The Most Undeserving NBA All-Star Starters of All Time
Doesn't NBA All-Star voting just seem like a never-ending source of controversy?
Especially in a year like this one—Kobe Bryant was voted in as a Western Conference starter despite playing in only six games for the Los Angeles Lakers—the merits of fan voting have to be weighed against the evils.
On one hand, it makes sense to let basketball fans choose the players who entertain them in a game that is—let's face it—solely for entertainment purposes. But on the other hand, All-Star selections are a big honor, and they can often be used to remember players' places throughout NBA history.
If you want to get a good idea of who was playing great basketball in 1963, for example, one of the easiest methods is to go look at the All-Star roster. How else would you remember names like Lee Shaffer, Don Ohl and Tom Meschery?
But the starting lineups don't always get it right. Plenty of times, players are snubbed for guys who really don't deserve to have their names called out right before tip-off.
Of course, some starters really don't belong, and those are the ones we're focusing on tonight. This countdown emphasizes the most egregious names in the history of All-Star starting fives, and they're ranked by the strength of their candidacies in a vacuum.
I'm not too concerned with the merits of the players who were snubbed, but rather the shortcomings of those who were selected. Kobe, for example, is going to rank near the top, as he played in only six games.
That said, don't expect to see Magic Johnson's name pop up. Even though he literally didn't play during the 1991-92 season and was selected as an All-Star starter, there were quite a few extenuating circumstances, and it was such a feel-good story that I'm subjectively ruling it ineligible.
Note: All stats and voting information, unless otherwise mentioned, come from Basketball-Reference.
10. Antoine Walker, 2002
Team: Boston Celtics
Per-Game Stats Heading into ASG: 22.7 points, 9.4 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.5 blocks
This was a look you got to see a lot during the 2001-02 season. And the rest of Antoine Walker's prime, for that matter.
The oft-shooting big man loved waving off his teammates, because all he wanted to do was score. And then score again. And then keep shooting until the final buzzer sounded.
There's a reason Walker led the entire NBA in minutes played, field-goal attempts and three-point attempts during the 2001-02 season, and it wasn't because he was a supreme offensive talent who deserved to be the focal point for the Boston Celtics.
At first, those per-game stats look pretty good. They seem to point toward a legitimate All-Star berth, but not once you dig a little below the surface.
Heading into the All-Star Game, Walker was shooting 39.2 percent from the field and 35.3 percent from beyond the arc. Those aren't exactly good numbers, especially since the 25-year-old power forward was firing away 8.2 times from beyond the arc.
During this stretch, his effective field-goal percentage was only 46 percent, and his 98 offensive rating was decidedly below average.
9. Steve Francis, 2004
Team: Houston Rockets
Per-Game Stats Heading into ASG: 16.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.5 blocks
Steve Francis enjoyed a fantastic start to his professional career with the Houston Rockets, but he seriously declined during the 2003-04 campaign and still managed to win the fan vote in the backcourt before he was traded to the Orlando Magic at the end of the season.
Complex.com's Angel Diaz called Francis the 15th-worst All-Star of all time (not just among starters), writing that "2004 would be the last time Francis would be able to trick us."
The numbers just weren't there.
Yes, he provided a well-rounded output with his contributions to the scoring column while crashing the boards and dishing the ball effectively, but he didn't excel in any one area. His scoring is particularly misleading, as the point guard knocked down only 40.3 percent of his shots from the field heading into the All-Star break.
Did he make up for it downtown or at the charity stripe? Nope.
Francis made 30 percent of his 3.3 three-point attempts per game, and he took 5.3 trips to the foul line each contest, converting on 76.5 percent of the looks.
Sam Cassell, who was on the team for the only time in his career, would've been a far more deserving candidate for a starting bid.
8. John Havlicek, 1978
Team: Boston Celtics
1977-78 Per-Game Stats: 17.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.2 blocks
Was John Havlicek a deserving Hall of Famer?
Absolutely, and he also legitimately earned many All-Star berths during his legendary career. In fact, Hondo made 12 such teams throughout his years with the Boston Celtics, and nine of those were slam-dunk selections.
But he didn't deserve to go in 1977-78.
Unfortunately, the game-by-game data is a little shaky this far back in NBA history, so we can only see his per-game stats from the entire year. But the number of points he scored in each contest is accessible, and it shows that Havlicek averaged a lackluster 15 points per game heading into the break.
Doesn't sound much like an All-Star to me.
Hondo also shot just 44.9 percent from the field, and he posted a below-average 14.3 PER, which was the worst mark of his career. If defensive rating can be believed, he also had the worst season he'd ever experienced on the less-glamorous end of the court.
7. Dick McGuire, 1956
Team: New York Knicks
1955-56 Per-Game Stats: 6.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists
Those are not impressive numbers, even though Dick McGuire played in an era that produced vastly different stats than the current one. They also get worse when you realize that McGuire shot only 34.7 percent from the field—the worst mark of his career—and posted a 12.7 PER.
There was actually a wonderful replacement on the Eastern Conference All-Star squad, but he's not anywhere near McGuire in terms of name recognition. That's because McGuire played for the ever-popular New York Knicks, and Jack George was on the Philadelphia Warriors.
Yes, the Warriors would win a title in 1955-56, but George was overshadowed by Paul Arizin, Neil Johnston and Tom Gola.
Nevertheless, the 27-year-old point guard recorded more assists per game than McGuire—in fact George's 6.3 assists average trailed only Bob Cousy that season. He also averaged 13.9 points and 4.3 rebounds in 1955-56, easily the best season of his career.
And amazingly enough, his 37.4 percent shooting made McGuire's look, well, awful.
6. Julius Erving, 1987
Team: Philadelphia 76ers
Per-Game Stats Heading into ASG: 15.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.7 blocks
Here comes another legacy entry.
Julius Erving was in the final season of his Hall of Fame career, and he'd certainly lost quite a bit of spring in his step. The dunks weren't coming as easily, and he was no longer the best player on his own team, an honor that was reserved for Charles Barkley and Maurice Cheeks.
But Erving was still Dr. J, and he was certainly one of the most popular players in the league.
Were his numbers particularly bad? Not really.
However, they certainly didn't scream All-Star, particularly because he was shooting the lowest percentage of his career, regardless of whether we're talking about the NBA or ABA portion of it.
To give you a reference point, Chandler Parsons is currently averaging 17.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.2 steals and 0.5 blocks per game, and he's shooting over 50 percent from the field. All of those numbers are superior to Erving's, and he's also posting them as the No. 3 player on his team.
Does Parsons deserve to start for an All-Star team?
5. B.J. Armstrong, 1994
- Charles Barkley
- Shaquille O'Neal
- B.J. Armstrong
- Scottie Pippen
- Kenny Anderson
Team: Chicago Bulls
Per-Game Stats Heading into ASG: 15.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.0 seals, 0.1 blocks
Chicago Bulls fans couldn't vote for Michael Jordan in 1994, so they had to make do.
Scottie Pippen was a shoo-in, and that wasn't too surprising. But B.J. Armstrong?
Nothing about 15.8 points and 4.0 assists per game says "All-Star," and it's not like anything else made up for that. Armstrong was a fantastic shooter, knocking down 47.5 percent of his attempts from the field, 39.3 percent beyond the arc and 86.2 percent at the charity stripe, but that was just about it.
However, get how ridiculous this next stat is. Here were the top vote-getters during the 1993-94 season:
Not only did Armstrong lead all guards, but he had more votes than Pippen!
4. A.C. Green, 1990
Team: Los Angeles Lakers
Per-Game Stats Heading into ASG: 13.3 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.8 blocks
Let's keep playing the game where we compare former All-Stars to current players.
Player X is definitely superior, right?
After all, he beats Green in every single category, and he's shooting a higher percentage as well. There roles on their respective teams are far different, as Player X doesn't play with anyone as talented as Magic Johnson and James Worthy, but that's not enough of an argument.
Unless you'd call Derrick Favors an All-Star, it's tough to call Green one. The Lakers big man was known for his hustle, his consistency and his durability, but that shouldn't be enough for him to earn such an honor.
Especially as a starter when Chris Mullin, Tom Chambers and David Robinson began the 1990 All-Star Game on the bench.
3. Kobe Bryant, 2014
Team: Los Angeles Lakers
Per-Game Stats Heading into ASG: 13.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.2 blocks
Kobe Bryant didn't debut during the 2013-14 season until a Dec. 8 contest against the Toronto Raptors, and he wasn't particularly effective before injuring his knee while playing against the Memphis Grizzlies.
During those six games, the Mamba couldn't find his shot, and the Los Angeles Lakers weren't exactly winning games at a high rate. They went only 2-4 while he was suiting up in purple and gold rather than a sports coat, after all.
But here's the cherry on top.
Kobe himself asked that fans vote for younger players, because he knew that he didn't deserve a selection.
"Even though there's so much respect that comes from me to be able to play for the fans, I'd much rather see the young guys go out there and play in the game," Bryant told the Associated Press via NBA.com. "They've obviously put the work in to be there that weekend, so I'd much rather see them go in there and participate."
Despite his wishes and best intentions, the injured shooting guard was just too popular. He trailed only Stephen Curry for backcourt votes in the Western Conference, and now he's a starter yet again.
As reported by B/R's Ethan Skolnick, Bryant doesn't intend to play in the contest, but that doesn't make this any less of a travesty.
2. Yao Ming, 2011
Team: Houston Rockets
Per-Game Stats Heading into ASG: 10.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.0 steals, 1.6 blocks
If you think the Kobe Bryant selection was bad, get ready for this one.
Yao Ming literally hadn't played during the 2010-11 season, then he suited up in only five games at the beginning of the 2010-11 campaign before another injury to his lower extremities knocked him back out for the season.
There wasn't any hope of him returning for the All-Star Game, which makes it even worse than what's happening with the Mamba. And he was playing less effective basketball, especially because he was shooting below 50 percent from the field.
At least the number of votes he earned took a dip.
He received over 2.5 million in 2009, but that declined all the way to 1.1 million two years later.
Does that help justify this? Nope, not really.
And amazingly enough, it gets worse.
1. Allen Iverson, 2009 and 2010
Team: Denver Nuggets and Detroit Pistons, then Philadelphia 76ers and Memphis Grizzlies
Age: 33 and 34
Per-Game Stats Heading into 2009 ASG: 18.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.1 blocks
Per-Game Stats Heading into 2010 ASG: 14.4 points, 2.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.1 blocks
Am I cheating by combining two different years into one slot? Yes, but man, talk about using a reputation to earn a starting spot.
In 2008-09, Allen Iverson played only three games for the Denver Nuggets before he was shipped off to the Detroit Pistons, and he wasn't very effective once he started calling the Motor City home.
His scoring dipped well below the marks he made us expect during his prime, and he was shooting only 42.1 percent from the field and 29.8 percent beyond the arc. Neither his scoring nor his passing was particularly impressive during the 2008-09 campaign, though his crossover still dazzled fans.
Oh, and his reputation as a scoring stud kept him alive in the voting race.
To put his numbers in perspective, there are literally a dozen players matching or topping his scoring and assist contributions during the 2013-14 campaign: Stephen Curry, Goran Dragic, Monta Ellis, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Damian Lillard, Tony Parker, Chris Paul, Isaiah Thomas, John Wall and Russell Westbrook.
Every single one of them is shooting a higher percentage than A.I from both the field and three-point range.
There were 10 players beating both numbers in 2008-09, and all 10 of them had higher percentages as well.
But in 2009-10, "The Answer" was even worse.
He was actually waived by the Memphis Grizzlies after a dispute about his role as a bench player, then he was released months later by the Philadelphia 76ers, who had picked him up once he became a free agent. Nothing about his game was particularly impressive.
Iverson didn't play in the 2010 All-Star Game, as he had left the NBA indefinitely for personal reasons, but he was still the No. 2 vote-getter among Eastern Conference guards, trailing only Dwyane Wade.
To vote an injured player in is one thing. But to select a player who was waived prior to the end of the voting period?
That's deserving of the No. 1 spot.