Is the 1998 Eastern Conference All-Star roster the worst of all-time?

As I scrolled through my social media newsfeed, I came across a spammy clickbait post with the above team photo for the 1998 all-stars repping the Eastern Conference. The 1998 NBA All-Star Game was to be the last all-star game before Jordan’s second retirement from the NBA.

No offense to Antoine Walker, Jayson Williams, Glen Rice and Steve Smith, but wow, the 1998 Eastern Conference All Star team might be the worst NBA all-star team of all time. They couldn’t have done better for an All-Star Game in Madison Square Garden?

Even with Mike It’s a Clunker of a Squad

Yes, Jordan weighs heavy and can legitimize almost any team, but after MJ, the next legends are probably Reggie Miller and Dikembe Mutumbo. Nothing against Reggie and Mount Mutombo, I like them both as players, but they were 2nd tier superstars even in their primes.

Tim Hardaway and Shawn Kemp (albeit the Cleveland version) were big names in the 1990s, but any talk of best players at their positions past outside of the 1990s?  Outside of those five, we have a couple stars that could have been legends, but Grant Hill and Penny Hardaway’s careers were way too short in years, as well as championships. Are they Hall of Famers? Grant might make it. Penny won’t.

We also have Glen Rice. Oh, and Antoine Walker. They did their thing and had very good careers but they wouldn’t be in a discussion as the top-five in their era, much less sniffing the Hall of Fame.

And then we have Rik Smits, Jayson Williams, and Steve Smith – this was their one and only all-star game. A one-timer happens every year, but their inclusion in 1998 doesn’t help the reputation of the team.

Was the 1997-98 season just a down year impacted by injuries? Nope, the East was just bad. Take a look at this powerhouse of a 1998 West Team:

The 1998 squad that represented the West was the varsity squad. Just a quick rundown of 2-3 players from the West roster is enough to end the conversation, much less speaking out loud the names of eight of the legendary players on that team: David Robinson, Jason Kidd, Kobe Bryant, Gary Payton, Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, Karl Malone and Kevin Garnett.

All superstars and Hall of Famers, and all of them are (at least) arguably in the top ten of their positions all-time. Jayson Williams and Antoine Walker?

But how do we determine if it’s a “bad” or “good” team. We took a deeper look at the overall accomplishments of the 1998 Eastern Conference All-Stars. Specifically, how many All-Star appearances, MVPs, All-NBA nods, NBA titles and their chances (according to of ever being enshrined in Springfield for the their NBA achievements.

Anfernee Hardaway 4 0 3 0 28.7%
Steve Smith 1 0 0 1 0.5%
Dikembe Mutombo 8 0 3 0 96.9%
Jayson Williams 1 0 0 0 0.1%
Reggie Miller 5 0 3 0 31.1%
Antoine Walker 3 0 0 1 1.5%
Tim Hardaway 5 0 5 0 79.2%
Glen Rice 3 0 2 1 8.6%
Shawn Kemp 6 0 3 0 38.4%
Michael Jordan 14 5 11 6 100%
Rik Smits 1 0 0 0 0%
Grant Hill 7 0 5 0 89.1%
TOTAL 58 5 35 9 39.5% (avg)

It’s not bad — I mean they’re all-stars after all, but when you put these twelve up to other all-star teams — yeah, it’s pretty bad. Maybe the worst. Let’s compare this roster’s accomplishments to their opponents in the 1998 midseason game:

Kobe Bryant 18 1 15 5 100%
Jason Kidd 10 0 6 1 100%
Mitch Richmond 6 0 5 1 70%
David Robinson 10 1 10 2 100%
Kevin Garnett 15 1 9 1 100%
Vin Baker 4 0 2 0 4.6%
Eddie Jones 3 0 1 0 3.5%
Nick Van Exel 1 0 1 0 0.2%
Gary Payton 9 0 9 1 99.9%
Shaquille O'Neal 15 1 14 4 100%
Karl Malone 14 2 14 0 100%
Tim Duncan 15 2 15 5 100%
TOTAL 120 8 101 20 73% (avg)

Do we need to say more?

We do?! Well, in 1998 the West boasted eight players with a 99.9% chance or higher of being enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Together, the average of the twelve players chances to make the Hall of Fame in the East is 39.5% while the West’s combined average possibility was 73%.

With the East, we’re looking at one guaranteed Hall of Famer in Jordan, a couple very likely ones in Mutombo (96.9%) and Reggie (31.1%) then maybe two others in Grant Hill (89.1%) and Tim Hardaway (79.2%), if we’re lucky.

Then again, it might just be Mike and Mutombo. Even if we added Head Coach Larry Bird, arguably a top-5 player of all time to the roster, it still may be the worst all-star team of all time.

Did I convince you that this could possibly be the worst collection of all-stars in the history of the NBA All-Star Game? I did? Well, the East defeated the West pretty handily 135-114… but it was behind the game’s MVP Michael Jordan’s 23 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds and fighting the flu.

Can you name a worse all-star roster based on accomplishments? Let us know your thoughts in the comments (or on our Facebook post)!


  • actually i have watched the game a number of times and RIK Smits had an outstanding game in his only all star appearance. Some players are “names” and some are players..the east had players…

  • Walt Coogan

    The East was not that bad. If Grant Hill had not broken down later, he would have played in more All-Star Games, made more All-NBA Teams, and been a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame. (Besides, judging players simply by such accolades can be a mistake, as those accolades can sometimes go to the wrong players and the conventional wisdom can be incorrect.) Michael Jordan was the greatest shooting guard ever, and a prime Grant Hill was probably one of the ten greatest small forwards ever, at least. Despite his “31.1 percent” chance of making the Hall of Fame, Reggie Miller is in the Hall of Fame, and he and Glen Rice constituted two of the best sharpshooters of that or any era—much better in that regard than anyone on the 1998 Western Conference All-Star roster, certainly. Jayson Williams constituted a dominant rebounder at the time, and when Steve Smith is the third-best shooting guard on your roster, you possess some serious strength and depth. And on the Western roster, Vin Baker, Eddie Jones, and Nick Van Exel were not exactly great players, while Kobe Bryant was a nineteen-year old who only made the team because of the fan vote.

    Certainly, the array of Western big men was ridiculously strong—perhaps the greatest ever, even with Kevin Garnett not quite in his prime yet. But given that the East won by twenty-one points, how bad could its side have been?

  • Thanks Walter. All legitimate points, but I want to re-establish that we’re comparing all-star rosters, so we’re starting off with great players to begin with. My take is, not all rosters are created equal, no matter how good they already are. And looking at this team, I stand by my comment that these 12 were bad in comparison to most all other teams ( I can’t speak to those from the 50’s and 60’s).

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