The NBA Rising Stars game is slated for 6:00 p.m. PT, and will feature young NBA and G-League talent across four teams coached by NBA greats Pau Gasol, Deron Williams, Joakim Noah and Jason Terry.
A total of nine Portland Trail Blazers have graced the hardwood on All-Star Friday night since its inception in 1994. Originally a Rookie Challenge, the format has changed several times over the years, first ingratiating sophomore players into the mix, and then later seeing variations including star NBA coaches, as well as international versus national players.
The most notable Blazers to have participated in the festivity are Damian Lillard and Blazers great Brandon Roy. Both players shared quite a bit in common entering the league. Lillard (2012) and Roy (2006) were both the No. 6 overall pick in their respective drafts.
Both franchise cornerstones ended up winning Rookie of the Year in the selfsame years they were first voted to the Rising Stars game. They followed this up by being named NBA All-Stars in their second seasons, both of which made their second and final appearances in the contest as sophomores.
Aside from Lillard and Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Arvydas Sabonis, Wesley Matthews, Greg Oden, Kelvin Cato, Alvin Williams, and Rudy Fernandez also participated. Fernandez, Oden, Cato, Williams and Sabonis made their lone appearances as rookies, whereas Matthews and Aldridge got their turn as second-year players, despite the latter being All-Rookie First team in 2007.
As for their performances, Roy and Aldridge combined for 35 points on 14-27 shooting from the floor and won in 2008, representing Rip City together, but Daniel “Boobie” Gibson edged them out with a 33-point performance to take home MVP.
A year prior, Roy was one of only three players on the rookie team that failed to reach double figures, scoring six points on 2-7 shooting. He would reach a higher peak in his career than all of his teammates, though.
Lillard twice scored in double figures, but never took home the MVP trophy. Due to injury, Oden did not play in 2009 — a year in which Kevin Durant exploded for 46 points en route to the Most Valuable Player award.
Matthews and Fernandez also produced double-figure performances in their respective years. Traveling back to 1998, Cato and Williams only saw 11 minutes of actions a piece and didn’t leave a memorable impression.
Sabonis played even less in 1996, seeing only four minutes. He did score eight points in those four minutes, but by the time he entered the league — nine years after being drafted No. 24 overall in 1986 — he was already passed his prime years; years that begged to question whether he would be the best player in the entire world or not, before war in Yugoslavia created the unanswerable question that remains till this day.
Blazers fans won’t have much to look forward to tonight, as Shaedon Sharpe was not selected for this years celebration. He'll look to finish the season strong and make a more resounding impression in 2023-24.