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The Most Undeserving NBA All-Star Selections in History, by the Numbers

Before the voting system changed, more than a few players made the All-Star cut for reasons other than merit. We crunched the numbers to come up with the 20 least valuable selections of the past 55 years.

The internet met Andrew Wiggins’s selection as an All-Star starter with much mockery. It’s no surprise why. Wiggins is the least deserving of the 10 chosen starters, and by far the lowest scoring: The others are all averaging at least 25.7 points per game, through Sunday, while Wiggins is down at just 18.2. Barring unexpected injury replacements, he will probably be the last pick in the starter draft before the game.

Yet Wiggins isn’t a bad All-Star pick, full stop. He is accomplishing everything the Warriors—the team with the league’s best point differential and second-best record—ask of him on both ends, in effect transitioning from a failed superstar to an ideal 3-and-D wing. On offense, Wiggins ranks 10th in 3-point accuracy (41.4 percent) out of 91 players attempting at least five per game, and on defense he rates well despite a hefty burden: He defends the highest-usage opponents 30 percent of the time, per BBall Index, which is more than any other All-Star starter and more than any realistic All-Star reserve candidate, too. His total value, using a blend of Basketball-Reference’s win shares and FiveThirtyEight’s wins above replacement, compares favorably to that of other prospective All-Stars:

Andrew Wiggins vs. Assorted Other All-Star Candidates

Player Win Shares Wins Above Replacement Blend
Player Win Shares Wins Above Replacement Blend
Ja Morant 4.8 4.3 4.55
Darius Garland 4.1 4.9 4.50
Karl-Anthony Towns 5.9 3.0 4.45
James Harden 5.0 3.7 4.35
Jrue Holiday 3.9 4.5 4.20
Andrew Wiggins 4.3 4.0 4.15
Donovan Mitchell 4.2 3.9 4.05
Devin Booker 3.9 3.9 3.90
Luka Doncic 3.3 4.2 3.75
Zach LaVine 3.8 2.6 3.20
Win shares data from Basketball-Reference; wins above replacement data from FiveThirtyEight

Wiggins didn’t earn the Western Conference’s third frontcourt starting spot based entirely on his sound production this season. He also placed third in the fan vote after a strong push from a Warriors-loving K-pop star named BamBam. Until the 2016-17 season, that would have been enough on its own. But in response to Zaza Pachulia coming some 14,000 votes short of knocking Kawhi Leonard out of the All-Star starting lineup, the NBA reduced the fan portion of the vote from 100 to 50 percent, adding in media and player votes, too.

The league acted just in the nick of time. In 2017, Pachulia actually finished second in the Western frontcourt fan voting, but a lack of support from the media and other players meant Anthony Davis received the starting nod instead. (Later in 2017, Pachulia stepped under Kawhi Leonard’s foot as he landed on a jump shot, leading to a new rule that penalizes dangerous closeouts. How many other players in NBA history were so active that they inspired multiple unrelated rule changes in the same year?)

The rule change was meant to maintain the integrity of the voting process in a case like the internet-aided Pachulia’s, or that of the Nets’ Yi Jianlian, who was the first runner-up in the Eastern forward vote in 2009. It was not meant, however, to keep out players like Wiggins, who might have a sketchy starting case but are still sufficiently reasonable picks that they garner some support from fellow players and the media.

Before the league diluted the fan vote, though, the All-Star selection process was rife with undeserving yet nostalgic selections, turning the NBA’s midseason main event into a reflection of player popularity more than purely on-court performance. Which selections were the biggest reaches? We used the same win shares/wins above replacement blend, with the caveat that we’re looking at full-season performance, not just pre-All-Star performance, to find the least-valuable All-Star campaigns since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976-77.

20. Shaquille O’Neal, 2006-07

Age: 34
Team: Heat
All-Star appearance: 14th
Selected as: starter
Value: 2.1 wins

Fresh off a title in Miami, Shaq still ranked among the most popular players in the league in 2007. But in his mid-30s, ailing from an early-season knee injury, he was firmly on the downside of his career. He played just six of the Heat’s first 45 games, but the fans still voted him in as the East’s starting center, more than 150,000 votes ahead of runner-up Dwight Howard. Shaq would finish the season with 40 games played and—to that point—the lowest points (17.3 per game) and rebounds (7.4 per game) averages of his career.

19. Danny Manning, 1993-94

Age: 27
Team: Clippers
All-Star appearance: 2nd
Selected as: reserve
Value: 2.0 wins

As a reminder, these rankings reflect the entire season performance, not just the pre-All-Star portion. That’s especially important in Manning’s case, as the former no. 1 pick was much more productive with the Clippers (23.7 points per game, 28 percent usage, 53 percent true shooting) than he was with the Hawks (15.7 points per game, 23 percent usage, 50 percent true shooting) after a post-All-Star-break trade. Manning was still a relatively inefficient scorer, but there were no real qualms when he secured his second consecutive All-Star nod on the back of his first-half numbers; it’s mostly his rest-of-season performance that relegates his overall value to the bottom 20 here.

18. Michael Jordan, 1985-86

Age: 22
Team: Bulls
All-Star appearance: 2nd
Selected as: starter
Value: 1.8 wins

Jordan played 18 games in his second season because of a broken foot—including just three before the All-Star break. But that didn’t stop the fans from expressing their enthusiasm for the budding superstar via the most votes in the East, and the second-most votes in the entire league, behind only Magic Johnson. “Never underestimate the power of a sneaker advertisement,” George Vecsey wrote in The New York Times.

17. Ralph Sampson, 1986-87

Age: 26
Team: Rockets
All-Star appearance: 4th
Selected as: starter
Value: 1.6 wins

Sampson was a natural choice for fans voting in 1987: He’d already been named to the All-Star Team in his first three seasons, and he’d just helped lead Houston to an upset of the Lakers and a spot in the 1986 Finals. But the 7-foot-4 Sampson’s productivity waned in 1986-87 as injuries mounted, most notably a knee injury the week before the All-Star Game that cost him two months. Seattle’s Tom Chambers was a last-minute replacement and made the most of his opportunity, scoring 34 points to win the game’s MVP award.

16. Dwyane Wade, 2018-19

Age: 37
Team: Heat
All-Star appearance: 13th
Selected as: reserve (commissioner selection)
Value: 1.5 wins

Wade wasn’t chosen as a starter by the fans, or as a reserve by his conference’s coaches. Instead, commissioner Adam Silver created special honorary bids for both Wade and Dirk Nowitzki as they stumbled through their final seasons. “As a league, I like to think we have the flexibility, when there are special occasions,” Silver said, adding that “it just seemed like a wonderful opportunity to honor two greats.”

15. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 1988-89

Age: 41
Team: Lakers
All-Star appearance: 19th
Selected as: reserve (injury replacement)
Value: 1.5 wins

Abdul-Jabbar’s record 19th All-Star selection came in his last and worst season, when he averaged only 10.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game while shooting below 50 percent for the only time in his career. Unlike many of the other final-season selections throughout league history, however, Abdul-Jabbar did not receive the nod because of a sentimental fan vote; rather, he was an injury replacement for teammate Magic Johnson, who tore his hamstring before the game.

Part of commissioner David Stern’s rationale for choosing Abdul-Jabbar might as well have come out of Silver’s mouth when creating spots for Wade and Nowitzki three decades later. “Kareem received the next highest total of votes from the coaches in their selection of the All-Star reserves,’’ Stern said. “But more fittingly, his participation in one more All-Star Game is a fitting tribute to his unequaled NBA career.”

14. Joe Dumars, 1994-95

Age: 31
Team: Pistons
All-Star appearance: 5th
Selected as: reserve
Value: 1.4 wins

The 31-year-old Dumars had two problems in 1994-95. First, he suffered from a season-long shooting slump, with 43-30-81 shooting splits that signified his worst accuracy since he was a youngster in the mid-’80s. Second, his defensive metrics—as rudimentary as they are for the pre-play-by-play era—all look abysmal, dragging down his overall value even farther.

Yet Dumars was an established All-Star and two-time champion scoring 18 points per game, and he apparently benefited from the spotlight shone on Grant Hill, who that season became the first rookie ever to tally the most All-Star votes. Nobody balked at giving Detroit a second All-Star in Dumars, even though the 28-54 Pistons were one of the NBA’s worst teams.

13. Anfernee Hardaway, 1997-98

Age: 26
Team: Magic
All-Star appearance: 4th
Selected as: starter
Value: 1.1 wins

This ballot was a weird one. Playing his final season in Chicago, Jordan ran away with the fan vote, more than doubling every other Eastern Conference guard. And out of the muddle of other contenders rose Hardaway, who had been an All-Star the previous three seasons but appeared in just 19 games in 1997-98 because of knee surgery. He did play in the All-Star Game, though, leading fellow Eastern guard Tim Hardaway to scorn, “He wants to play in the All-Star Game more than he wants to play for his team, I think.”

As with Jordan a decade earlier, analysts attributed Penny Hardaway’s enduring popularity to his Nike endorsement deal—in this case, Hardaway’s “Little Penny” campaign. “Basically players are voted on how many commercials [they make],” Kings executive Jerry Reynolds said. “People that vote for these things don’t have a clue about basketball. They don’t know who the players are, in my mind. They know who’s on commercials. People know who Penny is. If ‘Little Penny’ were on the ballot, he’d have probably started.”

12. Alonzo Mourning, 2000-01

Age: 30
Team: Heat
All-Star appearance: 6th
Selected as: starter
Value: 0.7 wins

Like Jordan and Penny and more players to come on this list, Mourning was a perennial All-Star choice who retained his immense popularity. He won the fan vote despite being sidelined by a kidney disease that kept him from playing a single game by the time of his selection to the 2000-01 All-Star team. He eventually returned for just 13 games late in the season.

11. Steve Johnson, 1987-88

Age: 30
Team: Trail Blazers
All-Star appearance: 1st
Selected as: reserve
Value: 0.3 wins

The journeyman grabbed the Trail Blazers’ starting center spot when Sam Bowie broke his leg, and welcomed All-Star support by scoring 15 points per game for a contender. Alas, Johnson didn’t contribute as much as other big men on the boards or defensive end, limiting his overall value, and he played only 43 games in 1987-88 because of his own injuries. He was replaced in the starting lineup by Kevin Duckworth, who happened to make the All-Star Team the very next season with a similarly underwhelming statistical résumé; that Duckworth season would rank 21st on this list.

10. Allen Iverson, 2009-10

Age: 34
Team: 76ers
All-Star appearance: 11th
Selected as: starter
Value: 0.3 wins

Back in Philadelphia for the first time since being traded four years prior, Iverson was not an All-Star-worthy player in 2009-10. He played just 28 games—three with the Grizzlies before a brief retirement, then 25 with the 76ers before leaving the team to deal with a family health issue. He shot just 43 percent and scored a career-low 13.8 points per game. But he’d also made the last 10 All-Star teams, so the fans maintained that momentum in what would be his final NBA season.

9. Grant Hill, 2000-01

Age: 28
Team: Magic
All-Star appearance: 6th
Selected as: starter
Value: 0.2 wins

Mourning wasn’t the only Eastern Conference All-Star starter who barely played in 2001. Neither did Hill, who played in just four games in his first season with the Magic because of ankle injuries. Yet like so many other players on this list, Hill was an All-Star staple by that point, having been named to five of the previous six teams, so he continued to attract tremendous fan support.

Yet as with other players here like Hardaway and Sampson, that enthusiasm didn’t linger for a second lost season, as Hill missed the next three All-Star Games after 2000-01. There’s only one player on this list who appears more than once, with sufficiently overwhelming popularity to compensate for multiple subpar seasons in a row. Which leads to …

8. Kobe Bryant, 2014-15

Age: 36
Team: Lakers
All-Star appearance: 17th
Selected as: starter
Value: 0.2 wins

Bryant was an All-Star for the final 17 seasons of his career, including all throughout his final injury-plagued period. At the end of the 2012-13 season, he tore his Achilles; in 2013-14 (more on that one in a moment), he fractured a bone in his knee; in 2014-15, he played just 35 games because of a torn rotator cuff. The physical attrition didn’t just keep him off the court, but affected his play on it: Basketball-Reference lists 264 players through the 2020-21 season who posted a usage rate of at least 30 percent in 1,000-plus minutes, and Bryant’s 2014-15 campaign ranks 262nd on that list in true shooting percentage. The former All-Defensive mainstay had also become a defensive liability; in 2014-15, the Lakers allowed 6.8 points per 100 possessions more when Bryant was on the floor than when he was off, according to Cleaning the Glass.

Yet as with so many other players on this list, the fans didn’t care that this version of Bryant didn’t much resemble the peak iterations. He received more than a million votes and didn’t start only because an injury kept him out of the game.

7. Yao Ming, 2010-11

Age: 30
Team: Rockets
All-Star appearance: 8th
Selected as: starter
Value: 0.2 wins

It’s impossible to overstate Yao’s popularity in the All-Star vote throughout his career. With the NBA introducing ballots in Mandarin to accommodate its first Chinese star, Yao twice received the league’s highest vote total, and was selected as the West’s starting center in all eight seasons he played—including in 2010-11, when debilitating injuries to his foot and ankle limited him to just five games and an unfortunate retirement after the season.

While Yao was clearly unworthy of a 2010-11 selection given his playing time, he wasn’t an All-Star regular solely because of his intercontinental appeal. In 2017, Rockets blog The Dream Shake estimated that Yao would still have received five selections had he played his whole career with the new voting process.

6. Chris Kaman, 2009-10

Age: 27
Team: Clippers
All-Star appearance: 1st
Selected as: reserve (injury replacement)
Value: 0.1 wins

Kaman was an injury replacement for Brandon Roy, with decent counting stats (18.5 points and 9.3 rebounds per game), but, like Steve Johnson, not much else stood out about his All-Star case. Kaman and Johnson are the only players on this list who were first-time All-Stars in the season in question. Far more often, the benefit of the doubt goes to All-Star veterans rather than All-Star neophytes.

Value based on a blend of Basketball-Reference’s win shares and FiveThirtyEight’s wins above replacement

As this graph demonstrates, first-time All-Stars are usually already very good, if not quite at their peaks yet. Then, those players maintain their high level of productivity through appearance number 10, at which point their statistical output smoothly declines due to aging, but reputation takes over and propels them into more and more games anyway.

5. Magic Johnson, 1991-92

Age: 32
Team: retired
All-Star appearance: 12th
Selected as: starter
Value: 0.0 wins

What’s one way to accumulate exactly 0.0 wins’ worth of value over the course of a regular season? To not play at all, which is the position in which Magic Johnson found himself in 1991-92, on the heels of his announcement that he was HIV-positive. But the fans voted him into a starting spot anyway—and, well, magic ensued, with an MVP performance in one of the most stirring scenes in league history.

4. Kobe Bryant, 2013-14

Age: 35
Team: Lakers
All-Star appearance: 16th
Selected as: starter
Value: negative-0.4 wins

Even Bryant didn’t think he should have been an All-Star this season, saying in January 2014 that playing in the All-Star Game “has always been a huge honor. That being said, I haven’t played this year.” He wasn’t exaggerating much: He managed only six games in 2013-14 due to his aforementioned injuries.

Given the changes to the voting process since Bryant’s retirement, this might be the last time a player with so few games played is ever chosen as an All-Star starter. The only All-Stars since the implementation of the new rules to appear on this list are Wade and—spoiler alert—Nowitzki, who needed a special dispensation from the commissioner to appear in the game.

3. Pete Maravich, 1978-79

Age: 31
Team: Jazz
All-Star appearance: 5th
Selected as: starter
Value: negative-0.5 wins

The earliest selection on this list is yet another example of an aging, aching former star who enjoyed one last round of applause from the fans. The onetime scoring champion needed an average of 21.1 shots to collect his 22.6 points per night; as an NBA.com profile explains, Maravich’s numbers in 1978-79 “declined in nearly every category. … His knee problems were proving too tough to overcome. Although Maravich’s game was not built on fundamentals, it did require precision, and his brace-encased knee slowed him down and turned his once-quick pirouettes into slow-motion spinouts.”

He appeared in only 49 games that season, then played 43 more in 1979-80 before retiring.

2. Dirk Nowitzki, 2018-19

Age: 40
Team: Mavericks
All-Star appearance: 14th
Selected as: reserve (commissioner selection)
Value: negative-0.6 wins

At least Wade was a 15-points-per-game spark off the bench for Miami in his final season. Nowitzki was much more of a drag in Dallas, averaging just 7.3 points in 15.6 minutes and suffering from his worst shooting season since he was a rookie. But Silver rightly felt that Nowitzki had earned the right to give All-Star fans one last glimpse of his jumper—and then he made all three of his 3-point tries in just four minutes in the game.

With precedent now existing for a commissioner’s selection for “special occasions,” it seems like the NBA won’t need the fan vote to send off all-timers in their final seasons. Even if 53-year-old LeBron James doesn’t receive the media support necessary to land a starting spot when he announces his retirement in 2038—veteran Bronny James will gobble up those votes, after all—he can still receive one last chance to bid the All-Star Game adieu. In the past, the fans had to cooperate, or else an injury replacement would need to open up a spot, as was the case for Abdul-Jabbar’s last All-Star nod; now, the commissioner could easily take matters into his own hands.

1. Kobe Bryant, 2015-16

Age: 37
Team: Lakers
All-Star appearance: 18th
Selected as: starter
Value: negative-0.8 wins

While the league avoided Zaza mania taking over in 2016, the fans overwhelmingly voted for Bryant, even though his Lakers would tally an 11-44 record by the break. On the court, Bryant was even less valuable than in the previous season; this is the 263rd-ranked season on that aforementioned list of 264 high-usage players, and the Lakers were 7.7 points per 100 possessions worse on defense with Bryant. But that didn’t stop fans from giving Bryant the most votes of any player, nearly 300,000 more than second-place Steph Curry.

In the final season before the voting process changed, Bryant carried on the long tradition of superstars gaining one last All-Star Game entry, powered more by nostalgia than present-day production. In fact, Bryant gained three last entries—a fitting flourish for the man who’s now the namesake for the All-Star Game MVP Award.

A previous version of this piece misstated Magic Johnson’s age for the 1992 All-Star Game. He was 32, not 35.