Is Russell Westbrook All-Star starting snub worst in history?

January 18, 2017; Oakland, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0, right) dunks the basketball past Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (35) during the third quarter at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Thunder 121-100. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
January 18, 2017; Oakland, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0, right) dunks the basketball past Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (35) during the third quarter at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Thunder 121-100. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

Incredibly, Russell Westbrook will not start the All-Star Game despite accomplishing a feat the Association hasn’t experienced in 55 years.  The question on the table is where his snub ranks historically.

Moments before Ernie Johnson read out the West All-Star starters, gut instinct told me Russell Westbrook wouldn’t make the cut. I sent my cohort (Tony Heim) a message saying as much, and sure enough, it proved correct.

Logically the telltale signs were there to forewarn of this inevitability. Having won back-to-back regular-season MVP awards combined with two consecutive finals appearances, Stephen Curry is well-known worldwide. Additionally, his peers and the pundits respect his abilities and leadership.

James Harden is the face of Adidas, plays in a larger market than Russell Westbrook, and is also well known worldwide. In the end, the votes had to fall precisely where they did for Westbrook to miss the start. Had Curry placed second ahead of Harden in either the player or media vote it would have been Harden who missed the cut?

That result wouldn’t have been ideal either, as the only result that couldn’t be disputed was a Russell Westbrook – James Harden starting backcourt.

And, as Tony Heim pointed out this morning in his Views column, the Rockets site generated more heat for Harden than the Thunder site did for Westbrook.

Previous All-Star snubs:

This year the powers that be decided to change the way the All-Stars Starters were determined, subsequently limiting fans votes to 50% of the total.  Yet, ultimately it was the fans who knocked Westbrook out of the start given the 3-way tie.

Changing the vote did serve to remove Westbrook’s newest enemy – Zaza Pachulia from the game, which was the perfect example of why the change was made. That said, the irony is the fans still got their popular player (Curry) to start over the player most deserving (Westbrook.) This highlights the need for further tweaks to be made.  For example, had the tie break been determined via media or players’ votes the result would have been Westbrook/Harden starting (in my humble opinion – the most deserving choices).

With the outrage over the Westbrook snub, it got me thinking whether this was, in fact, the worst snub historically.

With that, let’s dive into previous seasons and see where Russ’ omission ranks comparative to other stars who suffered the same fate.

Yao Years:

Much like Zaza Pachulia got major support from his beloved native Georgia fan base, Yao Ming’s Chinese fan base repeatedly voted him in as a starter. In fairness, Ming was an All-Star worthy player, but not every year.  The problem was Ming’s massive fan base continued to vote him into the game, even in years he missed multiple games injured or wasn’t posting All-Star worthy stats.

The worst of those years (in which he often garnered the most or second-most votes) was the 2011 All-Star Game. In that season, Yao played in just 5 games (yes you read that correctly five games).

Ming was selected ahead of:

  • Tim Duncan:13.4 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.9 blocks
  • Dirk Nowitzki:23 points, 7 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 39.3% from deep
  • Blake Griffin: 22.5 points, 12.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists
  • Kevin Love who only made the team as the injury replacement for Ming and was averaging: 20.1 points, 15.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 41.7% from deep. Pretty amazing numbers for a player that even the coaches didn’t automatically put on the reserve squad.

Of note, in those 5-games Ming averaged 10.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks.

Related: All-Star Game Starters named: Dissecting the votes

30 point scorers:

Looking back there are others who suffered a similar feat to Westbrook. Specifically, on four other occasions, players who were averaging 30 or more points at the time starters were announced also weren’t selected to be a starter.  And, in one case the player didn’t even make the reserve team.

Carmelo Anthony – 2007: At the time the All-Star starters were selected for the 2007 game Anthony was averaging over 30 points per game. By year-end, Melo’s stat line was 28.9 points, 6 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.2 steals. Notably, with a loaded Western squad, Melo failed to make the reserve team as well.

Karl Malone -1990: In the end, Malone made the team via a coaches selection, but didn’t play due to injury. Malone finished the season with averages of 31 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.5 steals.

Bernard King – 1985: Like Malone, King did make the team via the coach reserve selections. King finished the season averaging 32.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 1.3 steals.

Mark Aguirre 1984: Another starting snub, but Aquirre made the team via the coaches reserve selection. He finished the season with averages of 29.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1.0 steal.

Historic Snubs who never made an All-Star team:

The following list of past and current players (some of which might get resolved this year) offers some shocking omissions:

  • Rod Strickland
  • Eddie Johnson
  • Marcus Camby
  • Andre Miller
  • Mike Conley
  • Damian Lillard
  • DeAndre Jordan

Fallout from omission:

Moving forward, I already stated being left off the starting team might well serve to give Westbrook the ammunition he needs to motivate himself to finish the season. Apparently I’m not the only one with this instinct:

Then again, maybe Russell Westbrook wants to discuss this with his marketing people since the reality of him missing the start has more to do with fans either not knowing him as well world wide or (sadly) not appreciating his game as much.

Related: Fan Vote keeps Westbrook out of All-Star Starting Lineup

More from Thunderous Intentions

It just seems unreal that the player who won the past two All-Star Game MVPs and is on this record-setting triple-double pace wasn’t the first name fans selected to start.

Bias aside, tell me I’m wrong?  I mean, I could make an argument Kyle Lowry and or Isaiah Thomas should be the starting East backcourt.

At least Westbrook has the knowledge the Media and Players placed him first. Lowry meanwhile, has registered almost the exact numbers as Curry did in his first MVP season but was ranked fifth in player votes.

That might actually be the worst shade, knowing your peers don’t regard you as the best guard in the East even though all the stats confirm that fact.

One thing is certain, the first player every coach will write on their reserve list will be Russell Westbrook.

Missed opportunity for drama:

As I noted in the immediate aftermath of Westbrook’s omission, it is the lost theatrics of having the former OKC Big 3 together on the court.

It’s not a given these former teammates will spend any time together as a unit during the game either. First, it’s likely there will be at least 3 Warriors on the team with either or both of Klay Thompson and Draymond Green making the team.

Related: Westbrook starting omission cancels reunion of former OKC Big 3

In addition, Steve Kerr and his Warriors will be the coaching staff in the West given their top record. Given that fact, if there is truth to the Westbrook-Durant full-on feud, don’t expect Kerr to put them on the court together. If that turns out to be the case, it’s unlikely Westbrook will even have a shot of setting another record by winning MVP in 3 consecutive All-Star Games.

Generally, I’m someone who prefers to avoid drama but tell me you weren’t dying to see what would happen with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant on the court together. Would Russ have purposely ignored KD both in terms of speaking to him or passing him the ball?

Unfortunately,  the answer to that question will likely never get answered. And, we as fans, have no one to blame, but ourselves.