Always the overachiever, Laker forward A.C. Green beat out Utah Jazz forward Karl Malone in fan balloting Thursday to join teammate James Worthy as the starting forwards for the Western Conference team in next month's NBA All-Star game.
Malone, most valuable player of last year's All-Star game and an All-NBA selection last season, was so upset by the perceived slight that he told NBA officials he will boycott the game. Coaches from each conference will select reserves on Jan. 30-31, but Malone told friends he will stay home.
Malone declined to speak with reporters, but he informed Jazz owner Larry Miller of his wishes.
"The only thing I said to him was, just wait and let it settle in and see how you feel," Miller said. "You're too good not to be there. Don't decide on emotion." Starters for the Feb. 11 game in Miami are determined by fan balloting in each NBA city. And Green, in a major upset, had 160,788 votes to Malone's 159,562. The Lakers' Magic Johnson, Utah's John Stockton and the Houston Rockets' Akeem Olajuwon will be the other Western Conference starters.
Based on statistics and reputation, Malone figured to be the logical choice for an all-star starting berth. Going into Thursday night's game against the Knicks, Malone ranked second in the league in scoring with an average of 30.6 points a game, fifth in rebounding with an average of 11.1 and fourth in field-goal percentage at 58.4%.
Green is the Lakers' fourth-leading scorer with a 14.4 average and the leading rebounder with a 9.6 average. He is shooting 49%. Green is coming off his best game of the season in the Lakers' 120-111 victory over Indiana Wednesday night. He made 11 of 12 shots, scoring 24 points, and grabbed 11 rebounds.
"I'm surprised to be on the team," Green said. "I never knew my position in the balloting, and it's really out of the players' control who the fans vote for. Neither one of us did any campaigning.
"On paper, you'd think (Malone) would be on the team. I mean, he does it night in, night out. That's what you have to do to be an all-star."
Although not as prolific as Malone, Green has become one of the most consistent Lakers.
"I guess there's more recognition for me than I imagined," Green said. "As I talked to my mother this evening, I said, 'I always knew Jesus loved me and always knew you and Dad loved me. But I guess (the fans) like me, too.' So, it is a real great honor, in that sense."
Green, justifiably or not, probably will be labeled as a player from a large media market beating out an elite player from a smaller media market.
"That's going to happen," Jazz center Mark Eaton said. "We're not in the media capital of the world (in Salt Lake City)."
Added Jerry Sloan, the Jazz's coach: "This is a tough blow for anybody--for the fans not to appreciate what (Malone) has done. I know the work he has put in to try to be better every year."
This was Green's first selection in five seasons in the NBA.
Johnson was selected for the 11th consecutive season. He twice has missed the game because of injuries. Last season, he suffered a torn left hamstring shortly before the all-star break and was replaced by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the all-star team.
Worthy will be making his fifth consecutive all-star appearance.
As expected, Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls was the top vote-getter with 321,114, followed by Patrick Ewing of the Knicks with 245,746 and Johnson with 214,348.
Joining Jordan and Ewing in the Eastern Conference's starting lineup will be the Boston Celtics' Larry Bird, the Detroit Pistons' Isiah Thomas and the Philadelphia 76ers' Charles Barkley.