I have a challenge for you—if you’re up for it. You know who you are. You’re the guy or gal who thinks you are an NBA expert. Pick your best all-time NBA team from anyone who ever played the game. We’re picking a starting lineup and a sixth man. Your mission is to build an NBA team you think can beat my team. If you read the headline, you already know that’s mission impossible. But give it your best shot.
First, the rules: There are no rules outside of the player you pick for each position has to be able to play that position. The sixth man can play anywhere.
I would suggest you pick players from the eighties on. In other words, if their NBA careers ended before 1980, don’t pick them. No matter how good you think they are. My team will dog you mercilessly if you do.
I will give you suggestions throughout, however. You can decide to listen to me or not. It’s up to you. I’m only trying to help.
Now for my team: Read it and weep. By the way, you can’t have my team. Pick your own. You can pick players from my squad, but not the same team.
My point guard is none other than Magic Johnson. At 6’9,” he can play any position on the court. Like he did his rookie year when he substituted at center for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the NBA Finals and scored 42 points—ultimately leading his team to the championship.
A ball-handler extraordinaire, Magic didn’t need to shoot to be effective. He commanded the break for the “Showtime” Lakers and will run the show for my team. And if you thought the Lakers were “Showtime,” wait until you see the rest of my crew.
At shooting guard is the one and only Michael Jordan, or should I just say MJ? Universally acknowledged as the best player to ever lace up sneakers, Jordan is the killer every team needs to be a champion. Someone who doesn’t feel pity for an opponent in anything he does. His only objective is winning and anything that gets in his way will be run over.
I know what you’re thinking. Anybody could have come up with Magic and MJ for their backcourt. And you would be right. I am not going out on a limb—yet.
Don’t forget that the objective is to beat my team. Because I’m saying my team will beat anything you can come up with. Don’t pick the best player at every position, but the best player for your team to beat my team. That’s a hint.
Sticking with my formula of picking the obvious, (at least for me) my small forward is Larry Bird. Not only a great shooter but also a phenomenal passer, Bird is the total package. The Boston Celtics became a great team as soon as Bird stepped onto the parquet floor of the Garden.
Bird could rebound and defend too. And if your life was on the line based on a player making the final shot, you could breathe easily if the ball was in Bird’s hands.
So far I have picked three of the greatest players to ever don an NBA uniform, so obviously I’m a genius—right? Well, as a matter of fact, yes. But you are about to see why.
Power forward is up next and the choices are many. Should I pick Tim Duncan? How about Karl Malone? Or maybe Kevin Garnett? Anthony Davis would look good too, wouldn’t he?
They would all look good, but do they fit together? That’s another hint for you.
I think I’m going to let you wait for my PF. We need more drama.
In the middle, I’m going with the Nigerian Nightmare, also known as Hakeem Olajuwon. He was nicknamed “The Dream,” but he was a nightmare for his opponents.
As athletic as any center to ever play, he could shoot from the perimeter or dominate in the paint. Whether running the court, blocking shots, or rebounding the ball, Olajuwon is probably the most underrated center to ever lace up sneakers.
He’s so good he was picked ahead of Jordan in the 1984 draft. He wasn’t better, but you couldn’t blame Houston for taking him. Nobody knew Jordan would be as good as he turned out to be. You can blame Portland for passing MJ for Sam Bowie if you want to throw out blame, but I know Bowie’s name will not be mentioned by anybody who responds to my challenge. If you think he belongs, don’t bother giving me the rest of your team.
It’s time to give a nod to today’s game. Basketball is not as physical as in the past. It’s easier to be an offensive player in today’s game, but if you’re really going to be effective, you need a talent that wasn’t so much in demand in the eighties or nineties.
The three-point shot has revolutionized the game, and nobody does it better than Steph. Curry adds the one element my team is lacking outside of Bird.
With Curry ready to come in off the bench, he can light things up and give my team the extra point that makes such a big difference now. In a matter of a minute, you can bury a team with the three-point shot. Curry’s also not a bad ball-handler. It just wasn’t something that came natural to him like shooting. He had to work at it and now treats the ball like it’s a yo-yo, if anyone reading this knows what that is.
He fits in with the rest of the team because they all strived to be the very best at what they do. If you think you can top my picks, send me your lineup. You can also tell me why they would beat my team. I like fantasy.
Oh, I almost forgot my power forward. Wait for it. Wait for it. Dennis Rodman.
You know the worm, don’t you? The one guy who doesn’t need the ball on offense. And that’s why he’s the perfect pick. I already have enough scoring. There’s only one ball, and Rodman will get the ball back for me with his rebounding and defense. He may be crazy, but he’s a genius on the court. Nobody knows where the ball bounces better off the backboard than Rodman.
He could defend any position on the court. Did I mention he used to guard and frustrate Shaq when he was with the Bulls?
That’s my team. They can shoot, rebound, and defend. And in their spare time, they can sell you refreshments.
I have multiple players who can take the final shot, so good luck defending them. And my guys will shut yours down in the same situation. Look up how many of them were Defensive Players of the Year.
So send me your matchups. I’m waiting. Entertain me. I can use a good laugh. And if you come up with a worthy challenger, I might even give you props.
Just don’t hold your breath.