By Jason Fryer
A few weeks ago, NBA Hall-of-Fame member Karl Malone shocked the NBA world by not naming Michael Jordan to his all-time starting lineup. Following not naming Jordan to his lineup, Malone said that people should concentrate on naming their all-time roster and not their idealistic starting lineup. With that said, I've decided to take the Mailman's advice and go a step further. Throughout the next few weeks, I'm going to name my all time NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLB rosters. My initial top roster will concentrate on my all-time NBA roster. The requirements are a starting 5 along with a bench that includes 2 guards, 2 forwards, 1 center, and 2 wild cards.
PG: Ervin "Magic" Johnson: The 12 time All-Star, 3 Time NBA MVP, 5-time NBA Champion, and 3-time Finals MVP could dictate the the tempo of the game in so many different ways. How many players (let alone rookies) could lead his team on the road of game 7 of the NBA Finals, transform from a point guard to center, and then fill in for one of the top 5 players of all-time and win the championship?
None. One writer once called Magic Johnson "Tragic" Johnson after the Lakers lost to their long time rivals, the Boston Celtics in game 7 of the NBA Finals. Like an all-time great, Johnson came back the following season and this time made sure their season would end in a different fashion as LA went into the Boston Garden and defeated the Celtics 111-100 in game 6. In the end, it was Johnson who was prepared for the big stage as he led they Lakers in rebounds (10) and assists (14) while also recording 14 points all along while showing why (sorry Dr.J and Larry) Magic was the best player of the 1980's.
SG: Michael Jordan: What else can you say…the greatest player of all time won 5 MVP's (and should have been more but that's for another time), 10 time scoring titles, had the highest PPG(point per game) average in the history of the NBA (30.1), a defensive player of the year award, and 6 NBA Championships (winning Finals MVP each time). The best two way player in the history of the sport would find any way possible to win a game: wither it meant scoring every point, making a game winning shot, or setting up a teammate in a game that's tied or trailing to win the Championship. Jordan would be the perfect player on this team as he and Bird are the only "score first" players that are in my starting 5.
SF: Larry Bird: In a few years, I do believe LeBron will pass bird as the greatest small forward of all time. However, the 3-time MVP, 3-time NBA Champion, and 2-time Finals MVP was (just like his 1980's rival Magic Johnson) a player that could control the game in so many different ways. Bird's career averages were 22.8 ppg, 6 apt, and 7.5 rpg meaning and along those lines, I feel Bird could have easily averaged 27 points per game for his career if he wanted to. However, like the rest of the players in this starting lineup, Larry Legend sacrificed a great deal of scoring so he could win multiple of championships. As Bird Hall-of-Fame teammate Kevin Mchale said in the Documentary "Magic and Bird: A Courtship of Rivals".
To me, this showed not just the brilliance of Bird and Magic, but the will to do anything it took for their team to win the game. Even greats today such as Kevin Durant feel Larry was a do anything it took to win the game:
PF: Tim Duncan:
The Greatest Player of the 2000's. Let me repeat this again, the
greatest player of the 2000's was Tim Duncan. Not Kobe Bryant. Not
Shaquille O'Neal. Good old boring Tim Duncan. The 4-time NBA Champion,
3-time Finals MVP, 2-time League MVP, 10-time first team all NBA member,
and 8-time first team all defense player was never flashy, but like the
other players in my starting 5 was always committed to winning at any
cost. To tell you how great Tim Duncan has been throughout his
illustrious career, in game 6 of the 2006 NBA Finals, Duncan had one of
the most under-appreciated performances of all time, as he nearly
recorded the 5th Quadruple-Double in the history of the NBA (21 points,
20 rebounds, 10 assists, and 8 blocks) and helped the Spurs ciinch the
A number of people will look at that roster and feel that Duncan had a great deal of help on that team when in fact it was quite the opposite. Duncan had an aging David Robinson (who would retire after game 6), along with a number of other older players (Steve Kerr, Danny Ferry, Steve Smith, and Kevin Willis) along with a number of unproven, but talented players in Tony Parker (in his second season and was benched for the majority of game 6 for Speedy Claxton) and Manu Ginobili (who like Parker was also in his second season and first NBA Finals). Duncan's most reliable player on that team was ...Stephen Jackson. If you go back, and look at the most clutch players on their roster, it was Jackson that was making and taking all they high pressure shots. Jackson was the teams 3rd leading scorer for the Spurs throughout the 2003 Playoffs (only behind Duncan and Parker).
If that wasn't enough for you to believe that Duncan was one of the best players of all time, a few years ago Duncan went from being one of the best players of all time to having his head coach (future Hall-of-Famer Gregg Popovich) say that he needed to give up the rains as the "go-to" guy and become one of the key role players as Pop said it was time Duncan to hand the keys over to guard Tony Parker. Its remarkable to me that Duncan can go from being the "alpha dog" to taking a back seat and becoming one of the "other guys" on a team that hasn't missed the playoffs since Tim Duncan entered the league. There's no doubt in my mind that no one else on this list would be able to make that same adjustment in their game.
C: Bill Russell:
The greatest winner of all time, Russell changed the game in the late
1950's and throughout the 60's with his dominant defense and rebounding.
The 2-time NCAA champion atUSF (San Francisco) brought his winning ways
to the Celtics as he won an amazing 11 in of his 13 NBA seasons. I know
there were only 9 teams in the NBA during the Russell era, but Russell
won a title in 11 of his 13 seasons and remember he was going against
the most dominant and imposing center of all time in Wilt Chamberlain.
As great as Wilt was, he was only able to defeat Russell once
head-to-head (1966-1967 season) even though he averaged 30.1 ppg, 22.9
rpg. and 4.4 apg. Chamberlain went on to put up much better stats than
his long time rival Russell but it always seemed that he would come up
short in the head-to-head playoff matchups.
Wilt's best chance to beat Russell was during game 7 of the 1969 NBA Finals as a older Celtics roster (lead by player/coach Bill Russell during his final game) had to hold off the the star studded Lakers on the road during a game seven that featured three of the top twenty-five players of all time in Chamberlain, Jerry West (who became the only NBA player to win finals MVP on the losing roster), and Elgin Baylor. In addition to Russell winning 11 Championships, he also went onto win 5 MVP Awards and show why he was so great at doing anything that he was asked to do on the court. So why did I pick Russell over Chamberlain, Abdul-Jabbar, Shaq, and Olajuwon? Because he didn't need the ball, was one of the best outlet passers of all time, was incredible at protecting the rim, and could slide over to the power forward position and play alongside another dominant big man if need be.
Why these 5 players: With all do respect to everyone else in the NBA, I believe the 5 players listed above are the 5 highest NBA IQ players of all time. Let me make this clear, this isn't supposed to be a shot at any other players as there have been a ton of high IQ players, with that said, in my opinion, the five players above could win a game in so many different fashions and would do whatever it would take to win a game. If that wasn't enough, each of the five players has won at-least 2 MVP Awards (all 5 have combined to win 18) and each has won at-least 3 NBA Championships (combined have won 29 rings and possibly 30 if Duncan wins game 6 or 7).
Kobe Bryant: On my team, my bench needed scoring as my current starting 5 (outside of Jordan and Bird) won't provide my roster will be lacking scoring. Enter Kobe Bryant, who alongside Magic (or someone else on my bench) can provide the necessary scoring need on my team. Kobe's an opportunistic defender that's always looking to step in the passing lanes and trying to start a break or cash in on an easy basket.
Oscar Robertson: The triple-double machine himself can be a mismatch at either the point or two guard position depending whose on the floor. Throughout my roster, I wanted to include players that can play/do more than one thing wither it be being a two way player or individual that can play multiple positions which is why I feel the man with 181 career triple doubles has to be apart of my all-time roster. With the versatility the Big O could offer my roster, I feel he could play with anyone, at anytime on my roster. During the early stages of his career, Oscar was seen as a dominant player that had full control of his team (averaging 25+ points per game all while still having 8+ assists and 6+ rebounds).
once the Big O moved to Milwaukee (prior to the start of the 1970-71
season) he knew that he had to transform his game as he would now be
playing alongside the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. With Jabbar now the
teams prominent scorer, Oscar would now not have to worry about being
the dominate scorer or rebounder and now concentrate on being a great
facilitator and efficient scorer. The plan would work to perfection as
Oscar would go onto win his one and only NBA Championship.
LeBron James: In my opinion, we never have or will see another athlete like LeBron as his combination of speed, power, and passing is incredible and (in a fully complementary way) "freakish." I feel LeBron will finish with the most MVP's of all time (he currently has 4 and the record is 6 held by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and may finish with the most points all time (also held by Kareem), however with all that said, WE NEED TO STOP COMPARING HIM TO JORDAN, AND START CALLING HIM LEBRON!!! I'm sorry I made that all caps, but its something that's been on my chest and I had to get it off.
Ok, I'm not going to go into greater detail about this
(tweet us @TBSportsBlog and I'll be happy to provide you with a list of
reasons why LeBron's not MJ nor ever will be) asLeBron is showing why
he will be a top 10 (possibly top 5) player and in my opinion the
greatest Small Forward when its all said and done. Like Magic and the
Big O, LeBron can play multiple positions on the floor and just imagine a
lineup of Magic, Jordan, LeBron, Bird (would have everyone shot), and
Hakeem on the floor at the same time. You wouldn't be able to score and
the passing ability from that lineup would be unguardable.
Scottie Pippen: This doesn't mean that I feel Scottie Pippen is a top 12 all-time player; all this means is that I feel Scottie would be a tremendous fit on my all-time roster. Why? Because likeLeBron, Scottie can guard at-least 4 positions on the floor. The combination of speed and arm span (reportedly 7'3") made Pippen a nightmare on the defensive end (shown with Pippen being named to the 1st-team all NBA defense team 8 straight times from 1992-1999). Pippen guarded everyone from Magic Johnson (1991 NBA Finals) to Charles Barkley to Mark Jackson (start at minute 7:10) and even Patrick Ewing (don't believe me, check out minute 2:18). With Pippen and LeBron on the floor at the same time, you would feature the two most versatile players in the history of the NBA.
Hakeem Olajuwon: So wait, I decided to go with Hakeem over Wilt, Kareem, and Shaq as my backup center? Yes. Why? Because with this roster, the coach would be able to fit Hakeem into so many different places on this roster. Future Hall-of-Fame Center Shaquille O'Neal once said that the "toughest opponent he's ever faced was Hakeem Olajuwon." The NBA's career leader in shots blocker, Olajuwon would be a terrific pick and roll defender while also finding time to protect the rim. Can you imagine going up against Russell and Olajuwon? I hope you have great shooters because you would never see the rim from within 10 feet.
If that wasn't enough, Olajuwon was one of the best two way players of all time, no more so than March 29th, 1990 when Hakeem's Rockets took on the Milwaukee. During that game, Olajuwon did something that only three other players in the history of the NBA (Nate Thurmond, Alvin Robertson, and David Robinson) have accomplished; record a quadruple double (18 points, 16 rebounds, 10 assists, and 11 blocks). Hakeem was one of the most complete and underrated players of all time, don't agree with me, just ask Hall-of-Fame center David Robinson.
Wilt Chamberlain: The first truly dominant player, at 7'1" 275 lbs., Wilt "The Big Dipper" Chamberlain was (again in a complementary way) a freakish athlete who could dominant a game in so many ways. Chamberlain set a number of records which included scoring 100 points in a season, averaging the most points per game for a season (50.4 during the 1961-1962 season), along with recording the most total rebounds (23,924) over a career and averaging the most rebounds (22.9) per game throughout his illustrious career. So besides all the remarkable stats, what makes Wilt so vital to this team? Along with being a tremendous rebounder, scorer, and shot blocker, Wilt was a terrific passer. In fact, throughout the 1967-1968 season, while he was being criticized for dominating the ball, it was Wilt who decided to change his game as he lead the league in total assists (702) for the season. I felt my all time roster needed a dominant big man who could not only score but also a willing passer.
John Stockton: The NBA all-time leader in steals and assists was the best passer in the history of the NBA. To tell you how dominant a passer Stockton was, if you took away the assists from his final 6 seasons, John would still be the career leader for the most assists all time by 71 assists over the recently retired (now head coach) Jason Kidd. Stockton was one of the most durable players as he only missed 22 games over his Hall-of-Fame career. So with all the dominant players and personalities on my roster, I felt Stockton would be the perfect complementary player as he was always looking to find he open player and then if the shot is there, take the open shot. Many don't remember, but Stockton he was one of the more under appreciated shooters of all time referenced by him shooting over 40% from beyond the arch 7 times and over 80% from the free-throw line all by 3 times.
To sum it up, each player on my roster is/or will be a member of the Hall-of-Fame or will the minute they hang up their shoes from the hardwood. However, I felt these were the best players for my team because of the different qualities they player possess to my roster. From shut down defenders, to dominant scorers, to electrifying passers and everything in-between; each player on my roster is/was able to have at-least two dominate traits. This roster below isn't supposed to show my top 12 all time players (if that was the case Kareem, Shaq, and Mr. Clutch all would have made the roster), but instead look at the best players for my all-time roster.
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