As we continue to work our way through the endless summer between the Finals and Opening Night, we’ll pause each Friday to briefly consider and count down some NBA-related topic of note. We like starting lineups and round numbers, so we’ll run through a handful of items each week. With a nod to our friends at Dr. Saturday, welcome to Ball Don’t Five.
This week’s installment: The Top Five Retired Players That Never Made an All-Star Team.
5. Lamar Odom. It’s arguable that Odom never truly had an All-Star season, so his placement on this list is more of a career honor than a knock at, say, the assistant coaches in the East during the 2003-04 season. Those coaches were likely still considering Odom, who averaged more than 17 points, nearly 10 rebounds, 4.1 assists and a block per game with the playoff-bound Miami Heat that year, a flighty ne’er-do-well who hadn’t paid his dues. In opposition to, say, Jamaal Magliore – who made the damned All-Star team that season.
4. Rod Strickland. Like Odom, Strickland struggled with image issues throughout his career, which likely (needlessly) cost him votes as a reserve. He dealt with academic problems at DePaul, immediately entered a point guard controversy (which was not his fault) upon entering the league with the Knicks, and after being traded to San Antonio in his second season he infamously decided a behind-the-head pass late in a Game 7 loss would be the right move (it sailed out of bounds). Strickland played killer basketball throughout the 1990s, but he could never crack the roster.
3. Derek Harper. Derek Harper also had to live down an early career postseason boner. As a rookie, thinking that his Mavericks were up one on the Los Angeles Lakers, he dribbled clock out late in Game 4 of the team’s semifinal series. The Mavs went on to lose that game and the series, and Harper’s early reputation took a hit that he may not have recovered from in the eyes of the voters. Too bad, because he averaged about 18 points and six and a half assists for seven seasons with the Mavs in his prime, alongside two steals a contest.
2. Marcus Camby. As with all the others, Camby struggled due to his reputation. Considered a disappointment initially, then an injury-prone bit player, voters never seemed to realize that Marcus was one of the more dominant centers of his era in New York and (especially) Denver. It’s true that Camby played just 29 games in his last season with the Knicks and 29 games in his next season (his first with Denver), while in his prime; but he responded with a 10-point, 11-rebound, three block and 2.5-assist career with the Nuggets in the five seasons that followed.
1. Ron Harper. Harp easily had the most satisfying career of anyone on this list, which is a good thing because his All-Star chances were cruelly denied in the seasons prior to his five NBA championships. He averaged 19.4 points, a combined 9.8 assists/rebounds and 2.3 steals a contest in Cleveland, but was left off of several All-Star teams due to the East’s depth at guard. His best season was his rookie year in 1986-87, which saw him average 22.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists alongside 2.5 steals and a block, but voters apparently felt Maurice Cheeks’ sage veteran wisdom was preferable in an All-Star Game setting. Hollywood also averaged 19.3 points, a combined 10.3 rebounds/assists and two steals with the Clippers, but Los Angeles’ dodgy record likely kept him out of the All-Star lineup.