Building the All-Time NBA All-Star Roster

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistSeptember 13, 2012

Building the All-Time NBA All-Star Roster

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    There have been plenty of NBA superstars throughout the league's existence, but only 12 can make it onto the all-time All-Star roster. 

    To determine the select few, standard All-Star selection processes were used. 

    The starting five are comprised of two guards, two forwards and a center. The guards and forwards are allowed to play the same position if necessary. These starters were also determined not only on their production but also by their overall popularity in an effort to emulate the fan voting. 

    The remaining seven—two guards, two forwards, one center and two players of any position—were determined on merit alone. 

    If this team actually existed, I'd give up quite a bit to actually watch them play. Something tells me that you would too. 

Starting Guard: Michael Jordan

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    Was there any doubt that Michael Jordan would earn one of the two starting-guard spots? I may as well lead off with him as he's the greatest player of all time and has developed one of the world's biggest personal brands. 

    During his illustrious career, Air Jordan made 14 All-Star teams, and that still didn't give us enough chances to watch this shooting guard put on a show. 

    One of the most complete players in the sport's history, Jordan could affect a game in a multitude of ways. Whether he was locking down an opponent or lighting up the scoreboard—and you'll see much more of the latter in this hypothetical game—Jordan could single-handedly push his team over the top. 

    Jordan was the easiest pick for the starting lineup, both because of his greatness on the court and the fact that almost every sports fan in the world knows exactly who he is. 

Starting Guard: Magic Johnson

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    The second starting guard spot was much harder to fill, as Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant battled it out for the spot. As you can see, this battle of Los Angeles Lakers greats was won by the point guard. 

    Have you ever met anyone who doesn't like Magic—the capitalized version, not the one that involves pulling rabbits out of hats—or hasn't heard just how great he was during his prime? 

    The greatest point guard of all time, Magic was a 12-time All-Star and a true NBA legend. Kobe is getting awfully close to toppling the former Lakers torchbearer for the title of greatest player in franchise history, but he's not there yet. 

Starting Forward: Larry Bird

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    Larry Bird might have employed an unathletic gait and some blonde hairstyles, but he's still one of the coolest—and best—players in the history of The Association. 

    If you're a younger basketball fan right now, you probably grew up hearing legendary stories about "The Hick from French Lick." You've surely been made privy to a few legendary tales about the former Boston Celtic from the mouth of Bill Simmons at the very least. 

    If you lived through the Bird years, then you were a witness to his greatness. You had an opportunity to see him play with undeniable swagger, trash-talking throughout the game and backing it up far more often than not. 

    Bird is a perfect example of the difference between cockiness and confidence. It's only cockiness if you can't back it up. Bird could, and he was loved, respectfully hated and feared for it. 

Starting Player: Julius Erving

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    There was some serious competition for the second forward spot and the right to join Larry Bird in the starting frontcourt. When discussing this with various other basketball minds, three names kept coming up: Julius Erving, Charles Barkley and LeBron James

    Surprisingly, LeBron's name wasn't mentioned as much as the other two, and Chuck earned a lot of votes because of his entertaining TNT presence. As much as I love listening to the brilliant witticisms of Barkley when he's on my TV screen, that really shouldn't propel him into the lead of an on-court event. 

    Dr. J is just an entertainer. With his massive hands and the springs he has in place of fast-twitch muscles, he was a highlight machine. 

    Very few players are better suited for the All-Star stage, so now we get to add a 17th appearance to Erving's resume. 

Starting Center: Shaquille O'Neal

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    Was Shaquille O'Neal as dominant as Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? That's debatable, although the Big Diesel certainly belongs in that top tier of big men alongside those three NBA legends. 

    What's not so debatable is that Shaq is the most popular of the four at the moment. Russell and Wilt played far too long ago for most NBA fans to remember. And Kareem just wasn't glamorous enough.

    Between his entertaining playing style, his sheer physical prowess and the litany of quotable moments, Shaq would easily win the fan vote and earn a spot in the lineup as the starting center. Yao Ming might give him a run for his money, but Yao wasn't historically dominant enough to even earn a spot on this ballot. 

    Suddenly, media day for this hypothetical event just got a lot more exciting. 

Reserve Guard: Oscar Robertson

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    With the starting lineup set, it's time to evaluate the rest of the players in NBA history by merit alone. Popularity no longer matters.

    Working from historical greatness alone, Oscar Robertson is an easy pick as one of the two reserve guards. Who else has averaged a triple-double for an entire season? 

    If you're trying to come up with an answer, please stop. No one else ever has. 

    The Big O wouldn't be able to record 10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in the same game against players as athletic as the ones in the modern game, but his shiftiness and underrated athleticism would translate quite well. 

    Robertson is the second-best point guard in NBA history and a deserving candidate for a reserve-guard spot. 

Reserve Guard: Kobe Bryant

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    Even though he hasn't played out the rest of his carer yet, Kobe Bryant is already one of the 10 best players in NBA history. 

    The Black Mamba's cold-bloodedness has allowed him to become a scoring threat from anywhere on the court. Lately, the degree of difficulty on his shots has simply been off the charts. Even that isn't giving him enough credit for some of the buckets he's made. 

    At this point, whatever Kobe does during the latter half of his 30s is just gravy. He's already put together an insane resume. 

    Kobe might not have been able to overcome the greatness and popularity of Magic Johnson, but he's certainly one of the four best guards in history. With the top two off the board for the starting lineup, he's a lock for the reverse spot. 

Reserve Forward: LeBron James

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    The vitriol that followed LeBron James around after The Decision sent him from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Miami Heat was enough to keep the reigning MVP out of the starting lineup. However, there's no way that LeBron can be left off this roster entirely. 

    Although the greatest current player in the world is only 27 years old, he's reached a level that only a handful of players in the sport's history have ever attained. 

    LeBron is one of the best scorers in The Association, but he also brings an insane amount of facilitation and defensive prowess to the table on a nightly basis. He's as complete as it gets. 

    There are a few forwards who still rank above LeBron in a historical sense, but his current level of production makes him a can't-miss inclusion. 

Reserve Forward: Tim Duncan

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    Tim Duncan plays a mind-numbingly boring brand of basketball, but it's incredibly efficient and effective. Duncan has established himself as the greatest power forward in NBA history despite rarely partaking in the All-Star style of ball. 

    Including someone like Charles Barkley, Elgin Baylor, Karl Malone or Scottie Pippen would make this roster more entertaining. It also would make it incorrect because the reserve spots are supposed to be filled by the best players, not the most entertaining ones. 

    With his sensational defense and picture-perfect bank-shot, Duncan has made 13 All-Star squads in his illustrious career. 

    Let's make it 14. 

Reserve Center: Bill Russell

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    With the most entertaining and popular center off the board, it's time for the best one to fill up the reserve spot. 

    Bill Russell was the defensive anchor behind the Boston Celtics dynasty during the late 1950s and the 1960s. There's a reason why he has more championship rings than any other player in NBA history. 

    Rings alone aren't a measure of individual greatness though, seeing as they're team accomplishments. However, Russell would have a number of other records if the NBA had decided to keep track of blocked shots while he was rejecting opponent after opponent. 

    Russell was one of the rare players who could actually make defense exciting. Dunks and three-pointers may be the plays that fill up highlight reels, but Russell's blocks would have populated SportsCenter Top 10s if he'd played during the modern era. 

Reserve Player: Jerry West

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    If Jerry West could terrorize the league with only two-pointers, just imagine the amount of damage he could do with the inclusion of a three-point arc. This All-Star game would most certainly include one. 

    West was one of the most clutch players in the history of the game and an absolute offensive powerhouse. He could score with the best of them thanks to his deadly jumper. 

    Plus, West would be the inspiration for the most interesting over/under bet in All-Star game history. 

    After the line was set at just five, millions would flock to Las Vegas to bet on the number of hairs on West's head that would be out of place by the end of the game. 

Reserve Player: Wilt Chamberlain

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    One of the most unique players to ever lace up his sneakers on the hardcourt, Wilt Chamberlain probably would have found ways to keep himself busy if the 1960s version of him wasn't given an invitation to this All-Star game. 

    That said, he wouldn't have been able to turn down this chance. Likewise, we wouldn't want to turn down the chance to see him in action in an All-Star setting. 

    Wilt's athleticism was just breathtaking during his prime. The seven-footer was track-star fast and using-a-trampoline springy. 

    Think of The Big Dipper as a mega-upgraded version of Blake Griffin for the All-Star game. He'd be there solely to produce highlights. 

Coach: Phil Jackson

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    The All-Star coaching role is typically reserved for the head coach with the best record in the NBA. Thanks to Pat Riley's dominance with the Los Angeles Lakers, no coach can pace the sidelines of the All-Star game for back-to-back seasons. 

    In this historical context, three candidates emerged: Don Nelson, Tom Thibodeau and Phil Jackson. 

    Nelson has the most wins as a coach in NBA history. Thibodeau has the highest career winning percentage during his three season in charge of the Chicago Bulls. Jackson led the 1995-96 Bulls to the best record in NBA history. 

    All three of them would be solid options, but I'm going to defer to the best single-season coach that the sport has produced.