to not having the greatest player every on his team, but maybe having MJ for a bit was enough of a reward in itself and fans should have chosen another guard to start. But which guard? Oh, John Starks and his 19p/6a stat-line was around? Oh, Mark Price and his 17p/8a was around too? Hmm...
In the game, BJ and Mark played the same amount of time, BJ getting 11 on 56% and Mark dropping 20 on 80% shooting. That is the Mark Price aka Oklahoman Steph Curry for you. Maybe if BJ’s shoulders were as strong as his arms (heh), he would have been less fatigued from carrying the load left behind by His Airness.
6 Allen Iverson: 2009-10
Allen Iverson did not even want to play in the 2010 All-Star Game. The end of the Answer’s career was not a pretty one, and AI pulled a Tom Brady with the Pro Bowl by not even attending All-Star Weekend. If his cited “personal reasons” were actually serious and AI did want to attend the game, then I’m a bad person, but I’m going with my gut on this one. While baby Derrick Rose was putting up 14p/10a on 51% shooting and Joe Johnson (in his “Joe Jesus” days) was dropping 21p/5r/5a on 46%, a dwindling, sloppy bucketeer manifestation of Allen Iverson was marauding for the 76ers after brief, uncertain stays elsewhere.
AI obviously had the skill, so it might have been respect or just wishful thinking from fans who hoped that he’d resurge during All-Star Weekend, but the legend was putting up garbage by his standards: 14p/3r/4a on 43%. Still a better season than Kobe’s? Probably. Worth starting (ignoring the fact that he didn’t attend) over Joe Cool and D’rozay? Nope.
5 David Thompson: 1982-83
While some of these guys got voted in because of respect, some got voted in because they were exciting to watch. D-Thomps is of the latter category. The guy’s vertical is the stuff of legend. Here’s an actual testimony from Michael Jordan: “The whole term, and the whole measuring I think, of the vertical jump, started with David Thompson. He vaulted off the ground. Exploded off the ground. 44 inches then was a lot, now it’s still a lot, and you could tell when he was there above you... It surprised you.”
While legend had it that Thompson could bring a quarter up when he jumped and come down with two dimes and a nickel, maybe fans should have voted him and his 16p/4r/3a on 48% back into the Dunk Contest instead of starting him over George Gervin (26p/5r/3a on 49%) and Jamaal Wilkes (20p/4r/2a on 53%) in the All-Star Game.
4 Dan Majerle: 1994-95
Dan Majerle certainly had game, and it’s cool that he was pulling up from super deep and playing like a combo-guard at 6’6. While “Bob” Majerle had oodles of style while looking like Florida’s blonde-haired, sun-tanned mascot and continually annoying Charles Barkley with his shot-selection, the only thing more confusing than pronouncing “Majerle,” is the fact that he started at guard over Gary Payton, John Stockton, and Mitch Richmond. Dan was putting up a solid 16p/5r/4a on 43% and he’s a lot taller than HOF point-guards Payton (21p/3r/7a on 51%) and Stockton (15p/12a on 54%), but my man Mitch Richmond was eating to the tune of 23p/4r/4a on 45%.
When the game came along, Majerle dropped 10 in 20 minutes on 33% shooting, while Rich Mitch served up a spicy 23 in 22 minutes on 77% shooting.
3 Maurice Cheeks: 1982-83
Mo Cheeks was renown for his defensive tenacity, pacing, and team leadership, and went on to win the league’s championship and all-defensive team honors in ’83. He was also a little 6’1 dude who could still get up for some big-time blocks and yams while averaging 13 points and 7 assists on 54% shooting. This seems to suggest that fans voted him in based on basketball efficiency, but that seems farfetched considering today’s climate, and plus, it’s hard to be inefficient when you’re playing alongside Julius Erving and Moses Malone. Mo got the guard spot over Andrew Toney (20p/3r/5a on 50%) and Sidney Moncrief (23p/6r/4a on 52%), so maybe it’s because the fans wanted to vote for a true point-guard?
When the game came, Mo put up 6 on 38% shooting in 18 minutes, while Sidney dropped 20 on 57% shooting in 23 minutes and Toney had 8 on 80% shooting in 18 minutes. Maybe Maurice should have hoped for more buckets than Cheeks. (Better call Speights).
2 A.C. Green: 1989-90
Another case of vertical fetishism, A.C. Green, subject of a Rockie Fresh song, was a 6’9 wing prone to crushing rims and punching shots. AC had charisma and style, talking trash and assuring you that he also had some sort of jump-shot and post game – but he only averaged 13 points and 9 rebounds on 48% shooting in the 1989-90 season when he was chosen to start over none other than Chris Mullin, Clyde Drexler, and Tom Chambers, all versatile wings within 3 inches of AC’s height. I shouldn’t have to explain how beastly any of the aforementioned three are, but I’ll include their stats to provide some context: Chambers was putting up 27p/7r on 50%, Drexler was dropping 23p/7r/6a on 49%, and Mullin was hitting 25p/6r/4a on 54%. Maybe their lack of rebounding made AC a better candidate?
Coaches must have wanted to fix the fans’ mistake when the game came along because A.C. only got 12 minutes to play, scoring a nicely rounded zero, while the rest got more minutes and Tom inspired Wu Tang’s album-name by treating the audience to his “21 Chambers” with 21 points in 21 minutes on 67% shooting.
1 Yao Ming: 2010-11
Yao is great. You’ve got to support weirdly tall people who still seem nice and sociable. It’s sweet that his countrymen voted him into the All-Star Game of 2003 as a rookie over a prime Shaquille O’Neal, I’m not even mad about that one because it’s exciting for the league. But, in 2011, Yao had difficulty maintaining his enormous stature and had only played five games in the past two years (averaging 10 points and 5 boards in those contests). It’s sweet that people liked and respected the guy enough to give him the Kobe treatment, but he couldn’t even play basketball at the time while Pau Gasol (averaging 19p/10r) and Dirk Nowitzki (23p/7r) were left to the bench. Maybe I’m just hurt because Kareem Abdul-Jabaar just disrespected Dirk and Kobe says people disrespect Pau, and maybe I shouldn’t care because Yao’s votes were more symbolic than anything… You know what. Yeah. I don’t care.
The moral of the story is that s
tarting in the All-Star Game says nothing about your basketball talent, but does say a lot about your character and constituents.