Photo Credit: Jim O’Connor/USA TODAY Sports Images
The annual NBA All-Star Game is considered a mid-season reading of honors of some type — just an exhibition game, yes — but one where the “who’s who” of the NBA are recognized for their widespread popularity and outstanding performances. Only 24 players each season are selected, the first five for each conference’s team based on fan votes, and the reserves through voting by the head coaches of each team’s particular conference.
As of the 2014 All-Star Game, 396 players have been selected as All-Stars, with 267 of them having played in two or more editions of the game. Unfortunately, there are deserving players who, for one reason or another, are left out of the lineup each year. Worse, there are very good players who are unable to be selected as All-Stars throughout their entire careers.
Here are the ten best NBA players never to have been selected as All-Stars, their rankings based on their career salaries adjusted for inflation:
10. Byron Scott / Career Salary: $16.5 million
Former NBA player and coach Byron Scott was a victim of being overshadowed by superstar teammates. In nine of his first ten years as a Laker, there were at least two All-Stars on the team (Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). In fact, for five of those years, L.A. had three All-Stars due to James Worthy and A.C. Green. As a result, even in the 1987-88 season, when Scott averaged career-highs of 21.7 points and 4.1 assists while shooting 52.7 percent, he still wasn’t chosen to be part of the West’s All-Star team.
But if Byron is to be believed, the snub hasn’t affected him very much:
It didn’t really hurt me. I always felt I had All-Star potential. But I also felt if I wasn’t with the Lakers, I probably would have made the All-Star team three or four times and never won a championship. I’ll take the championship instead of the All-Star team any day.
9. Orlando Woolridge / Career Salary: $21.5 million
A player in the NBA for sixteen long years, Orlando Woolridge was best known for his dunks rather than his all-around game. In fact, most fans will probably remember Orlando the most for his participation in one of the greatest slam dunk contests of all time in 1985. There, he competed against Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, and Julius Erving. Although Woolridge didn’t win, he was the real creator of what Isaiah Rider called the “Easy Bay Funk Dunk”, a dunk that won Rider the 1994 NBA Slam Dunk contest. Unfortunately, even when Orlando averaged 25.1 ppg during the 1990-1991 NBA season, he still failed to be selected as an All-Star.
After his retirement from the game, Woolridge coached for the LA Sparks in the WNBA and two teams in the ABA. In May of 2012, he passed away due to heart disease.
8. Derek Harper / Career Salary: $30 million
Derek Harper played sixteen long seasons in the NBA and averaged between 16 and 19 points for seven straight years, with better than 7 assists in five of those seasons as a Dallas Maverick. He played good defense, too, even twice making the NBA All-Defensive Second Team (1987, 1990). Despite those acheivements, and even though Dallas was a winning team, the point guard was never selected to be an All-Star.
Perhaps it was because fans and coaches never forgave Harper for his error in the 1984 playoffs. In the dying seconds of the game, Derek mistakenly thought that his team was leading, and he dribbled out the clock, which caused the game to go into overtime.
7. Cedric Maxwell / Career Salary: $47.3 million
Most NBA fans probably don’t know that small forward Cedric Maxwell has the best true shooting percentage of all time (62.9%). He attained the incredible stat by relentlessly attacking the rim as a Celtic and as a Clipper despite being listed as a 6’8″ small forward. What makes his inability to be selected as an All-Star even more surprising is that he played a prominent role in the two NBA championships he won: one with the Celtics (1981) and another with the Rockets (1984). In fact, in 1981, he was even awarded NBA Finals MVP.
In 2003, Maxwell became the 22nd former Celtic to have his jersey (#31) retired, and he is now a radio broadcaster in Boston.
6. Ron Harper / Career Salary: $53.2 million
Ron Harper and earlier listed Derek Harper are unrelated, and yet together, they are the basis for the term “Harper Syndrome”. The phrase is used to refer to the condition of an NBA player being an outstanding contributor and yet never being selected as an All-Star. Hence, when the starters for the 2014 All-Star Game were announced, it was said, “Stephen Curry has finally been rid of the Harper Syndrome.”
More than being part of the basis for an undesirable term, most people will remember Ron for being the point guard for five of Phil Jackson‘s eleven championship teams. But before Harper was made to play point, he was an excellent shooting guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Clippers with which for both teams together, Ron averaged 19.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 4.9 assists over eight seasons.
5. Rod Strickland / Career Salary: $61.4 million
If basketball skills were the only thing on fans’ and coaches’ minds when voting for the composition of the All-Star teams, Rod Strickland would’ve probably been selected at least once. As a member of the Trail Blazers and the Bullets (now known as the Wizards), he averaged 17.2 points and 9 assists, and even led the league in assists during the 2007-08 season (10.5 apg). Unfortunately, Rod had the habit of getting into spats with coaches and being arrested in the weeks leading up to the voting, which undoubtedly hampered his chances of winning the votes that he needed.
And unlike other players that said not being selected as an All-Star didn’t really matter that much to them, Strickland made his displeasure known. In fact, during the 1997-98 season, Rod was so upset about not being chosen that he stated that even if were selected for the All-Star Game the following season, he wouldn’t play.
The following season, he wasn’t selected.
4. Happy Hairston / Career Salary: $84.4 million
There are only five NBA players who averaged a double-double for their careers and were never selected as All-Stars. Happy Hairston, with his career averages of 14.8 ppg and 10.3 rpg, is the only one of the five who played in the NBA for at least ten years. In fact, during the 1974-75 season, Happy led the league in total rebounding percentage, and he even won an NBA Championship with the LA Lakers in 1972.
Hairston passed away in 2001 at the age of 58 due to complications resulting from inoperable prostate cancer. Longtime Lakers announcer Chick Hearn had the following to say about him:
He was one of the most fierce rebounders the Lakers has ever had. He was tough. He was a leaper. He was very competitive and a good teammate. He was always a perfect gentleman on and off the floor. I liked him very much, and I will miss him.
3. Toni Kukoč / Career Salary: $86.3 million
Toni Kukoč is perhaps the best international player never to suit up during an All-Star Game. When he came over from Europe to join the Chicago Bulls in 1993 right after Michael Jordan‘s first retirement from the game, Kukoč put up solid rookie numbers, averaging 10.9 ppg and 1.1 spg. That performance earned him a slot on the 1994 NBA All-Rookie Second Team.
Perhaps one factor that went against Toni being named an All-Star is that he played in Europe for eight years before coming to the NBA. However, a solid argument can be made that he should’ve certainly been selected during the 1995-96 season when a Jordan-equipped Bulls won the championship and Kukoč was named the NBA Sixth Man of the Year.
2. Jalen Rose / Career Salary: $139.1 million
Jalen Rose never met his father, the late Jimmy Walker, who was a shooting guard in the NBA for ten years. That’s a shame because if he had, maybe his father could’ve given him some tips on being named an All-Star, Jimmy having accomplished the feat twice (1970, 1972). Nevertheless, even without the benefits of his father’s tips, many fans believe Jalen should’ve played in an NBA All-Star Game at least once during his thirteen-year stay in the league.
In particular, Rose should’ve probably been named an All-Star during the 2002-03 season when he averaged 22.1 ppg, 4.8 apg, and 4.3 rpg. Then there’s the 1999-2000 season when he was one of the reasons why Indiana won the Central Division with their 56-26 record.
1. Mike Bibby / Career Salary: $132.5 million
It’s almost unbelievable that Mike Bibby, arguably the best player on one of the best teams of the early 2000s, never played in an All-Star Game. Alas, the excellence of his Sacramento co-starters — Chris Webber, Vlade Divac, and Peja Stojakovic — probably doomed him as all of them were All-Star material. But for some reason, it was only Bibby who never made the cut.
And unlike other snubbed non-All-Stars whose one or two best seasons were overlooked by voters, Mike Bibby had four solid seasons to gripe about: 2000-01 (with the Grizzlies), 2003-04, 2004-05, and 2005-06 (all with the Kings). In all of those seasons, he averaged north of 15 points and 5 assists.
Despite Mike not being officially retired from the NBA, now at 35 years of age and having last played in the league in 2012, it’s highly unlikely that he’ll ever set foot on an NBA court again. It’s even much less likely that he’ll ever get to play in an All-Star Game.
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