NBA 75th Anniversary Season

NBA 75: Top 10 players with most All-Star appearances

Looking back at the players in NBA lore who have amassed the most All-Star Game appearances.

LeBron James, 20:

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Take an all-access look at LeBron James first NBA All-Star game.

Strange but true: LeBron didn’t make the game as a rookie as fans voted him fourth among East guards after Allen Iverson, Jason Kidd and Tracy McGrady. Of course, since then, he’s been the overwhelming fan favorite and an All-Star fixture. At 21, he became the youngest MVP winner in history. He recorded a triple-double in 2011 and a career scoring high of 36 in 2012

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar made his 18th All-Star game appearance in 1988.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 19:

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Let’s start with a pair of shockers: Despite his great number of appearances in the All-Star Game, Kareem never won the All-Star MVP award. That’s almost unfathomable, if only because he was, for a decent stretch, the league’s most dominant player and mathematically, what are the odds of him going home empty-handed so often? Also, he didn’t play in the 1973 game because of safety concerns after seven murders took place at a property he owned in Washington which he had donated to a Muslim group, and organizers feared there would be an attack on the game by a radical group believed to be responsible for the tragedy. So Kareem stayed home. His best game was in 1984 when he collected 25 points and 13 rebounds.

Kobe Bryant, 18:

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Take a look back at Kobe Bryant's greatest highlights from his 17 All-Star games.

Nobody will ever forget the 1998 Changing Of The Guard Game in New York when Kobe and Michael Jordan appeared together for the first time. The hype was unreal, and Kobe, making his first All-Star start (as the youngest-ever at 19), relished in it. Then in 2003, Kobe led the West to a win over the East in Jordan’s final All-Star Game. In all, Kobe loved the All-Star Games, which gave him a chance to showcase himself among the best. He also took the games seriously, playing to win and playing to impress. Now, the All-Star Game MVP award is named in his honor.

Tim Duncan, 15:

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Tim Duncan wins co-MVP with Shaquille O’Neal at the 2000 NBA All-Star game in Oakland.

Duncan once said he’d “rather be laying on a beach somewhere” instead of attending the All-Star Game. It’s not that he was being disrespectful or unappreciative — it was just Duncan being Duncan. He never really gravitated toward the spotlight, and he relished down-time spent with family and friends and … on the beach, where he was practically born and raised (Virgin Islands). Duncan never played more than 18 minutes in his final four All-Star Games, obviously informing his coach that he’d rather rest, preserve himself for the rest of the season, and give his time to others. Besides, the All-Star format favors the flashy, and Duncan was anything but. His best game was 24 points in the 2000 contest when he shared the MVP award with Shaquille O’Neal; he never cracked 20 again.

Kevin Garnett, 15:

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Follow Kevin Garnett around his first NBA All-Star Game in 1997.

He was the All-Star MVP in 2003 when he scored 37 points in a double-overtime contest, including the first seven points in the second overtime to trigger the win. That happened to be Michael Jordan’s final All-Star Game, and coincidently, KG’s point total was the most in an All-Star Game since Jordan’s 40 in 1988.

Shaquille O’Neal, 15:

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Open Court's panel looks back at Shaquille O'Neal's famous dance with the Jabbawockeez in 2009.

His most memorable appearance in an All-Star Game wasn’t during the actual game, but the pregame: Who could forget Shaq joining the famous mime group Jabbawockeez in 2009 and pulling off an amazing dance sequence during the player introductions? It brought down the house. It was his final All-Star appearance, to boot. In 1993, he was the first rookie in eight years to make the All-Star team and eventually won three MVPs, sharing with Tim Duncan in 2000.

Michael Jordan, 14:

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Take a look back at Michael Jordan's iconic performance in the 1988 Dunk Contest.

In the classic 1988 weekend in Chicago, of all places, Jordan reigned supreme, winning the dunk contest by taking off just inside the free-throw line (the photo became a hot-selling poster later), then winning MVP the next day with 40 points. Also, that weekend, the popular “Mars Blackmon” black-and-white commercials with Spike Lee were first aired. Jordan was a three-time MVP winner. On the flip side, there was the infamous “freeze-out” game in 1985, when Jordan, a rookie, was treated like one and took only nine shots, making two. He didn’t play in the 1986 game because of a broken foot. He recorded the first All-Star triple-double in 1997, scored only eight points in the 2002 game (a week before his 39th birthday), was famously serenaded by Mariah Carey wearing a custom Wizards dress in the 2004 game, and had a losing record overall in All-Star Games.

Karl Malone, 14:

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Karl Malone (right) was a 2-time All-Star Game MVP, including sharing the honors with John Stockton in 1993.

The most fitting All-Star Game was 1993 in Salt Lake City when Malone and John Stockton shared the MVP award, a first in All-Star history. Malone had 28 points while Stockton notched 15 assists and the West won in overtime. But it was one of two All-Star MVPs won by Malone as he took the prize four years earlier in Houston at the Astrodome. That game set an attendance record at the time of 44,735 and Malone finished with 28 points and nine rebounds as the West prevailed.

Dirk Nowitzki, 14:

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Dirk Nowitzki is introduced for the 2019 All-Star Game.

In an unprecedented decision, commissioner Adam Silver named Dirk — then 40 and in his final NBA season — as a special addition to the ALl-Star Game in 2019 (Dwyane Wade also received the same treatment). This 14th appearance was a well-deserved victory lap for Dirk, considered the greatest foreign-born player in NBA history. Strangely, Dirk was never voted as a starter by the fans, although he did serve as a injury-replacement starter twice: in 2007 (for Yao Ming) and in 2010 (for Bryant). The 2010 All-Star Game was, conveniently, played at AT&T Stadium — the home of the Dallas Cowboys — in Arlington, Texas. That All-Star Game was historic for its crowd, where 108,713 attended.

Jerry West, 14:

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He was an All-Star every year of his career, a claim that not many can make (not even James). In 1972, not only did he help the Lakers win a record 33 straight games and the NBA title, he also won All-Star MVP, in a game held in Los Angeles. Also, West was among the players who threatened to boycott the 1964 game unless the league agreed to recognize the player’s union. The players chose the right game because it was the first to be televised, and the owners caved. Had the game been canceled, there was a great chance the NBA would not get a national TV contract, which it didn’t have at the time.

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Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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