After sitting out his first official season in the league because of a fracture in his knee, Blake Griffin returned in full force this year, turning in one highlight-reel dunk after another and tallying 27 straight double-doubles earlier in the season. Griffin was voted a starter in the 2011 All-Star Game, making him the 44th rookie -- and the first since 2003 -- named to the midseason showdown.
In light of Griffin's honor, here's a look back at some of the most notable rookie All-Stars.
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Many doubted the 7-foot-6 center's abilities in the NBA, and though he struggled in his first couple of games stateside, Yao proved naysayers wrong by averaging 13.5 points and 8.2 rebounds in his rookie season. A runner-up to Amar'e Stoudemire in the Rookie of the Year voting, Yao displaced Shaquille O'Neal for a starting spot on the Western Conference All-Star team. Despite his success in the first half of the season though, he recorded only two points and two rebounds in 17 minutes, while sitting out the fourth quarter and both overtimes of the West's win. Including 2011, the Houston Rocket has been voted an All-Star every season he's played in the NBA.
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Coming off a 20-62 season, the Spurs selected Duncan with the top overall pick in 1997. Playing alongside Hall of Famer David Robinson, Duncan fit in instantly in San Antonio. In just his second road game, in Chicago against rebounding and defensive great Dennis Rodman, Duncan grabbed 22 boards. As the last rookie to be voted an All-Star by coaches, Duncan has been voted an All-Star 13 times (including this year) and was named the Game's MVP in 2000.
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Drafted out of Louisiana State with the first overall pick by the Magic, Shaq almost instantly become one of the league's most powerful and effective centers. He averaged 23.4 points and 13.9 rebounds and in his first season, enough to be named Rookie of the Year. In his first of 15 All-Star Games , Shaq scored 14 points and grabbed 7seven rebounds but the East lost, 135-132 in overtime.
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Though he entered the 1987 draft and was selected with top overall pick by San Antonio, the Spurs had to wait two years while the 7-foot-1 fulfilled his service in the Navy. When he joined the team in 1989, Robinson led San Antonio to the then greatest single-season turnaround in league history, leading a 21-61 team to a 56-26 record. Robinson earned his first of 10 All-Star appearances, while going on to earn the Rookie of the Year award with averages of 24.3 points, 12.0 rebounds and 3.9 blocks that season. He also posted a double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds) in his first All-Star Game, a 130-113 loss for the West.
After winning two NBA championships, an NBA MVP award, a Defensive Player of the Year award and two Olympic gold medals, "The Admiral" earned a spot among the 2009 Hall of Fame class.
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In his first season as a pro, Jordan averaged 28.2 points on 51.5 percent shooting and was voted an All-Star starter and the league's Rookie of the Year. All signs pointed toward a spectacular career, but few could've seen what "His Airness" had in store. Six NBA championships, six Finals MVP awards, five NBA MVP awards, two Olympic gold medals, 10 NBA scoring titles, 14 All-Star selections, three All-Star Game MVP awards a spot in the Hall of Fame and -- and -- a reputation (according to many) as the greatest player to step foot on the court.
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Selected first overall by the Rockets in '84, the 7-foot Nigerian made his mark on the league with rookie averages of 20.6 points, 11.9 rebounds and 2.7 blocks alongside Ralph Sampson in Houston. Olajuwon helped the Rockets improve from a 29--53 record the year before his arrival to 48-34 in his first season, while finishing second in the Rookie of the Year voting, behind Michael Jordan. Among the Hall of Famer's many career highlights: two NBA championships, an NBA MVP award, two Defensive Player of the Year honors, an Olympic gold medal and an all-time league record in career blocks (3,830).
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Don't let his career as a coach and executive overshadow his playing days. Selected second overall by the Pistons -- with whom he spent his entire 13-year career -- the Hall of Famer and two-time NBA champion was named to his first All-Star Game in 1982, and went on to earn Rookie of the Year and a spot on the NBA All-Rookie Team. He dropped 12 points (71.4 percent shooting) and dished out four assists in the East's 120-118 win in his first All-Star Game.
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The Laker great owns pretty much every basketball trophy and accolade available: an NCAA championship, five NBA titles, three MVPs, three Finals MVPs ,12 All-Star appearances, two All-Star Game MVPs, an Olympic gold medal and a spot in the Hall of Fame. A starter in his first All-Star Game, Johnson -- the league's all-time leader in assists per game (11.2) -- scored 12 points on 62.5 percent shooting and dished out four assists, though the West lost 144-136 in overtime.
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The three-time NBA champion and three-time NBA MVP, Bird was selected to his first of 12 All-Star Games in 1980, when he turned heads for becoming the highest-paid rookie in league history at the time with a $650,000 salary. And he was worth every penny. He led the Celtics in scoring (21.3 points per game), rebounding (10.4 per game), as well as total steals (143) and minutes (2,955). He was, fittingly, named the league's Rookie of the Year that season, and helping the East to a 144-136 overtime victory over the West and his rival on the court, Magic Johnson.
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The league's all-time leader in career points (38.387) and All-Star appearances (18, though he was selected to 19), Abdul-Jabbar also holds league records with six blocks in the 1980 Game and 31 total in his All-Star career. In his first NBA season, as a Milwaukee Buck, Lew Alcindor, as he was then known, was second in the league in scoring (28.8 points per game) and third in rebounding (14.5 per game) and won the Rookie of the Year award. And in only his second season, he won his first of six NBA championships and MVP awards.
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The 6-foot-2 guard out of West Virginia was selected by the Minneapolis Lakers --- who relocated to L.A. shortly after drafting him -- with the second overall pick. "Mr. Clutch" quickly established himself as one of the Lakers' primary options on offense, averaging 17.6 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists his first year. The combo guard was named to first of 14 All-Star Games, in which he had nine points and four assists in the West's 153-131 win. West went on to earn an All-Star Game MVP award (1972), 12 All-NBA Team selections, an NBA championship (`72), a Finals MVP ('69) and a spot among the NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team as a player.
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The 6-5 rookie phenom showed up the veterans and led the Western Conference to a 153-131 rout of the East. Robertson, of the Cincinnati Royals, was named MVP after pouring in 23 points and 14 assists -- a new league record (Bob Cousy previously held the record at 13 assists). But that game was just a blip in Robertson's all-around incredible career. He was the only player in NBA history to average a triple-double, and he did so in just his second year as a pro. As Celtics coach Red Auerbach once said of Big O: "He is so great he scares me."
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Just as he did throughout his career, Chamberlain dominated in his first All-Star Game, scoring 23 points and grabbing 25 rebounds to lead the East to a 125-115 win in his home arena, Philadelphia's Convention Hall. Chamberlain was the East's top scorer and the game's MVP, and finished his rookie campaign with an average of 37.6 points and 27 rebounds, both regular-season records. He was named both the league's MVP and Rookie of the Year that season. As for the rest of his career, we'll keep it short and say this: The man holds 72 -- seventy-two! -- all-time NBA records.
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In his first NBA season, the Minneapolis Laker finished fourth in the league in scoring (24.9 points per game), eighth in assists (4.1) and third in rebounding (15.0) en route to winning the Rookie of the Year award. And for the reeling Lakers franchise, Baylor's sweet jumper and complete game saved the team from crumbling; he took them from last place in 1958, to the NBA Finals in `59. Baylor was voted to his first of 11 All-Star Games that season, and led the West to a 124-108 victory while sharing the Game's MVP award with West teammate Bob Petit of the St. Louis Hawks. He currently ranks fourth all-time in scoring in the league.
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The 6-foot-1 "Houdini of the Hardwood" (right) wasn't a Celtics favorite from the start -- he was snubbed by Red Auerbach in the 1949 draft, but sent to Boston in a dispersal draft in 1950 -- but he quickly changed the minds of Celtics executives, averaging 15.6 points, 6.9 rebounds and 4.9 assists in his firs t NBA season. He was named to his first of 13 All-NBA Teams that year and was selected to the league's first All-Star Game in 1951, along with teammate Ed Macauley (left), helping the East to a 111-94 victory. Cousy went on to win six NBA Championships, an MVP award and eight of the league's first 11 assist titles to earn a legacy as the game's first great point guard.
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