Not only is Kobe Bryant going to make the All-Star team despite averaging 17.2 PPG (his lowest output since 1998) and shooting .409 from the field (the second-lowest of his career), he’s also going to lead all players in votes if things continue along the way they have in the early stages of the voting process.
After the first returns for All-Star voting, released the day after Christmas, Bryant was leading all players with a whopping 719,235 votes, over 200,000 more than reigning league MVP Stephen Curry and more than twice the votes for Cleveland’s LeBron James, the third-highest vote-getter with 357,937 so far.
While the fans can occasionally be pretty ridiculous with the players they choose to vote into the All-Star Game, the Kobe Bryant thing is understandable considering everybody knows this is his swan song and they want to get him into one more midseason exhibition before he hits that old dusty trail. Magic Johnson was written in as an All-Star in 1992 and that proved to be one of the more entertaining All-Star Games of its era, so Kobe as an All-Star will be fine. It really isn’t all that surprising.
What is surprising is some of these other All-Star selections from over the years, many of which were spectacularly awful:
#5 – B.J. Armstrong, Chicago Bulls, 1994 – There’s no real secret as to why Armstrong was voted in as an All-Star starter despite averaging only 15.8 PPG and 4.0 APG: Chicago was the most beloved team in the universe at the time thanks to the recently-retired Michael Jordan. His Airness was busy playing baseball by that point, leaving plenty of love for B.J. in his absence. While Armstrong wasn’t a horrible player, he certainly wasn’t good enough to be voted in as a starter. That didn’t stop the fans from putting him there, anyway.
#4 – A.C. Green, L.A. Lakers, 1990 – It’s not uncommon for the weaker conference to end up with an undeserving All-Star at the end of their bench because the coaches have to fill their rosters with the best bodies they can, but when the fans vote in an undeserving player as a starter, that’s an entirely different thing altogether. In those situations, like with Green in 1990, a more deserving player gets the boot, but it certainly isn’t Green’s fault that the Lakers were so wildly popular at the time. He averaged only 12.9 PPG and 8.7 RPG that season, but he ended up with three rings before his career was all said and done. Plenty of players would give up all of their All-Star appearances for that kind of hardware.
#3 – Jamaal Magloire, Charlotte Hornets, 2004 – Magloire’s 12.4 PPG and 9.4 RPG were not elite by any stretch of the imagination, but they were enough to get him voted onto the 2004 Eastern Conference All-Star team as a reserve center, once again proving that pigeon-holing the coaches vote toward positions is a bad idea. Still, when the West had Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Duncan, the East sort of had no choice but to add as much respectable size as possible.
#2 – James Donaldson, Dallas Mavericks, 1988 – Many casual fans, especially those in their 20s, probably have never even heard of Donaldson, a player who in 1987-88 averaged a whopping 7.1 PPG and 9.8 RPG. However, that was apparently good enough for him to be named an injury replacement for equally unheard-of center Steve Johnson. If ever there was an argument for why “frontcourt” is a better All-Star positional format than “two forwards and a center,” look no further than Donaldson, who might have been the least deserving player in history to have actually played in an All-Star Game.
#1 – Yao Ming, Houston Rockets, 2011 – Leading up to the 2011 All-Star Game, Yao had only not been voted in as an All-Star starter once since his rookie year in 2003, but in 2010-11 Yao not only was having one of his worst seasons as a pro, he had only played in five games by the time he was voted in as a starter. Chinese fans stuffed the ballot box to get their beloved countryman into the game, even though he was injured and couldn’t have played anyway. Kevin Love ultimately was his much more deserving injury replacement, but the fact that he was even voted into the game proves that sometimes the fans voting in the All-Star starters don’t necessarily care which players truly deserve the recognition.
Dale Davis, Indiana Pacers, 2000 – As the defensive heart and soul for a really good turn-of-the-century Pacers team, Davis found his way onto the Eastern Conference roster as a backup center thanks to his having essentially averaged a double-double on the year. Aggressive defensive types who score mostly on putbacks, however, do not make for the most entertaining All-Stars, and that certainly was true for Davis back in 2000.
Brad Miller, Indiana Pacers, 2003 – Having averaged a reasonably impressive 13.1 PPG and 8.3 RPG for the season, Miller in retrospect is a perfectly likeable NBA tough guy who saw enough success to make an All-Star team in 2003, but those aren’t All-Star numbers and Miller really wasn’t an All-Star-caliber player. It speaks volumes as to how weak the East was during that era that Miller was added to the team by the coaches not once but in two consecutive years.
Kevin Duckworth, Portland Trail Blazers, 1991 – The big double-zero found his way to the Western Conference All-Star team in ’91 due in large part to the fact that Hakeem Olajuwon got injured shortly before the break. Duckworth, as a center, averaged a scant 6.4 RPG that season, but he started for a Blazers team that really was quite good at the time. His 16.1 PPG and important role on a good team got him in, even if he really wasn’t all that deserving of the spot.
Tyrone Hill, Cleveland Cavaliers, 1995 – While Hill finished the 1994-95 season averaging a double-double (13.8 PPG and 10 RPG), his All-Star team appearance was questioned even at the time since there were a handful of players in the Eastern Conference averaging over 20 points per game that likely were more deserving of the nod. Glenn Robinson, who averaged 21.4 PPG and 6.2 RPG as a rookie, almost certainly was a better option, but his inexperience worked against him and Hill was added instead.
To be added to an All-Star team is a tremendous honor, no matter how that honor is bestowed, but the reality is that there are occasionally players who make the team despite simply not deserving it.
One could argue that Kobe Bryant really should get the legacy nod this season (and maybe Tim Duncan, too), but that’s a far cry from less deserving players getting in on mediocre seasons in the midst of mediocre careers.
Hopefully this year’s voters continue to get things right, Kobe aside.
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