64 Player One-on-One NBA Legends vs. NBA Current-Stars March Madness Tournament
The 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament is right around the corner, and what better way to prepare for it than a 64-player, one-on-one tournament that pits NBA legends vs. current NBA All-Stars.
What we have here is a 64-player, one-on-one tournament that matches 32 NBA legends against 32 NBA current All-Stars, with the style of the tournament mirroring the exact setup of the NCAA "March Madness" Tournament
This incredible tournament provides match-ups we've all dreamed of seeing, like Jordan vs. Kobe/LeBron, Olajuwon vs. Howard, Dr. J vs. Blake Griffin, Larry Bird vs. Dirk Nowitzki, Magic Johnson vs. Derrick Rose, and so many more.
The players are split up in a 64-player March Madness-style bracket. Instead of regions like the NCAA tournament, this tourney is set up based on the following positions, center/power forward (C/PF), power forward/small forward (PF/SF), small forward/shooting guard (SF/SG) and shooting guard/point guard (SG/PG).
If you're not excited about this epic one-on-one showdown, you aren't a true NBA fan.
How the Tournament Works
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Here are the official game rules for the NBA legends vs. NBA current stars one-on-one tournament:
1. Game is to 25 points. A player must win by two points.
2. All shots are worth one point (like any true one-on-one game).
3. Fouls are called by the defender and result in a change of possession.
4. Shot clock is set at 24 seconds.
5. All defensive rebounds that aren't air balls must be taken back past the three-point line.
6. Game is "make-it take-it" rules.
Now that the official rules have been set, let's move on to the position-based player/seeding reveals.
Center/Power Forward Seeding and Matchups
(1) Bill Russell, C
(2) Wilt Chamberlain, C
(3) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, C
(4) Shaquille O'Neal, C
(5) Hakeem Olajuwon, C
(6) David Robinson, C
(7) Moses Malone, PF
(8) Patrick Ewing, C
NBA Current All-Stars:
First-Round PF/C Matchups:
(1) Bill Russell vs. (16) LaMarcus Aldridge
(2) Wilt Chamberlin vs. (15) Kevin Love
(3) Kareem Abdul Jabbar vs. (14)Zach Randolph
(4) Shaquille O'Neal vs. (13) Pau Gasol
(5) Hakeem Olajuwon vs. (12)Kevin Garnett
(6) David Robinson vs. (11) Tim Duncan
(7) Moses Malone vs. (10) Amare Stoudemire
(8) Patrick Ewing vs. (9) Dwight Howard
Power Forward/Small Forward Seeding and Matchups
(1) Larry Bird, PF/SF
(2) Karl Malone, PF
(3) Charles Barkley, PF/SF
(4) James Worthy, SF
(5) Julius Irving, PF
(6) Kevin McHale, PF
(7) Willis Reed, PF
(8) Elvin Hayes, PF
NBA Current All-Stars:
First-Round PF/SF Matchups
(1) Larry Bird vs. (16) Rudy Gay
(2) Karl Malone vs. (15) Al Horford
(3) Charles Barkley vs. (14) Andre Iguodala
(4) James Worthy vs. (13) Chris Bosh
(5) Julius Irving vs. (12) Blake Griffin
(6) Kevin McHale vs. (11) Paul Pierce
(7) Willis Reed vs. (10) Carmelo Anthony
(8) Elvin Hayes vs. (9) Dirk Nowitzki
Small Forward/Shooting Guard Seeding and Matchups
(1) Michael Jordan, SF/SG
(2) Oscar Robertson, SG
(3) George Gervin, SG
(4) Elgin Baylor, SF
(5) Dominique Wilkins, SF
(6) Rick Barry, SF
(7) John Havlicek, SF
(8) Scottie Pippen, SF
NBA Current All-Stars:
First-Round SF/SG Matchups
(1) Michael Jordan vs. (16) Eric Gordon
(2) Oscar Robertson vs. (15) Joe Johnson
(3) George Gervin vs. (14) Danny Granger
(4) Elgin Baylor vs. (13) Ray Allen
(5) Dominique Wilkins vs. (12)Manu Ginobili
(6) Rick Barry vs. (11) Kevin Durant
(7) John Havlicek vs. (10) LeBron James
(8) Scottie Pippen vs. (9) Kobe Bryant
Shooting Guard/Point Guard Seeding and Matchups
(1) Magic Johnson, SF/SG/PG
(2) Jerry West, SG/PG
(3) Pete Maravich, SG/PG
(4) Isiah Thomas, PG
(5) Walt Frazier, PG
(6) Allen Iverson, PG
(7) John Stockton, PG
(8) Gary Payton, PG
NBA Current All-Stars
First-Round SG/PG Matchups
(1) Magic Johnson vs. (16) Tony Parker
(2) Jerry West vs. (15) Monta Ellis
(3) Pete Maravich vs. (14) Russell Westbrook
(4) Isiah Thomas vs. (13) Deron Williams
(5) Walt Frazier vs. (12) Chris Paul
(6) Allen Iverson vs. (11) Steve Nash
(7) John Stockton vs. (10) Derrick Rose
(8) Gary Payton vs. (9) Dwyane Wade
C/PF First Round: No. 1 Bill Russell vs. No. 16 LaMarcus Aldridge
The 26-year-old LaMarcus Aldridge has a lot of potential, but that won't mean anything when he steps on the court against all-time great Bill Russell.
Aldridge has the ability to step outside the paint and hit jump shots, but that won't help him all that much against the shot-blocking specialist known as Russell.
Russell is one of the most intelligent players to ever play the game. He understands the art of timing both on offense and defense and is extremely opportunistic. While his ability to rebound won't come in handy here, his ability to alter and block shots will be a difference-maker here.
Russell's ability to elevate and hit floaters will lead him to victory over the upstart Aldridge. I can't see Aldridge scoring more than 15 against the staunch defense of this all-time great.
Bill Russell (25) LaMarcus Aldridge (15)
C/PF First Round: No. 2 Wilt Chamberlain vs. No. 15 Kevin Love
Wilt Chamberlain won't need all 100 points of his epic 100-point game to beat Kevin Love in this first-round matchup, but he will need 25 of them.
Surprisingly enough, Chamberlain doesn't have a huge size advantage against Love, but the three inches he has on him will certainly help him. Unfortunately for Love, his unbelievable knack for rebounding won't really help him in this matchup.
The one aspect of Love's game that will keep this matchup closer than most would think is his ability to shoot. Love can shoot outside jump shots with the best of them.
Love will jump out to an early lead, hitting some nice jump shots to pull ahead, but ultimately Chamberlain will step out and force Love to beat him inside, which he just can't do.
Chamberlain will bruise Love down in the paint and will give him a lesson in what it means to play physical basketball.
Wilt Chamberlain (25) Kevin Love (17)
C/PF First Round: No. 3 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar vs. No. 14 Zach Randolph
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Zach Randolph, say hello to the hook shot; you have never seen a hook shot this pure and this unstoppable in your life.
I know people will hate on this, but I give Z-bo only a 15 percent chance to pull this win out. Kareem will prove too athletic and too intelligent of a player for Randolph to beat. Z-bo will use his size to push Kareem a little bit, but when he tries to get shots off he will meet the long arm of Kareem.
Kareem's hook shot will not be able to be stopped against Randolph. Randolph's inability to elevate on defense when he tries to block shots will ultimately be his downfall.
Z-bo doesn't have enough defense to come close to stopping Kareem's offensive skill set. Maybe in a few years Randolph will be able to hang with Kareem, but not right now.
Kareem Abdul Jabbar (25) Zach Randolph (14)
C/PF First Round: No. 4 Shaquille O'Neal vs. No. 13 Pau Gasol
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Here's quite a matchup. The two dominant centers that helped Kobe get all his rings pitted against one another. This matchup looks lopsided on paper; Gasol weighs in at a healthy 250 pounds, whereas Shaq weighs in at a whopping 325 pounds.
While his weight gives O'Neal a decisive advantage in the paint, it also will be his downfall when it comes to defending Gasol outside of the paint. The moment that Gasol steps out of the paint is the moment when Shaq gets put on his heels and is out of his comfort zone.
Shaq will have a difficult time being able to defend Gasol's jumper, but ultimately will be able to force him to win the game in the paint, and that is where Shaq will take over. I have a hard time believing that Gasol could out-play Shaq any day of the week in the paint, and that is what will be his downfall. Gasol will keep the game close until he misses his first shot and Shaq gets the ball.
Once Shaq gets the ball, he will take the ball to the post and will use his drop-step to show Gasol who's boss. Shaq will show Gasol who is the better Lakers center that played during the Kobe era.
Shaquille O'Neal (25) Pau Gasol (19)
C/PF First Round: No. 5 Hakeem Olajuwon vs. No. 12 Kevin Garnett
This is about as close as you can get to having someone play against themselves in a one-on-one game. Hakeem Olajuwon and Kevin Garnett are nearly identically sized, and both play basketball in a very similar way.
They are both physical and athletic defenders. They both can play physical in the post, yet they both still have the ability to hit mid-range jumpers when needed.
The difference maker in this mirror-image matchup will be the extra polish that Hakeem has on his post game. Hakeem will go shot for shot with Garnett when it comes to the perimeter, but in the post, Olajuwon will be able to pull away with his mini-hook in the paint.
Garnett will keep it close, but his emotion will wear off and Olajuwon will block one or two of Garnett's late chances. "The dream" starts off strong with a win against Garnett.
Hakeem Olajuwon (25) Kevin Garnett (22)
C/PF First Round: No. 6 David Robinson vs. No. 11 Tim Duncan
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Here is a dream matchup of former teammates David Robinson and Tim Duncan. Duncan and Robinson were both members of the San Antonio Spurs during their 1999 NBA championship season.
While they were both pivotal in winning that championship, Duncan was a little more dominant, which is evidenced by him being named finals MVP.
This game will go well past the 25-point line and will go to the player who has more touch on their offensive game. It goes without saying that Duncan has the advantage when it comes to shooting ability for a big man. Duncan has set himself apart as a center by being able to step back and hit jumpers that other centers can't even dream of making.
Duncan is also a surprisingly strong finisher, not necessarily more physical than Robinson in finishing, but he has a finish that Robinson never had. Duncan hits some later 18-foot bank shots to show the admiral who's boss in San Antonio.
Tim Duncan (32) David Robinson (30)
C/PF First Round: No. 7 Moses Malone vs. No. 10 Amare Stoudemire
Here is a battle between two players who never stepped foot on a NCAA basketball court.
Moses Malone, before guys like Stoudemire, Kobe or Garnett, was one of the first players to go straight from a high school to the ABA/NBA. Amare and Moses are extremely similar players both in the way they play and in their physical stature.
This is a tough matchup to call because both players have the ability to bang down low all night long. That is why the game will go to the player who is able to stretch the court, even if it is only a 15-foot stretch. Amare Stoudemire gets the advantage here because of his ability to hit turn-around jumpers like it's his job. Well, it actually is his job.
If Amare wants to, he can take Moses out to the perimeter and force Moses out of the paint. Once Stoudemire does that, the game will be in his hands and he will take this upset win to the bank. Stoudemire wins and makes a statement about who the better high-school-to-NBA player is.
Amare Stoudemire (25) Moses Malone (19)
C/PF First Round: No. 8 Patrick Ewing vs. No. 9 Dwight Howard
Here is a matchup of two powerful centers. One of the strongest points of both of these players is their ability to draw double-teams because of their absolutely dominating play in the paint.
While they are both similarly sized, the fact that Howard has 25 pounds of pure muscle on Ewing gives him an advantage in this matchup.
The finesse that Howard lacks in his ability to shoot he makes up for by his freakish strength and post moves. Ewing would undoubtedly hit some jumpers and hook shots against Howard, showing off his fine-tuned basketball skills, but ultimately, Howard would power past him in the post.
Defense will be the difference in this game, and Howard will play with more athleticism and more tenacity than Ewing, ultimately giving him a slight edge in a close matchup.
Dwight Howard (25) Patrick Ewing (22)
PF/SF First Round: No. 1 Larry Bird vs. No. 16 Rudy Gay
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Larry legend enters the tournament against an athletic power forward in Rudy Gay.
Larry Bird is a one-of-a-kind power forward, with the ability to hit jump shots with incredible consistency at almost any range. Gay, on the other hand, is an extremely athletic power forward who plays much more like a shooting guard.
The one enormous advantage that Bird has in this matchup, aside from his mustache, is the efficiency that defines his game. Bird's efficiency rating for his career is 23.5 percent, as compared to Gay's 16 percent average.
Gay's athleticism will keep him in this game early on, with his ability to get to the rim being the foundation of his game in this matchup. Ultimately, though, Bird will start hitting the mid and long-range jumpers that defined his career.
Bird pulls away from Gay and earns himself a spot in the second round.
Larry Bird (25) Rudy Gay (17)
PF/SF First Round: No. 2 Karl Malone vs. No. 15 Al Horford
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The mailman enters the tournament against a young, athletic center in Al Horford.
This matchup will be much closer than you would think. Karl Malone and Horford play very similar games. They are both physical power forward/centers who have the ability to bang down low, in addition to stepping outside of the paint and hitting jumpers when needed.
Ultimately, the difference in this matchup will be Malone's ability to finds ways to score, as evidenced by his absurd career 25 points per game average, as compared to Horford's 12.8 average.
Malone gives the young Horford a lesson in the fundamentals of basketball and shows him the damage that can be done when you mix a powerful post game with a potent outside jumper.
Malone escapes the first round with a win over Horford in a game that is close the entire way through.
Karl Malone (25) Al Horford (21)
PF/SF First Round: No. 3 Charles Barkley vs. No. 14 Andre Iguodala
Who's that lean, mean driving machine?
That's the significantly slimmer and younger version of Charles Barkley that young Andre Iguodala never met. Iguodala is going to see first-hand just how athletic Barkley used to be.
Barkley and Iguodala are very different types of players. Barkley is a polished post player, while Iguodala plays more like a flashy shooting guard than he does a small forward.
Barkley, throughout his career, shot 54 percent from the field, as opposed to Iguodala's 46 percent shooting average. The reason for that is Barkley's ability to get to the rim for easy and high-percentage scoring opportunities.
Like usual, Iguodala will jack up questionable shots, which will give Barkley the ball and allow him to take over the game.
Barkley shows the young Iguodala what finesse looks like in this first-round beat down.
Charles Barkley (25) Andre Iguodala (16)
PF/SF First Round: No. 4 James Worthy vs. No. 13 Chris Bosh
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I had a tough time picking this matchup. Both Worthy and Bosh are similarly sized, with Bosh coming in just an inch taller and maybe 10 pounds heavier.
What sets these players apart is something that you will notice if you watch any of James Worthy's highlights. Worthy seemed to always have an extra gear that other players did not have.
Worthy's first dribble and step to the basket was always explosive and energized. I'm not saying that Bosh doesn't have that, but Worthy was just always a little faster and a little stronger than his opponent. Bosh has a much more developed jumper, but as evidenced by the 2011 NBA finals, if his jumper is not on, his entire game is off.
If Bosh doesn't have his jumper, he doesn't have rhythm on offense, and that is what is going to happen in this matchup. Bosh's rhythm on offense is going to be stymied by Worthy's speed and tenacity on defense. Worthy escapes the upset here.
James Worthy (25) Chris Bosh (21)
PF/SF First Round: No. 5 Julius Erving vs. No. 12 Blake Griffin
If you want a matchup between two of the highest flyers in the NBA, then here it is.
Dr. J glides through the air, dunking with a finesse that you don't see any more. Blake Griffin soars through the air and throw-dunks the ball like it just made fun of his mom. While they are different types of dunkers, the one thing they have in common is their unbelievable athletic ability, and that is what makes this matchup so hard to pick.
Watch any highlight of Julius Erving and you will be amazed at the way he seems to float around the court. His speed, mixed with his athleticism, sets him apart from most players, but what makes him different than Griffin is that he doesn't rely on that to be great.
Where Griffin relies on his athletic ability to carry him, Dr. J developed a jump shot to compliment his incredible athleticism. Griffin dominates this game early with his size and strength, but ultimately, the fact that Dr. J has a solidified perimeter game sends Dr. J to the winners circle. In the battle of the high-flyers, it will be a few outside jump shots that makes the difference.
Julius Erving (27) Blake Griffin (25)
PF/SF First Round: No. 6 Kevin McHale vs. No. 11 Paul Pierce
Two Celtics greats finally get a chance to meet on the court, and what a great matchup it would be.
On one side you have Kevin McHale, Larry Bird's partner in crime, and on the other you have Paul Pierce, the man who has carried the Celtics for the last 13 years.
Both McHale and Pierce have one thing in common: the way they play basketball. They both have silky-smooth jumpers and play with a certain determination that sets them apart from most players.
McHale is remembered as the guy who played with Bird and won three championships with him. Pierce will be remembered by his dedication to the Celtics and his ability to carry the team on his shoulders.
Pierce, who averages just over 22 points per game, as compared to 17.6 points per game for McHale, is known for his fadeaway turnaround jumper that at times seems unstoppable. McHale won't be able to contain Pierce's jumper, and when he thinks he can, Pierce will transition into his post game, which will carry him to the victory circle.
Pierce proves that he might just be above McHale on the all-time greats list for the Boston Celtics.
Paul Pierce (25) Kevin McHale (19)
PF/SF First Round: No. 7 Willis Reed vs. No. 10 Carmelo Anthony
Chris Trotman/Getty Images
Now that Carmelo Anthony is on the New York Knicks, he has a lot to live up to. He will be compared to past greats that have graced Madison Square Garden before him, and one of those greats is Willis Reed.
Reed, who plays more like a power forward than a small forward, has a legitimate post game grounded in a deadly up-and-under move that consistently gets defenders in the air. Carmelo, on the other hand, has a smooth jumper that defenders just can't seem to stop.
Reed and Carmelo are both equally sized, with Reed getting a slight edge in the physicality category. Anthony will be able to pull Reed outside of the paint and make him uncomfortable on defense. Reed, however, will use his up-and-under move to get space inside and hit high-percentage shots that will keep the game close.
The decisive factor in this game is whether or not Carmelo will decide to play defense. My guess is with his reputation as a great New York Knick on the line, he will play the kind of physical defense we all know he can, which will ultimately be the reason he comes out on top. Carmelo proves to New York that he is here to stay.
Carmelo Anthony (29) Willis Reed (27)
PF/SF First Round: No. 8 Elvin Hayes vs. No. 9 Dirk Nowitzki
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Now here is a matchup that I would pay to see. Two strong power forwards that can play in the post if needed, but ultimately resort to a mid-range jumper to earn their paychecks.
Hayes and Nowitzki aren't mirror images of one another, as Nowitzki has three inches on Hayes, but they play a very similar game. Watch any highlight of Elvin Hayes and you will see a jump shot that, even form-wise, looks eerily similar to Nowitzki's. The main difference is the range that each player has.
Nowitzki is able to hit his signature turnaround one-foot fadeaway from basically anywhere on the court, whereas Hayes's shot was most effective within 18 feet. While Hayes's shot was obviously limited because of the lack of a three-point line, which never forced him out further, Nowitzki brings the ability to stretch the floor because you have to guard him everywhere he is at.
Dirk Nowitzki ultimately is able to use his height to shut down Hayes's offensive attack just long enough to close him out and move on to the second round.
Dirk Nowitzki (28) Elvin Hayes (26)
SF/SG First Round: No. 1 Michael Jordan vs. No. 16 Eric Gordon
Enter "His Airness" himself, Michael Jordan.
The man that so many consider the greatest professional basketball player of all time enters this legendary tournament in an unbelievably lopsided matchup against the young Eric Gordon. I'm not saying Gordon is a bad basketball player; I'm just saying he is up for a rude awakening when he steps on the court against Jordan.
This game will not be close at all because Jordan will simply be too much to handle for the inexperienced Gordon. Jordan will look like he's toying with Gordon, hitting jumpers with ease and getting to the rim and finishing at will.
Gordon will be able to hit some shots, but ultimately, the only person who will be able to stop Jordan in this matchup is himself, and that won't happen. His Airness starts off the tournament with a huge statement-win.
Michael Jordan (25) Eric Gordon (9)
SF/SG First Round: No. 2 Oscar Robertson vs. No. 15 Joe Johnson
Joe Johnson, at 6'7'', 240 pounds, is a little bit bigger than Oscar Robertson, at 6'5'', 220 pounds, but that doesn't mean he is a better player.
Johnson's game reflects the true essence of a shooting guard, with an ability to hit big shots and hit a consistent jumper. Robertson, on the other hand, is a more well-rounded player who is known for his ability to create opportunities for himself by means of his athletic prowess.
Johnson's ability to hit long-range shots will help him stay in the game early on, but Robertson will ultimately overwhelm him with his legitimate athleticism and ability to create opportunities for himself.
Robertson was one of the first "big guards," and while he is undersized compared to Johnson, he still is able to play more physical than one would expect, which will help him grab the first-round win.
Oscar Robertson moves on to the second round.
Oscar Robertson (25) Joe Johnson (18)
SF/SG First Round: No. 3 George Gervin vs. No. 14 Danny Granger
In what will be the first close game of the SF/SG division, these two players will show us what fundamental basketball looks like.
Danny Granger is on the rise, playing for a struggling team in the Pacers, who he has helped make a semi-legitimate team. George Gervin is a tall-yet-undersized shooting guard who made his living by hitting jumpers in defenders' faces, earning him four NBA scoring titles in his career.
Gervin will control the game for the first few minutes, overwhelming Granger with his ability to elevate and consistently hit mid-range shots. Once Granger gets the ball, he will be able to use his size advantage to get back into the game and hold Gervin in check offensively.
The difference-maker in this game is going to be Gervin's experience and his ability to seemingly score at will. Gervin ultimately takes down Granger in a close game.
George Gervin (25) Danny Granger (21)
SF/SG First Round: No. 4 Elgin Baylor vs. No. 13 Ray Allen
This game is incredibly tough to pick because both players are pure scorers.
Ray Allen is averaging 20.2 points per game on 45 percent shooting, whereas Elgin Baylor averages 27.4 points per game on 43 percent shooting. One of the biggest differences between these legendary players is Elgin's size difference. Baylor is a beast and he plays like one, whereas Allen is more so a set shooter.
The difference-maker in this game is going to be Baylor's ability to force Allen into situations where he can't rely on his jump shot. On offense, Baylor will use his athleticism to wear Allen out, to the point where Baylor can create space and hit jump shots to pull away late.
Baylor proves that you need more than a nice jumper to make it in a one-on-one tournament.
Elgin Baylor (25) Ray Allen (21)
SF/SG First Round: No. 5 Dominique Wilkins vs. No. 13 Manu Ginobili
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
One of the little known facts of high-flyer Dominique Wilkins is that he was actually a decent mid-range threat during the middle of his career, as evidenced by his 81 percent career free-throw percentage.
Without Wilkins's ability to step out and hit some shots, Manu Ginobili would be able to win this matchup, but luckily for Wilkins, that is not the case. Ginobili is a great teammate, a great leader and an intelligent player, but that won't be the difference-maker here.
The difference-maker for this matchup will be Wilkins's athletic ability and mid-range shot, which will keep Ginobili guessing all game.
Wilkins is a bigger, stronger and more physical player than Ginobili, which will be an advantage in this matchup. Ginobili will stay right with Wilkins the entire time, though, because of the grit he plays with. Ginobili will get to the rim early, but will be shut down late by Wilkins's defense and athleticism.
Wilkins will get one or two highlight-reel dunks, but the difference-maker will be his jump shot near the end of the game.
Dominique Wilkins (25) Manu Ginobili (22)
SF/SG First Round: No. 6 Rick Barry vs. No. 11 Kevin Durant
I never thought I would hear myself say this, but the truth is, the difference in this classic matchup between two prolific scorers will be Kevin Durant's physicality.
Wait, Durant playing physical? Well, when compared to other players his size, Durant is rather weak, but when it comes to this matchup, he will undoubtedly outmatch Rick Barry. Barry is one of the greatest shooters in NBA history, but so is Durant.
It goes without saying that both of these players can score at will, and in this matchup they will. That is why the game will be decided not by who can score the most, but by who can stop the other player to get the ball back.
The advantage there ultimately goes to Durant and his ability to play physical when he chooses to. Durant and Barry will go back and forth all game and pass the 25-point threshold, but ultimately, Durant will decide to take over and take over he will.
Durant pulls the upset here and moves on to the second round.
Kevin Durant (31) Rick Barry (29)
SF/SG First Round: No. 7 John Havlicek vs. No. 10 LeBron James
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Here is a matchup that many would look to as a potential LeBron upset of Havlicek, and those people are right.
The upset will happen, but it won't be a blowout like some people would think. Havlicek will keep it close with his defense that earned him five NBA all-first team defense honors, but it ultimately won't be enough to match LeBron's size and speed.
Havlicek will have never seen a player like LeBron, with the physical stature of a power forward and the speed and athleticism of a shooting guard. LeBron, when he wants to, will take over the game with his ability to drive to the rim and finish even with Havlicek hanging on him. Havlicek will stay in the game with his quick-release jumper, but LeBron's defense will prove too strong for him to outlast.
LeBron moves one step closer to a potential Michael Jordan matchup with his first-round win over Havlicek.
LeBron James (25) John Havlicek (16)
SF/SG First Round: No. 8 Scottie Pippen vs. No. 9 Kobe Bryant
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This is a matchup that the media would eat up. The assistant to Michael Jordan's dynasty against the player that some think could be better than Jordan someday.
Scottie Pippen vs. Kobe Bryant is an instant-classic matchup, but it is blatantly obvious who wins here, and that player is Bryant. Pippen's career numbers are nowhere near Kobe's, but that could be the result of playing on a team with the greatest NBA player of all time.
Kobe and Pippen are similar players, at least on the defensive side of the ball. Pippen, an eight-time NBA all-first team defender, and Kobe, a nine-time NBA all-first team defender. Where they are clearly different is in offensive production, with Kobe averaging 25.3 points per game and Pippen averaging only 16.7 points per game.
That will undoubtedly happen with Jordan on your team, but still, Pippen just doesn't have the offensive skill to hang with Kobe. Pippen will make it semi-competitive with his physicality against Kobe, but Kobe will pull away late with some beautiful jumpers.
Kobe wins and moves on to face greatness itself: Michael Jordan.
Kobe Bryant (25) Scottie Pippen (17)
SG/PG First Round: No. 1 Magic Johnson vs. No. 16 Tony Parker
Magic Johnson steps on the court against Tony Parker. For the way Magic Johnson plays, he is extremely oversized.
Magic is a towering 6’9’’ but runs the floor like a 5’11’’ point guard. At 6’2’’, Tony Parker is undersized in this matchup, but that doesn’t mean he is completely out.
Tony Parker, being the smart player that he is, will use Magic’s height against him. Early on, Parker will pressure Magic and steal the ball a couple of times when he faces up on offense.
Ultimately, that won’t be the difference-maker because Magic will adapt and simply start backing down the much smaller Parker.
The fact that Magic has 75 pounds on Parker will be an obstacle that Parker will not be able to overcome.
Magic doesn’t need a lot of magic to get this win.
Magic Johnson (25) Tony Parker (15)
SG/PG First Round: No. 2 Jerry West vs. No. 15 Monta Ellis
Monta Ellis can’t handle Mr. Clutch in this first-round matchup.
What Ellis lacks is the fundamentals that Jerry West lives by; West will give Ellis a rude awakening in what it takes to be the guy inside the NBA logo.
Jerry West and his ability to score will ultimately win this one, but Ellis won’t be completely blown out because of his ability to hit long-range shots. Monta Ellis just doesn’t have what it takes at this point in his career to be considered one of the best.
Jerry West, on the other hand, has proven year in and year out of his career that he is able to almost score at will.
West pulls away early and doesn’t let off the gas with his four-time NBA First-Team defensive skills.
Jerry West (25) Monta Ellis (17)
SG/PG First Round: No. 3 Pete Maravich vs. No. 14 Russell Westbrook
This is going to be the first close matchup in the SG/PG division.
One of the flashiest and most consistent point guards in NBA history is pitted against a rising NBA star who plays an extremely physical and aggressive game. Further, Pistol Pete and Russell Westbrook play two different games, which makes this matchup hard to pick.
Russell Westbrook will be able to strong-arm Maravich with his physical play on defense, but that won’t faze a legend like Maravich.
Russell Westbrook will also be able to use his ability to elevate to create open shots and high-percentage shots for himself, however, the only problem is that Westbrook doesn’t have the finish on his jumper needed to hit all those mid-range jumpers.
On the other hand, Pistol Pete does have that touch on his game, and that is what will ultimately be the difference-maker here.
Pistol Pete teaches Westbrook a lesson in the necessity of having a legitimate jump shot.
Pete Maravich (25) Russell Westbrook (21)
SG/PG First Round: No. 4 Isiah Thomas vs. No. 13 Deron Williams
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This is going to be a physical, physical matchup. As a point guard, Isiah Thomas had a reputation to be a player who did not shy away from contact, much like his opponent Deron Williams.
Thomas is known for his ability to drive to the hole, but that will be difficult against the bigger and stronger Deron Williams. Statistically speaking, Thomas has the career advantage, averaging 19.2 points per game, as opposed to Deron Williams's 17.1 points per game average.
This matchup ultimately comes down to the player who will play more physical than the other; I believe that player is Deron Williams, and while I almost can’t believe I am saying that, he is definitely one of the most physical point guards in the NBA today.
When Williams gets angry or motivated you better get out of his way, because he plays like a man possessed. Williams also has a more dominant three-point shot, which will be a huge advantage as Williams forces Thomas to the perimeter.
Williams bangs out the first upset of the SG/PG division.
Deron Williams (25) Isiah Thomas (22)
SG/PG First Round: No. 5 Walt Frazier vs. No. 12 Chris Paul
My gut is telling me that Chris Paul can pull out this upset, but I just don’t think it’s realistically possible.
Coming in at 6’0’’ and 175 pounds, Chris Paul is undersized in this matchup, whereas Frazier is 6’4’’, 200 pounds.
Both of these players are very similar in the way they play the game—Paul and Frazier are both pass-first, shoot-second point guards, but they both have the ability to take over a game offensively if needed.
Frazier will bring his infamous “I’m not even playing defense” style of defense into this matchup and Chris Paul will not know what to do. It’s not often that a one-on-one game comes down to who is able to force more turnovers, but that is the case here.
Walt Frazier will frustrate Paul on defense, forcing Paul into rushing his shots and over-committing on defense.
Once Frazier gets into Paul’s head, the game is over. Walt Frazier proves that sometimes defense is all that matters, and Chris Paul is a witness to that.
Walt Frazier (25) Chris Paul (22)
SG/PG First Round: No. 6 Allen Iverson vs. No. 11 Steve Nash
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Allen Iverson and Steve Nash play the game in completely different ways.
Allen Iverson is a shooting guard in a point guard’s body, always looking to jack up a shot no matter where he is on the court.
Steve Nash, on the other hand, is a pure point guard who looks to create opportunities first and shoot second.
While both players are different, they do have one thing in common: their ability to score.
This matchup will be difficult for Nash because he does not have any teammates to create opportunities for—it’s all on him on the court. A large part of Nash’s game is linked to the pick-and-roll, and that will not be available here.
Iverson’s sharpshooter mentality and the fact that his game always resembles that of a one-on-one player’s game will be to his advantage.
The four-time NBA scoring champion, Iverson, will pour it on once he gets the ball and will not let up. Steve Nash will stay in the game but Iverson’s unbelievably quick step-back jumper will prove fatal for Nash.
Iverson has all the answers in this first-round matchup.
Allen Iverson (25) Steve Nash (20)
SG/PG First Round: No. 7 John Stockton vs. No. 10 Derrick Rose
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This is the epitome of an old school vs. new school matchup.
Derrick Rose exemplifies what point guards are developing into: well-rounded and extremely athletic players who can not only manage the court, but can also step back for the shot and get to the rim when necessary.
John Stockton, on the other hand, is the definition of “court general.” He did everything his team needed of him to win, and that usually meant getting the ball to Karl Malone. Bad news here is that Malone isn’t on court here to help.
Derrick Rose would dominate this matchup on both sides of the ball. Rose is much more physical than Stockton and has an unbelievable advantage on him when it comes to athletic ability.
The Utah Jazz legend will not be able to stop Rose when Rose decides to take it to the rim, and if somehow he does stop him, Rose will simply elevate and hit mid-range jumpers over him.
Rose averages almost 21 points per game, whereas Stockton averages around 13 points per game—that says all we need to know about the matchup.
Rose absolutely dominates. Enough said.
Derrick Rose (25) John Stockton (14)
SG/PG First Round: No. 8 Gary Payton vs. No. 9 Dwyane Wade
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Gary Payton and Dwyane Wade are two different types of players. Payton, better known as “the glove,” is a defensive specialist, whereas Wade is an all-around player who is a great scorer and an above-average defender.
Wade’s identity is rooted in the fact that he can do whatever is needed of him on-court; Payton’s identity is in his ability to defend, and that is what will get him through this game.
Dwyane Wade would dominate this matchup if Payton weren’t one of the best defenders of all time. Payton, a nine-time NBA All-Defensive First Team selection, will be able to hang with Wade solely because he will be able to lock him down for stretches.
The only problem is that Wade will use the 40-pound advantage he has on Payton to dominate him on defense. Payton also will have a difficult time scoring against Wade in the paint, which is a staple of his game.
Payton’s lack of a polished offensive game will come back to bite him in this matchup—Wade will run away with the game simply by outlasting the Glove.
Wade shows determination and persistence in this first-round matchup.
Dwyane Wade (25) Gary Payton (15)
C/PF Second Round: No. 1 Bill Russell vs. No. 9 Dwight Howard
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Dwight Howard won't be able to believe it himself, but he will beat Bill Russell in an epic matchup that pits incredible fundamental skill against athleticism and strength.
This is such a difficult matchup to pick, and I know a lot of people will disagree with this selection, but I think it's the right one.
I may have ranked Russell too high at No. 1, but either way, he has to play Howard, who will just be too physical for Russell to handle. Russell's game is characterized by smarts and fundamentals, whereas Howard's is defined by strength and explosive athleticism.
The fact that Howard has almost 50 pounds on Russell is a huge advantage, one that Howard will take advantage of every time he gets the ball. Russell will stay in the game because he will grab offensive rebounds and find ways to finish, but he won't be able to stop Howard consistently enough to get the win.
Dwight Howard (25) Bill Russell (23)
C/PF Second Round: No. 5 Hakeem Olajuwon vs. No. 4 Shaquille O'Neal
"The Dream" vs. "The Diesel." This one is not easy to pick because both Olajuwon and O'Neal play entirely different types of games.
O'Neal's claim to fame was his ability to push absolutely everyone around whenever he wanted to. He was physical and could finish strong around the rim.
Olajuwon, on the other hand, was a more technical player of the game. He perfected his hook shot and was able to step away from the paint and hit mid-range jumpers.
Olajuwon's ability to hit jumpers will ultimately give him the victory in this matchup. Olajuwon was a physical player, especially on defense, earning him the NBA Defensive Player of the Year honors two times in his career. O'Neal never played that kind of tight and technical defense.
When Olajuwon gets the ball, he will take advantage of his ability to hit jumpers and exploit O'Neal's defensive skill outside of the perimeter. Hakeem "The Dream" will beat "Big Daddy Diesel" in this all-time great matchup.
Hakeem Olajuwon (25) Shaquille O'Neal (20)
C/PF Second Round: No. 6 Tim Duncan vs. No. 3 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
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This is a matchup for the ages. Both players are the epitome of fundamental basketball and play with an extremely high basketball I.Q.
Kareem amazingly perfected the hook shot, and when I say perfected, I mean absolutely perfected. Kareem could hit the jump shot from 20 feet out.
On the same level, Duncan continues to perfect the art of the bank shot fadeaway from anywhere on the court inside 20 feet.
This matchup will not be contained within the first 25 points. While both players play extremely solid defense, as evidenced by a combined 13 NBA All-Defensive First Team honors between them both, this will ultimately come down to who is able to hit two consecutive shots late in the game.
Kareem has three inches on Duncan and has a higher vertical leap, which will give him a slight advantage in being able to block Duncan's shot as he grows tired at the end of the game. Kareem hits two long hook shots to move on to the next round.
Kareem Abdul Jabbar (31) Tim Duncan (29)
C/PF Second Round: No. 1 Wilt Chamberlain vs. No. 10 Amare Stoudemire
Wilt Chamberlain won't have nearly as easy of a time beating Amare Stoudemire as he did with Kevin Love, but Wilt will still come out on top.
While a large part of Chamberlain's productivity is because of the era in which he played, it doesn't change the fact that he absolutely dominated everyone, averaging over 30 points per game for his career.
Stoudemire is not on the same level as Chamberlain, and in a lot of respects, is a different kind of player. Stoudemire has more of a mid-range game than Chamberlain.
This game will be close early, as Stoudemire is able to pound the ball down low while hitting a few jumpers when Chamberlain overcommits.
Chamberlain will ultimately run away with the game, using his height and physicality to overpower Stoudemire down low to get easy scoring opportunities. Kudos to Stoudemire for staying in the game, but Chamberlain moves on to the next round in a somewhat simple fashion.
Wilt Chamberlain (25) Amare Stoudemire (16)
PF/SF Second Round: No. 1 Larry Bird vs. No. 8 Dirk Nowitzki
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This matchup is the definition of the word epic. Two players who can flatout score and do so almost at will. This is without a doubt one of the top four matchups of this tournament, and the game will be one of the closest as well.
Larry Bird has the clear advantage in physicality and mental toughness. Larry will fluster Nowitzki early on with his defensive prowess, but that won't be enough by itself to win. Nowitzki's height will prove to be an important factor, as Larry's jumper is harder to sink because of Nowitzki's lengthy arms contesting his shots.
On the other end, Bird's defense will not be able to consistently stop Nowitzki from hitting his dribble-drive fadeaway.
Bird will not let Nowitzki run away with this game at any point, constantly hitting 18-20 footers. Larry will bang with Dirk for the entire game, even resorting to his legendary trash talking to try and grab the upper hand.
Dirk's size is really what makes the difference here, and late in the game, Dirk will resort to his post up game to try and get the win. Nowitzki ultimately holds the legendary Bird to his jersey number, which is just enough to get Nowitzki this huge upset.
Dirk Nowitzki (35) Larry Bird (33)
PF/SF Second Round: No. 2 Karl Malone vs. No. 10 Carmelo Anthony
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Carmelo Anthony vs. Karl Malone is a really odd matchup. On one side, I think Karl Malone would dominate with his physicality and his ability to bang in the paint.
On the other side, part of me thinks Carmelo Anthony would take this matchup because of his silky-smooth jumper, forcing Malone to defend him outside the paint. If this matchup was played 10 times, I believe Melo would win five and Malone would win five, but for the sake of this tournament, I have to go ahead and make a pick.
I know people will hate on this pick, but I'm going with Melo over Malone in a physical matchup that comes down to the wire. Up to this point, Malone has the more dominant career, and he has the accolades to prove it, with two MVP trophies and 14 trips to the All-Star Game.
Surprisingly enough, both players come in with approximately a 25 points per game average for their careers, Carmelo at 24.8 and Malone at 25.0. Anthony will ultimately win this game not with his post moves, but with his range and ability to get Malone in uncomfortable defensive situations.
The mailman is sent home early in the tournament courtesy of Melo.
Carmelo Anthony (27) Karl Malone (25)
PF/SF Second Round: No. 3 Charles Barkley vs. No. 11 Paul Pierce
Barkley vs. Pierce is quite a matchup. In his prime, Barkley was an unstoppable force, especially after he added a long-range jumper to his arsenal of offensive moves.
Pierce is one of those players who doesn't seem overly athletic or overly physical, but there is no denying that he can score with the best of them. Barkley is a polarizing personality characterized by boneheaded quotes and opinions off the court, while Pierce is revered for his grit and determination on the court.
This matchup will be a battle for both players, each having to legitimately earn every basket that comes their way. Pierce just has the intangibles that will get him past Sir Charles and into the next round. Maybe it is Pierce's ability to stretch the court longer than Barkley because of long-range ability, or maybe it is because Pierce is a proven winner.
Either way, Pierce will bang this one out, showing that he can play legitimate defense when he needs to. Sir Charles is dethroned and sent packing by Pierce—or should I say Sir Pierce?
Paul Pierce (27) Charles Barkley (25)
PF/SF Second Round: No. 4 James Worthy vs. No. 5 Julius Erving
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Lucky for us James Worthy and Julius Erving played several times during their career. As "Dr. J" was nearing the end of his career "Big Game James" was just beginning his.
Dr. J has the advantage in this matchup when it comes to pure scoring. Throughout his career Dr. J averaged 24.2 points per game, as compared to Worthy's average of 17.6 points per game. That difference in points per game exists because of the athleticism the Irving plays with that Worthy does not.
Not only is Dr. J more athletic than Worthy he also plays the game in a more efficient way. Dr. J's efficiency rating throughout his career is 23.6% as compared to Worthy's career average of only 17.7%. While you could argue that difference exists because of the talent that was surrounding each respective player, I still believe Dr. J has the advantage.
Dr. J will use his high-flying athletic ability to soar over Worthy in this 2nd round matchup.
Julius Erving (25) James Worthy (19)
SF/SG Second Round: No. 1 Michael Jordan vs. No. 9 Kobe Bryant
Well, here it is. The matchup that millions and millions of NBA fans have been wanting to see ever since the question of "who is the greatest of all time?" has been asked.
Kobe Bryant mirrors his game after the game of Michael Jordan. From the way Kobe shoots the ball to the way that he shrugs his shoulders and gives that little wink after big moments in games, almost everything he does is reminiscent of Jordan.
There is no easy way to call this game, but there is one thing that is certain, and that is the fact that both players want this almost as much as another NBA championship trophy. While Kobe has more to gain with a win, Jordan and his ultra-competetive nature will push him to want to win as much as Kobe.
There is no way that this game is ended at 25 points. The game will be an offensive struggle with the player who can come up with one enormous defensive stop ultimately coming out on top.
This game will go in streaks. Kobe up 5-0, followed by Jordan going up 8-5, then Kobe answering with five points going up 10-8 and so on. Kobe will play harder than we've ever seen him play, and Jordan will play with a fire in his eyes reminiscent of his first NBA finals.
Ultimately, Jordan tops Bryant, but does so in dramatic fashion that only encourages people to continue the talk about who is the greatest of all time.
Michael Jordan (39) Kobe Bryant (37)
SF/SG Second Round: No. 2 Oscar Robertson vs. No. 10 LeBron James
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Here is another epic match up between the man they call "King James" and the man they call "The Big O."
If this was a battle of who has the cooler nickname, it would clearly go to King James, because, well, The Big O leaves a lot of room for inappropriate jokes. Fortunately for Robertson, this isn't about nicknames.
Unfortunately for Robertson, King James will still ultimately pull the major upset against one of the all time greatest players.
Robertson will shock LeBron early with his speed and hit quick release jumpers. Robertson will get out to an early 8-0 lead, which will have LeBron on his heels. Surprisingly, LeBron will be able to rebound from a slow start and an inability to initially defend Robertson.
LeBron will figure out that the only way he will own this game is to power his way into the paint with the 40 pounds he has on Robertson. LeBron will back Robertson down and will hit jumpers or drive to the basket and finish strong over a weaker defender.
LeBron pulls off a big come-from-behind upset of Robertson and moves on to the third round for the matchup of the ages. A matchup against Michael Jordan.
LeBron James (28) Oscar Robertson (26)
SF/SG Second Round: No. 3 George Gervin vs. No. 11 Kevin Durant
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George Gervin against Kevin Durant is a great matchup for many reasons, but the main reason is because both of these players can score and score and score.
With Gervin, a four-time NBA scoring champion, and Durant, a two-time NBA scoring champion, this will be an offensive battle that will end no where near the 25-point limit. Gervin averaged around 25 points per game in his career, while Durant averages 28.1 points per game.
The one thing that Gervin has going against him is his size. While he is 6’7’’, he only weighs 180 pounds, whereas his opponent, Durant, comes in at 6’9’’, 230 pounds. While size is not always a deal breaker, it will be here.
Gervin and Kevin are prolific scorers, but Durant gets an advantage when he realizes how he can use his size and strength against the smaller Gervin.
Once Durant realizes that Gervin can’t defend his back down fade away, the game will be Durant’s to lose. Durant takes this classic matchup in a close one.
Kevin Durant (33) George Gervin (31)
SF/SG Second Round: No. 4 Elgin Baylor vs. No. 5 Dominique Wilkins
If I solely based this matchup on points per game statistics, Elgin Baylor would take the win, averaging 27.4 points per game as compared to Wilkins's 24.8 points per game.
While I am not only basing this matchup on points per game, the matchup unfortunately will have the same outcome as if I was. Baylor’s prolific shooting ability will carry him to the winner’s circle here.
I do not doubt Wilkins's ability to step out and hit some clutch shots, but Baylor is undoubtedly the better shooter in this matchup. Wilkins is the more athletic of the two, but I think that will be a disadvantage to him because he will rely on his athleticism instead of his overall offensive ability.
Baylor will get Wilkins out of his groove, and Wilkins won’t be able find it until the game is all but over. Did I hear someone ask for Jordan vs. Baylor?
Elgin Baylor (25) Dominique Wilkins (20)
SG/PG Second Round: No. 1 Magic Johnson vs. No. 9 Dwyane Wade
Magic vs. Wade is one of the most difficult matches to pick in this tournament.
Magic Johnson is a freak of nature weighing in at 6’9’’ and 255 pounds who can play guard, forward or even center. Wade, on the other hand, is a more averaged-sized combo-guard weighing in at 6’4’’ and 220 pounds. Magic definitely gets the size advantage, which is absolutely pivotal in this matchup.
The fact that Magic can play all positions, and play them well, is ultimately what I think will get him the victory here.
Averaging 25.4 points per game in his career, Wade is a more prolific scorer than Magic, who averaged 19.5 points per game in his shortened career. Wade’s more explosive athleticism will be hard for Magic to defend, but it will not be enough to stifle Magic.
Magic will keep Wade out of the paint with his size and force Wade to beat him on the perimeter (which will still be difficult against Magic’s size).
Magic’s proven ability to win even against better competition proves to be the difference in this classic. Magic, just like his name, is ultimately just too magical for Wade.
Magic Johnson (31) Dwyane Wade (29)
SG/PG Second Round: No. 5 Walt Frazier vs. No. 13 Deron Williams
Frazier and Williams are equally-sized point guards with an ability to create offensive opportunity for themselves. Both players boast a career points-per-game average of around 18 points, but what makes them slightly different is the percentage at which they shoot.
Deron Williams has a career field goal percentage of 46 percent, whereas Frazier has a career average of 49 percent, and that will ultimately be the difference-maker in this game.
Williams is a slightly more physical player than Frazier, which will help Williams get out to an early lead. The more physical play of Williams will overpower Frazier early, but, as always, Frazier will find a way to create turnovers.
Williams averages 3.1 turnovers a game, as compared to Frazier’s lower 2.1 average, and that will ultimately be Williams's downfall.
Frazier will use Williams's aggressive attack to his own advantage, creating steals off Williams's attempts to overpower him. The fact that Frazier is a slightly more efficient scorer will give him the edge and the win in this close matchup.
Frazier’s defense ultimately slows down Williams enough to earn him the second-round victory.
Walt Frazier (25) Deron Williams (22)
SG/PG Second Round: No. 3 Pete Maravich vs. No. 6 Allen Iverson
I would absolutely love to see this game actually happen—“The Answer” against “Pistol Pete” in a chance to add to each player's respective legend.
Iverson is one of the grittiest players to ever play in the NBA. Undersized and constantly doubted, he used the hate to motivate him into becoming one of the greatest point guards to ever play the game.
Pistol Pete, on the other hand, is one of the most loved and celebrated players in NBA history. Pistol Pete is also revered as one of the greatest ball-handlers of all time and one of the most offensively creative players to ever play basketball.
With Iverson averaging 26.7 points per game in his career, and Maravich averaging 24.3. points, both Iverson and Maravich are incredible scorers. What makes Iverson’s numbers much more impressive is in the appreciation of just how undersized he is.
At 6’0’’ (which is a stretch) and 175 pounds, Iverson has played and scored against defenders the size of Maravich and bigger his entire career (greatly helping him in this matchup). Maravich will use his size early on to fluster Iverson, but Iverson will ultimately find a way to defend him just as he did his entire career.
What this comes down to is who wants it more, and there is no doubt that player is Allen Iverson. Iverson would always leave his heart on the court and did whatever it took to win; Pistol Pete, meanwhile, gave up basketball after a leg injury, and never seemed to miss the court.
Iverson gets the enormous upset here with a step-back jumper over Pistol Pete with the game well into the 30s.
Iverson hits the jumper then steps over Pistol Pete as he stares him down, just like he did against Tyronn Lue in the 2001 NBA Finals, making the loudest statement of the tournament thus far.
Allen Iverson (34) Pete Maravich (32)
SG/PG Second Round: No. 2 Jerry West vs. No. 10 Derrick Rose
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Here is another epic matchup from the point guard/shooting guard division. It pits the man on the NBA logo against the man bringing the Chicago Bulls back to their Jordan glory days.
Both players are similarly sized, with Rose at 6’3",190 pounds, and West at 6’2’’, 175 pounds. There is no doubting here that Jerry West is the purer shooter and scorer, but the difference-maker in this matchup will be the vastly differing style of play.
Jerry West is a legendary fundamental player, but being fundamental doesn’t mean he wasn’t explosive. He is the only player in NBA history to be the NBA Finals MVP despite being on the losing team, averaging 46.3 points per game in a playoff series.
Derrick Rose is not as fundamental, but he is the definition of explosive; just in a different way. Rose’s explosive play is characterized by strength, power, speed and intensity, whereas West’s explosive play is characterized by a knack for creating easy shots.
Derrick Rose will be able to use his physicality in this matchup to get to the rim and finish with authority against West, which is the one aspect of the game West lacks.
West will fluster Rose with his ability to hit contested shots with ease on the perimeter, but Rose’s defense will ultimately lock down West’s perimeter game. Once West is forced to drive against Rose, the game will be over.
Derrick Rose uses his unbelievable quickness and strength to pull a major upset in this second-round matchup.
Derrick Rose (33) Jerry West (31)
Sweet Sixteen: No. 5 C Hakeem Olajuwon vs. No. 9 C Dwight Howard
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"Superman" takes on "The Dream" in this matchup. This is a tough matchup to call because these players are evenly matched.
What Howard lacks in an outside game he makes up for with his ability to clear space with his body. What Olajuwon lacks in physicality he makes up for with his ability to step out and hit jump shots.
This game will go back and forth for the entire game. Olajuwon, the all-time league leader in blocks, will undoubtedly get some huge blocks against Howard's weak/non-existent outside game.
Howard, on the other hand, will get even bigger blocks against Olajuwon's post offense. Howard will outlast Olajuwon in this game, ultimately getting the ball last and just pounding it down Olajuwon's throat.
This game will be close at the end, but Olajuwon won't have the strength to keep fighting Howard's physicality down low. Superman lasts to fight another day.
Dwight Howard (27) Hakeem Olajuwon (25)
Sweet Sixteen: No. 2 C Wilt Chamberlain vs. No. 3 C Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Here is a matchup that will go down as one of the greatest of all time, with two of the most dominant centers in all of NBA history.
The way that Chamberlain played during his years was founded in his ability to push everyone around because of his size advantage. His size won't matter here because Kareem is just as big and nearly as strong as Wilt. What Kareem lacks in strength he makes up for in intelligence.
Kareem has a more solidified offensive skill set than Chamberlain, and that is what ultimately will be the difference in this matchup. Chamberlain was no slouch outside the paint, though; he had a signature mini-fadeaway that helped make him as famous as he is today.
Kareem will figure out how to defend Chamberlain's little jumper and will shut it down. Kareem and Chamberlain's battles during their careers were always physical and evenly matched, with Chamberlain blocking a hook shot or two and Kareem not abandoning his signature move.
Ultimately Kareem's adherence to the hook shot will be the difference-maker against Chamberlain.
Kareem Abdul Jabbar (30) Wilt Chamberlain (28)
Sweet Sixteen: No. 5 SF Julius Erving vs. No. 9 PF Dirk Nowitzki
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I would make sure to have a front-row ticket to this legendary matchup. In this matchup, you've got Dirk Nowitzki, one of the NBA's purest shooters and overall scores of all time, and Julius Erving, one of the most electrifying and athletic ABA/NBA players to grace the court.
While Dr. J will undoubtedly put some jaw dropping moves and dunks on Dirk, he ultimately will not be able to handle Dirk's fadeaway jumper.
Dr. J will pull out to an early lead, electrifying the crowd with a few acrobatic dunks. Once Dirk gets the ball and finds his groove, though, Dr.J will not be able to stop him. While both are equally as explosive on offense, averaging around 23.0 points for their careers, Erving made his living posterizing defenders, while Nowitzki does it with finesse in his jump shot.
Nowitzki will pull away late in this upset special. Dr. J might want to give Nowitzki an honorary doctorate degree after this one.
Dirk Nowitzki (25) Julius Erving (19)
Sweet Sixteen: No. 10 SF Carmelo Anthony vs. No. 11 Paul Pierce
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Talk about a matchup that is nearly impossible to call. In their 14 career games against one another, Pierce has averaged 25.4 points per game on 52 percent shooting, while Carmelo has averaged 23.9 points per game on 44 percent shooting.
Using those averages and rounding to the near whole number would put us at Pierce with 25 and Carmelo with 24. That is where I come in and tell you if Pierce will get the final basket or if Carmelo will be able to make the comeback.
What it comes down to is whose game is more set up to play one-on-one, and I think that player is Anthony. Carmelo has more solidified post moves and is slightly quicker in the post as well. Carmelo has the slight athletic edge of Pierce, which lends itself to being able to consistently create space in his mid/long-range game.
Carmelo will ultimately be the player who rises to the top, using his ability to elevate over Pierce to his advantage. Carmelo ultimately hits two 20-foot jumpers over Pierce to break a 30-30 tie and move on to the PF/SF division finals.
Carmelo Anthony (32) Paul Pierce (30)
Sweet Sixteen: No. 1 SG Michael Jordan vs. No. 4 SG Elgin Baylor
This might be an overlooked matchup in light of the potential next round matchup with the winner of LeBron vs. Durant, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be great. Jordan against Baylor is a matchup that I would pay top dollar too see.
Baylor, who is considered one of the most prolific scorers and rebounders of his time, faces Jordan, considered one of the best all-around players of his generation.
Elgin Baylor will start off strong, focusing on his innate ability to hit acrobatic floaters over Jordan. Jordan will wake up after Baylor takes an early lead at 6-1. Baylor will stay on top for most of the game with Jordan staying with him, waiting for his opportunity to take over the game. Like Jordan’s entire career, he will not wait until an opportunity comes to him; he will go and create that opportunity to win against Baylor.
With the game tied at 19-19, Jordan will step up the intensity of his defense and force Baylor to turn the ball over, and he will never get it back. Jordan scores six straight baskets and moves on to the SF/SG division finals against the winner of the LeBron vs. Durant matchup.
Michael Jordan (25) Elgin Baylor (19)
Sweet Sixteen: No. 10 SF LeBron James vs. No. 11 SF Kevin Durant
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King James vs. Durantula is a matchup that we don’t get to see too often because their respective teams play in different conferences. This matchup will be a showing of two players who are both dominant, but display their dominance in different ways.
The offensive advantage clearly goes to Durant. Rarely do we see someone with his size and athleticism who can hit 30-foot jumpers like they're free throws.
Defensively speaking, LeBron has a large advantage because of his strength and tenacity, which is evidenced by his three-time NBA All-Defensive First Team honors. LeBron will get in a hole early because of his inability to consistently start strong, but finishing is all that matters in this matchup. Durant will get out to an early 15-8 lead, and that is when LeBron will step it up.
More than any other player in recent history, LeBron has consistently had to play with people doubting him, and that will benefit him here. With everyone thinking the game is over, LeBron will turn into the all-time great dominant player we know he can be. He will start blocking Durant’s mid-range jumpers and his drives to the hole. LeBron will show people that when he plays the way we know he can, he cannot be stopped.
LeBron puts his mark on this tournament with a huge comeback, moving him one step closer to the championship. But first, he must get past a guy some of you might know: Michael Jordan.
LeBron James (30) Kevin Durant (28)
Sweet Sixteen: No. 1 PG Magic Johnson vs. No. 5 Walt Frazier
Magic against Frazier is an upset just waiting to happen, right? Not so fast.
Magic Johnson is just too much to handle against the undersized Frazier, and his effective post game, matched with his mini-jump hook, will prove too much to handle for Frazer.
Weighing in at 6’9’’ and 255 pounds, Magic has five inches and 55 pounds on Frazier. That size difference means that Frazier will have to try and beat Magic on the perimeter, where Magic’s size is at less of an advantage.
Frazier’s inability to consistently score on the perimeter will prove to be his downfall here, however. Magic will consistently back him down into the paint and hit his patented mini-hook over the shorter Frazier.
Walt Frazier’s reliance on defense in this tournament will fall short here; Frazier won’t be able to force Magic to turn the ball over enough for it to make a difference.
Magic is just too much to handle yet again, as he moves on to the point guard/shooting guard division finals.
Magic Johnson (25) Walt Frazier (17)
Sweet Sixteen: No. 6 PG Allen Iverson vs. No. 10 PG Derrick Rose
Iverson and Rose are very similar players. They both play with an intensity and tenacity that sets them apart from most other point guards in the game, and both players play bigger and stronger than they actually are.
The problem for Iverson is that Rose actually is bigger, stronger and faster than him, and that will prove to be the ultimate difference here.
Iverson will undoubtedly find ways to get into the paint and hit his patented step-back jumper against Rose. On defense, however, Iverson will not be able to handle Rose’s pure athleticism mixed with his forward-like strength.
Rose will blow past Iverson off the dribble and get to the rim, finishing with force over Iverson. The 30 pounds Rose has on Iverson will be more than Iverson can handle.
There is no doubting that Iverson will be able to score, just like he always has even against bigger, stronger opponents—he just won’t be able to score enough here.
The Chicago Bull will ultimately run away with this third-round divisional upset. Derrick Rose keeps the Answer questioning all night long, sending Rose to the SG/PG finals against Magic Johnson.
Derrick Rose (25) Allen Iverson (20)
Elite Eight: No. 3 C Kareem Abdul-Jabbar vs. No. 9 C Dwight Howard
Sorry, Superman; your kryptonite is apparently a 7'1'' hook shot assassin named Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Dwight Howard has a lot to learn from Kareem, like what an offensive skill set looks like and how beneficial it can be to one's overall game.
While this game will be back and forth, Kareem will ultimately win based on his ability to adapt his game to what the defense gives him. Howard does not have the ability to do that.
Kareem will have a difficult time creating space against the oversized Howard, but when he does get space, he will capitalize. Howard will force Kareem to play a more physical game than he wants, but his days against Wilt Chamberlain will prove helpful in playing a strong post game.
Howard will push his way around down low until Kareem is able to time his jump to block Howard's floaters in the paint. Maybe in a few years, when Howard has developed a jumper, this game will turn out differently; but until then, Kareem takes home the C/PF trophy.
Kareem Abdul Jabbar (25) Dwight Howard (21)
Elite Eight: No. 9 PF Dirk Nowitzki vs. No. 10 SF Carmelo Anthony
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The look on Nowitzki's face says it all: "You can't hang with me Carmelo."
While I think Carmelo can hang with Nowitzki, I don't think he can come close to winning. Nowitzki's size and finesse is just too much for Anthony to contend with.
Nowitzki will be able to hit fadeaway jumpers with ease against Carmelo, and when Carmelo starts to contend with him on defense on the perimeter, Nowitzki will use his size advantage to get the step up on Carmelo.
Carmelo is a tough player, and he will give it all he has, but his upset streak will end here at the hands of one of the best, Dirk Nowitzki. There is no way that Carmelo will be bale to stop Nowitzki's signature one-foot fadeaway off the dribble. Carmelo will put up a valiant effort, but will ultimately fall short.
2011 was a great year for Dirk, winning his first NBA championship, his first finals MVP trophy and winning the PF/SF division championship in this tournament.
Dirk Nowitzki (25) Carmelo Anthony (20)
Elite Eight: No. 1 SG Michael Jordan vs. No. 10 SF LeBron James
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It’s finally here. The matchup we have all been waiting for. King James vs. His Airness.
Now that Jordan has taken out Kobe, the only one standing in his way of being crowned champion of the SF/SG division is the self-proclaimed king. This matchup will show us just how much of a king James actually is.
Statistics don’t really prove anything we don’t already know regarding this matchup. Jordan and LeBron are both dominant offensive players and have the ability to completely take over a game when they choose to.
Jordan has the slight edge in field goal percentage, at 49.7 percent as opposed to 47.9 percent for LeBron. In addition to their offensive skills, they also both play defense like their life depends on it, totaling 12 NBA All-Defensive First Team honors.
One thing we know about this game is that it will be unbelievably competitive. Whether either player wants to admit it or not, they both passionately want to win this game. What this matchup will come down to is one word: clutch.
Ultimately King James won’t be able to close out Jordan. Jordan will capitalize off of LeBron’s inability to hit shots to win the game. King James will be dethroned by the true king, Michael Jordan
Jordan will display one aspect of his game that LeBron just doesn’t have yet: an ability to close out games and hit clutch shots. Jordan will hit an 18-foot jumper from the corner to win the game, and as he turns around, he'll look at LeBron and just shrug his shoulders.
LeBron leaves this finals matchup like all others he has played in: without a championship.
Michael Jordan (38) LeBron James (36)
Elite Eight: No. 1 PG Magic Johnson vs. No. 10 PG Derrick Rose
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Here it is, the SG/PG finals matchup that will prove to be an instant classic.
Throughout his career, Magic Johnson had some epic matchups against a certain Bulls player named Michael Jordan. This matchup pits Magic against another Bulls player, but this time it is the young and extraordinarily athletic Derrick Rose.
Magic vs. Rose will ultimately come down to the fact that Magic has a much more polished offensive skill set than Rose, as well as the fact that Magic is a proven winner. And did I mention Magic has six inches and 65 pounds on Rose?
There is no doubting Derrick Rose will be in this game, but there is no way that he will come out on top. Rose will use his explosive vertical leaping ability to create opportunities at the rim for himself.
He has proven himself against large forward/guard players in the NBA such as LeBron James, but Rose always struggles from the perimeter against a bigger defender, as in this matchup.
Magic will shut down Rose’s ability to hit perimeter shots, forcing him into the paint, where Magic will be able to use his size to body Rose up. Defensively, Rose will not be able to stop Magic’s mini-hook shot, or his dribble-drive step-back jumper.
Derrick Rose’s streak of consecutive upsets ends here with a loss to one of the greatest players of all time, Magic Johnson.
Magic Johnson (25) Derrick Rose (21)
Final Four: No. 1 C Kareem Abdul-Jabbar vs. No. 9 PF Dirk Nowitzki
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What a matchup we have on our hands: the 7'2'', 225-pound Kareem Abdul-Jabbar vs. the 7'0'', 245-pound Dirk Nowitzki.
Abdul-Jabbar is one of the most decorated NBA players of all time. Here are just a few of his accolades: six-time NBA MVP, six-time NBA champion, 19-time NBA All-Star, 10-time NBA All-First Team, and five-time NBA All-Defensive First Team.
Dirk Nowitzki is not nearly as decorated, with only one NBA championship, one NBA MVP trophy, four NBA All-First Team honors, and 10 NBA All-Star appearances.
There is one accolade that Dirk has that Abdul-Jabbar does not, and that will be the difference-maker in this matchup. That accolade is Dirk's 2006 NBA three-point shootout championship.
The former UCLA, Buck and Laker great is without question the more dominant player in the post, with a hook shot that helped him earn a ridiculous career shooting percentage of 56 percent. He will use that high percentage shot to stay in this game and to dominate Nowitzki early on.
The fact that the German shoots nearly 40 percent from behind the arc. combined with the fact that Abdul-Jabbar never had to defend someone like that in his NBA career, is going to truly be the difference-maker.
Both Kareem and Nowitzki have a similar player efficiency rating at around a 24 percent, but the fact that Nowitzki carries that efficiency to the perimeter will set him apart from Kareem.
Abdul-Jabbar will not be able to steadily defend Nowitzki on the perimeter, which will open up Nowitzki's dribble-drive and stop-and-pop game. Nowitzki will win this matchup with his consistent fadeaway jumpers, keeping his opponent guessing.
This matchup will be extremely close, but ultimately Nowitzki will be too much offensively for Abdul-Jabbar to handle. The Laker legend hits a bunch of sky hooks, but he doesn't hit enough to win this semi-final matchup.
Dirk Nowitzki (29) Kareem Abdul Jabbar (27)
Final Four: No. 1 SG Michael Jordan vs. No. 1 PG Magic Johnson
Let the debating begin. Who is the greatest of all time—Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson? That question will remain heavily debated until the end of time.
Magic and Jordan met for one playoff series in the 1991 NBA Playoffs, with Magic averaging 21. 6 points per game and Jordan averaging a healthy 31.1 points per game. We could analyze this matchup to figure out who would win this one-on-one game, but to be fair to Magic, this series was toward the end of his career, not his prime.
Magic definitely has the size advantage in this matchup, with three inches and 40 pounds on Jordan. What Jordan lacks in physical stature he makes up for in freakish athleticism, bringing us back to square one.
It goes without saying that Michael Jordan is the purer shooter and scorer of the two here, with Jordan averaging 30.1 points per game for his career, versus Magic's 19.5 career average.
Michael Jordan gets the clear advantage when it comes to efficiency. Jordan has a career efficiency rating of 27.9 percent, whereas Magic has an efficiency rating of 24.1 percent.
I think this is what will be the difference-maker. Michael Jordan is going to be more efficient with the ball, scoring opportunities and even defense, against the bigger, stronger Magic Johnson.
Magic will undoubtedly use his size to push Jordan around, getting some easy post opportunities with his mini-sky hook. Jordan will not be able block Magic's hook shot, but he will be able to lock down Magic's outside shot and, ultimately, be too physical and too athletic for Magic to compete with near the end of the game.
This matchup will go well past the 25-point limit, going back and forth for the duration of the game with both of these legends truly wanting to get the win. While this matchup in no way proves who is the best team player of all time, I think it goes a long way in solidifying Michael Jordan as being the best one-on-one player of all time.
There is just not enough magic in Magic Johnson's game to overcome Air Jordan this time around.
Michael Jordan (34) Magic Johnson (32)
Tournament Finals: No. 1 SG Michael Jordan vs. No. 9 PF Dirk Nowitzki
Michael Jordan against Dirk Nowitzki in the NBA Legends vs. NBA Current Stars Finals is a really intriguing matchup.
On one side of the ball you have a 7'0'', 245-pound power forward that plays more like a shooting guard than an actual forward. On the other side, you have a living legend, a 6'6'', 216-pound shooting guard who helped shape professional basketball into what it is today.
You have a player in Dirk Nowitzki who lacks explosive athleticism but uses his size intelligently to his advantage, making him nearly impossible to defend at times. On the other hand, you have a player in Jordan who plays with an explosive-yet-controlled athleticism, also making him nearly impossible to defend.
Jordan and Dirk play different styles of the game but are similar in the fact that they both can take over a game and decide the outcome at will.
This game will be a played in streaks. Dirk will start off the game by backing Jordan down and hitting fadeaway jumpers until he misses. Once he misses, Jordan will take over and test Dirk's ability to stay with him and his ability to get to the rim. Once Dirk commits to defending Jordan's dribble-and-drive game, Jordan will resort to his perimeter step-back jumper, which will be more inconsistent, forcing him into difficult shots.
With the game going back and forth, the player who wins will have to be extremely efficient with his possessions. Michael Jordan, with an efficiency rating of 27.9 percent, has the advantage over Dirk's 23.7 percent.
Despite Dirk's relative inefficient play, the German will still be able to stay in the game due to his size advantage, but it will also ultimately be the reason Nowitzki loses this game.
Once Jordan hits a few long-range jumpers and Dirk is forced to defend him on the perimeter, Jordan will take over the game. Jordan will do so because there is no way that Dirk will be able to defend Jordan on the perimeter and be quick enough to take away his ability to drive.
Jordan is ultimately too much for Dirk too handle; his athleticism and polished shooting touch will carry him once again to a championship—a championship which ultimately proves that he is the greatest one-on-one player to ever grace the NBA.
Michael Jordan (25) Dirk Nowitzki (21)
NBA Legends vs. Current All-Stars Mock Tournament Champion: Michael Jordan
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There you have it folks. Michael Jordan proves once and for all that he is the greatest basketball player of all time by winning the "NBA Legends vs. Current All-Stars Mock One-on-One Tournament".
Thanks for checking out the article.
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