The Latest Rookies to Feature in an NBA All-Star Game

Landing a place in the NBA All-Star Game has to be on the bucket list of any NBA player. This annual exhibition game features the best of the best in the league, as selected by coaches and fans. For a player to feature at any stage of their career is an impressive feat—to do so in their first season is jaw-dropping. Only a handful of rookies have managed to make the NBA All-Star Game in their first season, and we look at the last three to do so.

Blake Griffin, 2010-2011 NBA All-Star Game

It has been over a decade since the NBA All-Star Game last saw a rookie. That rookie took the form of the towering, 6 foot 9 inch Blake Griffin. Drafted for the Los Angeles Clippers in 2009-2010, Blake Griffin never actually made his NBA debut that season due to injury. This meant that when he first took the court in an NBA game against the Portland Trail Blazers in 2010-2011, he was still considered a rookie. Griffin’s injury layoff was a little hindrance to his progress, however, as he became the first rookie to have two 40+ point games since 1996-1997.

Mid-way through the season, with Blake Griffin on track to be named Rookie of the Year—which he eventually was—the forward was voted onto the Western Conference All-Star Team reserves by the coaches. This was the first appearance by a rookie in the All-Star Game in almost a decade.

Yao Ming, 2002-2003 NBA All-Star Game

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Prior to Blake Griffin, the last rookie to appear in the NBA All-Star Game was none other than Chinese superstar Yao Ming.

This 7 foot 6 inch colossus debuted for the Houston Rockets in 2002 as a 22 year old, having gained much attention playing for the Shanghai Sharks in the Chinese basketball competition. Back in those days, NBA betting in New Jersey was illegal, however, if it was available, few would have bet that Yao Ming would make it through to the NBA All-Star Game in his first season. Many popular commentators predicted that the Chinese import would fail, having skipped the Houston Rockets’ preseason training camp and never having played at the NBA level.

It turns out, Yao Ming was a huge hit with NBA fans. Voting ballots for the NBA All-Star Game were made available in Mandarin as well as English and Spanish, which led to Yao Ming getting voted to start for the West ahead of three-time MVP O’Neal.

Tim Duncan, 1997-1998 NBA All-Star Game

Going back another five years, before Yao Ming was dramatically voted into the NBA All-Star Game starting team, Tim Duncan was the last rookie to feature.

While Duncan also received a healthy number of votes, he gained his place in the West’s team for the All-Star Game by being voted onto the reserves by the coaches. This came off the back of Tim Duncan being the San Antonio Spur’s No.1 draft pick in 1997, and the defender establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with in the NBA through his excellent rebound and blocking game. Duncan went on to play in 15 NBA All-Star games.

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