Of all the All-Stars added to the Eastern Conference and Western Conference squads this year, Brooklyn’s Joe Johnson was probably the biggest surprise, but this kind of thing happens almost every year. While Johnson isn’t averaging anywhere near his career-high in points, he’s a recognizable name for the hot Brooklyn Nets, and that was enough to keep arguably more deserving players like Lance Stephenson and Kyle Lowry off the squad.
But while Johnson’s selection was surprising, it was by no means one of the worst All-Star selections in the history of the game. No, there have been much, much worse selections than that; Kobe Bryant’s starting nod this year being one of them.
Bryant is a worldwide megastar, though. If Michael Jordan would’ve only played five games by the time voting ended in, say, 1997, he still would have been voted a starter and everybody would have understood why.
The following players’ selections are not so easy to understand:
»In Related: All-Time All-Star Snubs
James Donaldson, Dallas Mavericks, 1988
7.1 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 1.1 BPG
Roy Hibbert and Dwight Howard may not have been happy to have seen the center position taken out of the All-Star equation, but James Donaldson’s inclusion in the 1988 game proves why it’s absolutely unnecessary to shoehorn guys into a game when there are more capable players at other positions. Donaldson was an injury replacement for Portland center Steve Johnson, who averaged 15.4 PPG and 5.6 RPG that season. In other words, the center whose place he took was only marginally more deserving. Neither player would ever make an All-Star team again.
A.C. Green, L.A. Lakers, 1990
13.3 PPG, 9.0 RPG
This was the lone year that Green made an All-Star team, and he did so as a starter, voted in by the fans over the unbelievably more deserving Karl Malone, who not only was in the top five in the NBA in points, rebounds and shooting percentage, but also was the reigning All-Star MVP. Malone was added to the team by the coaches, but career role guy Green took the Mailman’s starting gig. Not that it was his fault the fans voted for him, but Green rode Showtime success to an All-Star nod that he probably didn’t deserve.
Kevin Duckworth, Portland Trail Blazers, 1991
16.1 PPG, 6.4 RPG
These numbers show that Duckworth was a respectable scoring threat on a really good Portland team back in 1991, but the big guy really couldn’t do much else. Hakeem Olajuwon was injured that winter or Duckworth never would have made it to the festivities. He probably shouldn’t have, anyway.
»In Related: Western Conference All-Star Snubs
B.J. Armstrong, Chicago Bulls, 1994
15.8 PPG, 4.0 APG, 1.0 SPG
It was the year after Michael Jordan retired the first time, and the world loved the Chicago Bulls more than they had loved any other NBA team before them. Even with Mike gone, the residual popularity got fan-favorite B.J. Armstrong voted into the 1994 as a starter. While he scored the ball fairly well in an increased offensive role post-MJ, he had no business even being in that All-Star game, let alone starting.
Jamaal Magloire, Charlotte Hornets, 2004
12.1 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 1.3 BPG
There just weren’t a lot of good centers in the Eastern Conference that year, with all the good big men taking residence in the West. Ben Wallace was the starter and Jermaine O’Neal was the backup, but with a need for one more qualifying center, Magloire was the best they could do.
Yao Ming, Houston Rockets, 2011
10.2 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.6 BPG
While Kevin Love was eventually (and rightfully) added as an injury replacement in the year that he averaged a career-high 15.2 RPG, he initially was left off of the roster in favor of Yao, who had played a whopping five games that season. The fans voted Yao in (aided, no doubt, by millions of voters in China), but it’s not like he was a lifelong NBA great at that point. Even worse, Love was averaging 20 points and 15 boards a game. When someone like that gets left out because a guy is popular overseas, it can be ridiculously easy to complain.
Honorable Mention: Tyrone Hill (1995), Dale Davis (2000), Vlade Divac (2001), Wally Szczerbiak (2002), Brad Miller (2003), Mehmet Okur (2007).
»In Related: Eastern Conference All-Star Snubs
We’ll always have All-Star selections to gripe about, particularly when it comes to someone getting snubbed because a less deserving player was either voted in by fans or given the coaches’ votes. Joe Johnson wasn’t a great All-Star selection this season, but he wasn’t as memorably bad as these other guys. At least we can be thankful for that.