The NBA All-Star Game is an annual exhibition basketball game played between the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference All-Stars. Twelve players from each conference are chosen by a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters. The starters are chosen by a combination of fans, media, and current players. The reserves are chosen by voting among the head coaches of each team’s particular conference.
If a player is unable to participate due to injury, the NBA commissioner will select a replacement. Sounds easy, right? But with every All-Star team announcement comes endless debates about snubs.
Nowadays, it feels like there is more talk about who didn’t make the All-Star team than who did. Over the course of history, there have been plenty of talented players snubbed from making the All-Star squad, either because they were underrated or because there were other players that were even better than them.
Consider this: Chris Gatling, Tyrone Hill, Chris Kaman, Jamaal Magloire and Mehmet Okur made NBA All-Star teams, but Rudy Gay, Mike Bibby, Richard Jefferson, Nene, and Kenny Smith never did. Since 1951 (first All-Star game) only 417 players have been selected to an All-Star Game roster at least once, and just 286 of them have earned multiple selections to the game. Several players were named to All-Star Game rosters, but never actually played in the game due to injury (Jameer Nelson, Theo Ratliff, and Kristaps Porziņģis among others).
We’re not interested in players who were snubbed just once and then honored later. The goal here is to honor players that have spent several years missing out on the game, as opposed to those still establishing themselves in the NBA (like Khris Middleton, Andrew Wiggins or Devin Booker). A couple of these players still have a few years left to receive their opportunity, but as most of the other players on the list will confirm, time runs out really, really quickly in this league.
Here are the biggest All-Star snubs:
8. Josh Smith
Josh Smith is the player with the most impressive statistical support for the All-Star appearance that has always been just out of his reach. Smith and Bob Lanier are the only players in NBA history to average at least 14 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.5 blocks and a steal per game over the course of their careers, he is a truly unique player. During the 2009-10 season, Smith became the youngest player (at 24 years old) to record 1,000 career blocked shots, and at season’s end, he was named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team for the first time in his career. Only Hakeem Olajuwon (17), Kevin Garnett (14), David Robinson (12, ) Julius Erving (11), Ben Wallace (11), and Andrei Kirilenko (10) have more combined seasons blocking and stealing the ball at least 1.0 times per contest.
Smith’s best statistical season came with the Hawks in the 2011-12 season, when he averaged 18.8 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.7 blocks.
7. Rod Strickland
Rod Strickland had a truly admirable 17-year NBA career. It is mind-boggling that he never made an All-Star team. It’s not easy to lead the league in a major offensive category, but Strickland managed the feat in 1997-98 when he averaged 10.5 assists per. He also averaged 17.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game that season, which was good enough to earn him 2nd Team All-League honors. In fact, there are only six other players in NBA history who have averaged at least 17, five and 10 for a qualified season. Magic Johnson (eight times), Oscar Robertson (five times), Russell Westbrook (three times), Guy Rodgers, Chris Paul and James Harden (all made All-Star during those seasons). During his peak, the 6’3″ point guard had five-straight seasons of 17.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 9.4 assists a night while shooting 45.7 percent from the field. Strickland finished among the top 10 in the league in assists seven times in the 1990s.
Strickland’s best statistical season (other than 1997-98) came with the Blazers in the 1994-95 season, when he averaged a career-high 18.9 points, 8.8 assists, and 5.0 rebounds.
6. Jamal Crawford
The only player in NBA history to win the Sixth Man of the Year award on three different occasions, as well as finishing second and third in other seasons. Crawford has averaged at least 17 points in a season seven different times in his career and has become one of the best bench players in the NBA. Crawford has a chance to become the leader in career points with no All-Star appearances (and maybe the first 20,000 point scorer to never make an All-Star team). Eddie Johnson, another Sixth Man award winner, is the current leader in career points with no All-Star appearances, at 19,202. Currently, Crawford is at 18,615 points, so if he manages to play one more healthy seasons he’s pretty likely to hit the mark. During his career, he had three 50-plus point games. A couple of other names to have exactly three games scoring 50 or more are: Jerry West, David Robinson, Shaquille O’Neil, Dwayne Wade and Damian Lillard.
Crawford’s best statistical season came with the Knicks in the 2007-08 season, when he averaged a career-high 20.6 points and five assists.
5. Andre Miller
Andre Miller was one of the most dependable players in the NBA for nearly a decade. He was always a threat to give you at least 15 points per game and 10 assists per game over a seven-year stretch. At one point in his career, he played in 632 consecutive games. That’s nearly 8 seasons worth of games without ever taking a rest. Excluding the lockout-shortened campaign of 2011-12, Miller played in at least 80 games each season from 1999-00 until 2012-13. Miller has scored over 16,000 points, handed out over 8,500 assists, and swiped over 1,500 steals. The only players in NBA history to equal those totals are Gary Payton, Isiah Thomas, Magic Johnson, Jason Kidd, John Stockton, and Chris Paul and each of those guys was named an All-Star at least nine times!
Miller’s best statistical season came with the Cavaliers in the 2001-02 season, when he averaged 16.5 points, led the league with a career-high 10.9 assists and 1.6 steals.
4. Marcus Camby
It’s not easy to explain why a two-time NBA All-Defensive First Team player, two-time NBA All-Defensive Second Team player, and a Defensive Player of the Year award winner never actually made an All-Star team. Marcus Camby has been one of the NBA’s best defenders for years. Camby had a career average of 9.5 points per game, 9.8 rebounds per game, and 2.4 blocks per game. Throughout his 16-year career, Camby was an absolute beast on defense, averaging 3+ blocks per game in five seasons, and 2+ blocks in six. He led the league in blocks four different times and is ranked 12th all-time in NBA history. He was also a rebounding machine, averaging in the double digits over 10 seasons. His defensive box plus/minus of 4.6 ranks third All-time (behind only Ben Wallace and Mark Eaton).
Camby’s best statistical season came with the Nuggets in the 2006-07 season, when he averaged 11.2 points, 11.7 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks per game. He had a defensive box plus/minus of 6.6, which means he attributed 6.6 points to his team because of his defensive play (4th highest single-season mark in league history, only Ben Wallace had seasons with a higher DBPM).
3. Lamar Odom
Lamar Odom may have been the original “unicorn”. A long 6’10” forward who could handle the ball like a point guard and block shots like a center is a once in a generation talent. He made an immediate impact as a rookie with averages of 16.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 4.2 assists, numbers only Magic Johnson and LeBron James have matched as 20-year-olds. The fact that he has never been an All-Star is somewhat of a travesty.
In a 14-year career, Odom was best known as a strong rebounder and a solid role player and the Sixth Man on the Lakers during their back-to-back NBA Championship seasons in 2008-09 and 2009-10.During his career, Odom recorded 12 triple-doubles, second-most among players who never made an All-Star appearance (Darrell Walker recorded 15).
Odom’s best statistical season came with the Heat in the 2003-04 season, when he averaged 17.1 points, 9.7 rebounds, 4.1 assists and a block (Jamaal Magloire made the All-Star team that season).
2. Monta Ellis
Monta Ellis is (or was) one of the best scoring guards in the league. He can shoot, drive, pass, and play defense. While he has never been considered a superstar, Ellis has been the first or second scoring option on every team he has played for. He averaged double figures in scoring 10 times over his twelve-year career.
And now think about this, only one player in NBA history has posted more than five seasons in which he averaged at least 15 points, and 1.5 steals per game and failed to make the All-Star Game, yes it is Mr. Ellis, and he did it seven times. During his career, he averaged 20 points per game four times (and 17.8 overall).
Ellis’ best statistical season came with the Warriors in the 2009-10 season, when he averaged a career-high 25.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 5.3 assists and a career-high 2.2 steals.
Mike Conley may be the most underrated point guard in the entire league. The Grizzlies have been to the playoffs the last six seasons with Conley as their starting point guard, including the Western Conference Finals in the 2012-13 season. Despite a pretty poor start to his career, early this season he became the 8th player in NBA history to lead a franchise in points, assists, and steals, something only Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Allen Iverson, Isaiah Thomas, Gary Payton, Kevin Garnett, Reggie Miller, and Dwayne Wade have ever done (but due to season-ending injury he lost the No. 1 spot in points). Currently, Conley is the Grizzlies’ all‐time leader for three‐pointers made, assists, steals, and games played. Only three other players currently lead an NBA franchise in those four categories: LeBron James (Cleveland), Reggie Miller (Indiana) and John Stockton (Utah).
Conley’s best statistical season came with the Grizzlies in the 2016-17 season, when he averaged a career-high 20.5 points, a career-high 3.5 rebounds, and 6.3 assists. His win share was 10.0 and his PER was a very solid 23.2.
Al Jefferson – the only player in NBA history with an All-NBA selection and three seasons averaging 20+ points, 10+ rebounds, one+ block to not make an All-Star appearance.
Eddie Johnson – scored the most points in NBA history by a non-All-Star and was league’s Sixth Man of the Year in 1989.
Byron Scott – during the 1987-88 season he led the Lakers in points, steals, and three-pointers, carrying them to the best record in the NBA and eventually, another championship.
Sam Perkins – had an extremely productive and steady 17-year NBA career, and has the highest career Win Share of any non-All-Star player in NBA history.
and Ron Harper – a five-time NBA champion.
Statistics used courtesy of NBA/Stats, Elias Sports Bureau and Basketball-Reference.