Making the All-Star Game is a dream for many, if not all, NBA players. For rookies, it’s something of a pipe dream, given how rare it is for first-year players to get voted in the midseason Showdown of the best hoopsters in the league.
This season, Orlando Magic Prodigy Paolo Banchero has a chance of achieving a feat not even the likes of LeBron James and Allen Iverson were able to. The 20-year-old is averaging 23.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game, and if he keeps the pace up, the Voters will surely consider including his name on their ballots.
But before any voting happens, which won’t start for around a month, let’s first look at the last five Rookies to be named an All-Star.
Blake Griffin (2011)
That’s right; it has been 11 years since the last time a first-year player made the exhibition match. And the Honor belongs to Griffin, who was still playing for the Los Angeles Clippers then.
Technically, the 2010-11 season was his second year in the league, redshirting the 2009-10 campaign due to injuries.
During his first season, the power forward averaged 22.5 points (the highest rookie scoring average among active players) and 12.1 rebounds per contest.
Yao Ming (2003)
Yao had an entire nation of more than one billion citizens behind him when he entered the league through the 2002 draft. It is arguably for this reason that he got voted in as an All-Star starter in his very first season.
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Take note that the Chinese center had the second-most votes (1,286,324) in the Western Conference, behind only Kobe Bryant (1,474,386), giving him a starting nod. The result invited controversy as Yao had been averaging just 13.0 points and 8.1 rebounds per game prior to the All-Star break.
In addition, the former Houston Rockets big man is one of only four players in league history to win an All-Star berth during every season he stepped on the court in the NBA. The other three are Jerry West, Julius Erving, and Bob Pettit.
Tim Duncan (1998)
There was a reason various teams tanked in the 1996-97 campaign – to win the “Tim Duncan sweepstake.” And it didn’t take long for the San Antonio Spurs lifer to show why he was considered a tremendous prospect.
In his first year in the NBA, the “Big Fundamental” averaged 21.1 points, 11.9 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per contest, winning Rookie of the Year honors and earning an All-Star reserve berth.
To prove just how stellar a Rookie Duncan was, he also placed fifth in MVP voting and was named an All-NBA First Team.
Grant Hill (1995)
Hill is one of the most interesting what-ifs in NBA history. If it weren’t for injuries, he could’ve been the face of the league for a very long time after Michael Jordan’s second retirement.
The former Detroit Pistons small forward also had a substantial fan base from the get-go, as he was the leading All-Star vote-getter in his rookie season. His 1,289,585 votes edged Shaquille O’Neal’s tally of 1,263,451 for the 1995 All-Star Game. Hill accomplished the feat again the following season, despite Jordan being available in the 1996 All-Star voting.
Shaquille O’Neal (1993)
O’Neal also had the honor of starting the midseason showcase in his first NBA season. He was the first rookie to earn the distinction since Jordan in 1985.
The Louisiana State University product was so dominant right off the bat that he became the first-ever NBA player to be named Player of the Week in his first week in the Association. He capped off his rookie season by winning the 1992-93 Rookie of the Year award and a top-10 finish in MVP voting.
Incidentally, O’Neal was the last Magic Rookie to make it to the All-Star Game. Perhaps Banchero can draw inspiration from Shaq to stay on track to join the elite list.