Maybe it’s because the star of the league is 6’3″, 185-pounds. Or maybe it’s because there are so few true centers these days. But look at the starters, as voted by the fans, for Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game. Positions are no longer explicit in basketball, but we can probably agree there are three point guards (Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, and Kyle Lowry), two shooting guards (Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant), and five others who, if you had to choose one position, would be small forwards (LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard). They combine to be the shortest All-Star starters since fans started voting.
The chart below shows the height of the designated starters (as initially voted by the fans; some were replaced due to injury) every year since fans started voting in 1975. (Note: There was no All-Star Game in 1999 due to a lockout.)
This year’s starters are a combined 777 inches. George and Durant, both 6’9 (81 inches), are the tallest. Only once (1977, the second shortest lineup ever) has the tallest starter been that “short.”
There is a caveat to the data. Starting in 2013, the All-Star ballot called for two “backcourt” players and three “frontcourt” players for each conference. Previously, the lineups included two guards, two forwards, and a center. Fans no longer have to vote for a true big man, and this year they didn’t. Last season, the Pau and Marc Gasol, Anthony Davis, and Blake Griffin were starters, and the two starting units combined for 794 inches.
The 2007 All-Star Game featured the tallest starters. Five players 6’11” or taller (including 7’6″ Yao Ming and 7’1″ Shaquille O’Neal) helped form lineups that combined for 813 inches.
NBA players have gotten steadily taller over the years. Eliminating mandatory centers from the All-Star Game negated that trend to a certain extent. But this year’s lineup, which includes the 6’6″ Bryant in the frontcourt, is historically short.