Old School vs. New School NBA Matchups We'd Love to See

Dave Leonardis@@FrontPageDaveContributor IIIAugust 30, 2013

Old School vs. New School NBA Matchups We'd Love to See

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    Even though basketball is a team sport, the thrill of the game seems to always be centered on individual matchups. Whether watching from the stands or at home, everyone's eyes are fixated on the two best players on the court.

    The same holds true when fans compare today's era to the generations of yesteryear. It is less about the 1996 Chicago Bulls and 2013 Miami Heat and more about Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James. Barbershops are filled with spirited debates over who was better or more dominant (or so I've been told by people who have enough hair to cut).

    It makes sense when you think about it. A debate between eras should be based around the two best players squaring off. After all, nobody spends a ton of time arguing over whether Hersey Hawkins could beat Manu Ginobili off the dribble or whether Toni Kukoc was better than Detlef Schrempf.

    Thanks to NBA2K's insistence on mixing in great teams of the past with today's rosters, gamers can pit old school against new school whenever they want. That sparked the idea you are about to read.

    If you could take NBA legends in their prime and put them up against today's stars, what individual matchups would you want to see?

    The list is about which head-to-head showdowns would pique our interest the most. Which matchup would have us breaking out the hashtags on Twitter or setting the DVR? It's not about who won more rings or MVPs or who was better than who.

    Deciding on a winner between players of different eras is hard to quantify, but in an effort to promote crowd participation, feel free to weigh in on who would get the best of who in the comments section.

Reggie Miller vs. Ray Allen

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    Representing the Old School

    Reggie Miller was a talented shooter who had a knack for coming through in the clutch. His epic battles with the New York Knicks during the mid '90s was the stuff of legend. The most infamous moment of those Pacers-Knicks clashes was Miller unleashing eight points in nine seconds to lead Indiana over New York in Game 1 of the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals.

    Miller was a showman. He found ways to get into opponents' heads via words and taunts. He didn't have the most imposing physique, and he wasn't the flashiest guy attacking the basket. Instead, he backed up his tough talk with a flick of his scrawny wrist from behind the arc.

    Representing the New School

    Ray Allen is the best shooter the NBA has seen since Reggie Miller retired in 2005. He was the lynchpin of some good teams in Milwaukee and Seattle but didn't really get the recognition he deserved until he came to Boston in 2007.

    The man known as "Jesus Shuttlesworth" (the character he played in the Spike Lee film He Got Game) is almost a polar opposite to the Indiana sharpshooter. He's quiet and unassuming. He's also the better athlete of the two, showcasing more of a willingness to finish at the rim.

    Why It's Exciting

    It's a battle between arguably the two greatest shooters of all time. Allen and Miller are first and second, respectively, on the NBA's all-time leaderboard for three-pointers. It would also be interesting to see if the bombastic Miller could ruffle the feathers of Miami's silent assassin.

    It may not have the flash of some of the other showdowns on this list, but watching these two go shot for shot would be worth the price of admission.

Shaquille O'Neal vs. Dwight Howard

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    Representing the Old School

    Few big men had the combination of size, strength, power and quickness that Shaquille O'Neal possessed during the early portion of his career. He was a monster of a man who had a unique gracefulness in the post.

    A man of many nicknames, O'Neal captivated fans with his thunderous dunks, his wild celebrations and his (at times) hard to comprehend postgame speeches. Also, who could forget Shaq the rapper/actor? I'm still waiting for my money back for Blue Chips.

    He was as dominant in the post as any center you can name. In the paint, he was an immovable object, and he became even more unstoppable once he started hitting that baby jump hook with consistency. When he came to Los Angeles, he teamed with Kobe Bryant to form an NBA dynasty that ended far sooner than it should have.

    An ode to the greatness of "The Diesel" is the fact that he put together a Hall of Fame career that could have been a little more illustrious had he committed himself to staying in shape and coexisting with Kobe.

    Representing the New School

    From the minute he joined the Orlando Magic in 2004, comparisons to Shaquille O'Neal were inevitable for Dwight Howard. Oddly enough, the beginning of D12's career was similar to the Big Aristotle's.

    There was the stellar stint in Orlando highlighted by an unsuccessful trip to the NBA Finals. There was also the inevitable trip to Los Angeles to don the purple and gold. Unlike Shaq, Howard didn't stay in Hollywood long, opting to sign a long-term deal with Houston this summer.

    Like Shaq, Howard is a phenomenal athlete who imposes his will on opponents through brute force. He isn't as seasoned offensively as Shaq was, but he's just as dominant in the paint.

    Why It's Exciting

    For starters, it doesn't seem like the two like each other. O'Neal seems to never pass up a chance to critique Howard in the media. Most recently, the legendary center weighed in on Howard's departure from the Lakers.

    The bad blood is only part of the excitement. The most interesting part will be how Howard, who has been able to bully defenders his entire career, would handle someone as strong and physical as Shaq on either end of the court.

    Would Howard become discouraged by Shaq thrusting his 340-pound body into the youngster's chest? Would he become frustrated by his inability to push O'Neal around? Furthermore, how would the three-time Defensive Player of the Year deal with someone equally as quick and powerful?

    As long as this doesn't come down to a free-throw contest, this battle of the bigs would be a sight to see. 

Bernard King vs. Carmelo Anthony

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    Representing the Old School

    Bernard King was a talented scorer whose accolades were amplified by the luxury of playing in Madison Square Garden. He dominated the 1984-85 season, averaging 32.9 points per game.

    King captivated the crowd and bewildered opponents with an array of go-to moves. He wasn't much of a shooter from behind the arc (career 17.2 percent from the three-point line), but he found ways to put points on the board.

    Injuries kept King from being the superstar he was meant to be. With today's medical advances, his troublesome knee wouldn't have cut short such a promising career.

    The New York legend will finally get the appreciation he deserves when he's inducted into the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 8.

    Representing the New School

    Everything about Carmelo Anthony makes him a perfect fit for the bright lights of the Big Apple. He has the look of a guy who is meant to be on billboards. His smile is meant to be showcased in one of the country's biggest media markets.

    On the court, he's the greatest offensive weapon MSG has seen since, well, Bernard King. He has the strength to back down defenders in the post. He's explosive when attacking the basket, and his jumper is deadly from nearly anywhere on the court.

    It is fitting that 'Melo is spending the prime of his career with the Knicks because he is this generation's version of Bernard King.

    Why It's Exciting

    It's a fight for the title of "King of New York" between two of the game's most prolific scorers. This is the basketball equivalent of Biggie battling Jay-Z. Carmelo Anthony going up against Bernard King would be the closest either man would come to playing defense.

    It would be a back-and-forth affair with both men trying every trick in their arsenals to gain the upper hand. The only thing that would make this showdown better is if it took place at Rucker Park.

Kevin Love vs. Kevin McHale

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    Representing the Old School

    Kevin McHale was a crafty power forward with a bevy of post-up moves. He could beat you in so many ways in the paint, and he also had a sneaky mid-range jumper to keep you guessing.

    Defensively, he had a knack for getting his hand on shots. He finished in the top 10 in blocks four times during his career, and his 1,690 swats are good for 27th all-time.

    McHale was one of the core pieces of the great Boston Celtics teams of the '80s that won three NBA championships.

    Representing the New School

    Kevin Love isn't a breathtaking athlete. He doesn't have an insane vertical that allows him to jump out of the gym. He doesn't routinely get on SportsCenter with a bunch of crazy dunks.

    He is the anti-Blake Griffin. He dominates the glass with instincts. He has an uncanny knack for judging how the ball will come off the rim. He's also one of the game's best-shooting big men, converting 35 percent of his three-pointers in his career.

    Why It's Exciting

    A Love-McHale showdown doesn't have the sizzle of a Bernard King-Carmelo Anthony matchup, but it would still be fun to watch. It would be a battle of Love's outside shooting acumen versus McHale's prowess in the post.

    Every missed shot would be suspenseful as we watched these two battle for boards. It would be a human chess match with both competitors battling with wits instead of relying on athleticism.

Isiah Thomas vs. Chris Paul

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    Representing the Old School

    Isiah Thomas is arguably the greatest point guard of all time. He was a two-time NBA champion as the catalyst for the Detroit Pistons during the '80s and early '90s. He made up for his lack of size with unmatched toughness and heart.

    Zeke was a great all-around guard. He could score (averaged over 20 points per game five of his first six seasons). He showed a willingness to get others involved (league-leading 13.9 assists a game in 1984-85), and he could defend (15th all-time in steals).

    Younger fans may only remember Thomas for being a terrible general manager, but his ability to dominate on both ends of the court was one of a kind.

    Representing the New School

    Chris Paul is Isiah Thomas for today's generation. He has the kind of quickness and explosiveness to leave defenders choking on dust. He's also a very crafty passer who has led the league in assists per game twice in his eight-year career.

    Defensively, CP3 has the same knack for coming away with turnovers that Thomas did. He's led the league in total steals and been a member of the All-Defensive first or second team five times each.

    The most underrated part about Paul is that, even for a little guy, he is strong enough to bounce off defenders when he takes on contact. Being able to absorb punishment from bigger defenders and still get off a shot is an amazing attribute for a guy Paul's size.

    It is also a testament to the Wake Forest product's toughness and determination.

    Why It's Exciting

    It's the two best point guards of their respective eras going at it. Thomas was a member of the "Bad Boy" Pistons under head coach Chuck Daly. It will fun to watch how a notorious flopper like Paul would handle someone as physical as Thomas.

    On the flip side, Zeke didn't face too many point guards with the kind of elite speed that CP3 possesses. Paul also has an advantage in the shooting department. For his career, Thomas was a mere 29 percent shooter from behind the arc. Paul, on the other hand, has converted 35.6 percent of his threes throughout his career.

    Given both men's ability to defend, it will be interesting to see if one will be able to drive past the other.  

Hakeem Olajuwon vs. Tim Duncan

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    Representing the Old School

    Hakeem Olajuwon was the most agile center the sport of basketball has ever seen. His "Dream Shake" was a tango of doom for defenders. Seven-footers aren't supposed to move as fluidly as Olajuwon moved, especially during his era.

    "The Dream" was dominant on both ends of the court. Offensively, he was a magician in the paint. He had a variety of post moves, and his quick feet allowed him to always get a good shot off. Defensively, he finished in the top 10 in steals twice, ranks eighth in all-time steals and is the NBA's all-time leader in blocked shots.

    He also took home Defensive Player of the Year honors twice. 

    He was a center who moved effortlessly like a guard. He was so unique that the league may never see anyone like him ever again.

    Representing the New School

    If there was a prototype for the ideal power forward, it would be Tim Duncan. The Big Fundamental's attention to detail is second to none. Everything about his game seems like it came straight out of a textbook.

    During his prime, Duncan was a mortal lock for at least 20 points, 12 rebounds and a couple blocks a night. Even at age 37, he is still a formidable presence in the paint. Last season he led the Spurs to within one win of the fifth championship of his tenure.

    Duncan has made a living dominating the boards, contesting shots and kissing jumpers off the glass. He's become a sure-fire Hall of Famer by being maddeningly consistent instead of loud and flashy.

    Why It's Exciting

    Like Kevin Love vs. Kevin McHale, Olajuwon-Duncan would be a battle of smarts. It would be Olajuwon's agility and wingspan against Duncan's craftiness and instincts.

    The Dream would have to find a way to stop Duncan's classic mid-ranger jumper that ricochets perfectly off the backboard. Meanwhile, the Big Fundamental would have to avoid getting fooled by the "Dream Shake."

    It's a head-to-head showdown that would be better as a game of HORSE than an actual one-on-one matchup.

Gary Payton vs. Derrick Rose

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    Representing the Old School

    As my favorite player growing up, Gary Payton was a man known as much for running his mouth as he was for running the court. The beauty of The Glove's big mouth is that he backed up all of his tough talk.

    At 6'4", Payton had elite size, and he used his height to become a world-class defender. He's fourth all-time in steals and won Defensive Player of the Year in 1995-96.

    The man could score too. Payton averaged at least 20 points per game seven times. He and Shawn Kemp were one of the most exciting tandems to watch during the '90s. Together, they led the Seattle Sonics it to the NBA Finals in 1996 but lost to Michael Jordan's Bulls.

    Payton bounced around the league a little during the latter part of his career but finally won a ring with the Miami Heat in 2006. This year, he will be inducted into the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame.

    Representing the New School

    Like Payton, Derrick Rose is a flashy point guard with excellent size at 6'3". The former No. 1 overall pick doesn't possess The Glove's defensive skills, but he makes up for it with world-class speed.

    D-Rose's first step is a thing of beauty. Few guards are as quick when it comes to getting to the basket. It remains to be seen how a torn ACL a couple years ago will affect his future, but he has already put together an impressive career in a short span of time.

    He's won an MVP award and is the catalyst for a Bulls team that is a perennial title contender. With a stronger commitment to his outside jumper, the Chi-town native can become even more devastating offensively.

    Why It's Exciting

    Today's point guards may struggle to stop Derrick Rose's speed, but it would be interesting to see how he would fare against someone like Gary Payton. It would be an intriguing clash of styles.

    Payton liked to use his size to post up defenders, while Rose chooses to beat guys off the dribble. Neither is a particularly great outside shooter, so it would come down to Rose's speed against Payton's lockdown defense.

Magic Johnson vs. LeBron James

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    Representing the Old School

    Magic Johnson was an incredibly gifted basketball player. He had the size of a small forward, but he could run the court like a point guard. He had uncanny court vision, which made him amazing to watch in the open court.

    Magic's trademark was his versatility. He famously started at center in place of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar during the 1980 NBA Finals against Philadelphia. He finished with 42 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists.

    Even with five rings, three MVPs and a number of memorable performances, it seems like Magic's storied career ended too soon when he retired in 1991. It would be decades before the league saw another talent with such a diverse array of skills.

    Representing the New School

    That aforementioned talent would be a kid out of Akron, Ohio, named LeBron James. "King James" is like Magic Johnson on P90X. He possesses Magic's ability to facilitate inside of a body built to play defensive end in the NFL.

    While Magic dazzled fans with slick passes, James instead runs the open court like a freight train. He's a 250-pound forward who runs with the speed of a 180-pound point guard. Few players are quicker end-to-end than James.

    He has made chasing down opponents and blocking their shots from behind one of his trademarks. His ability to shut guys down has earned him first-team All-Defensive honors five times. He also has two rings and has won MVP four of the last five years.

    The scary part is that, at just 28 years old, there's a chance he might get even better.

    Why It's Exciting

    Since he was a junior in high school, LeBron has been compared to Magic. Naturally, it is only right that he squares off against one of the greatest to ever grace the hardwood. Putting him up against Michael Jordan isn't fair because James has a clear size advantage.

    Magic is more James' physical equal than Jordan is. He isn't the defender that MJ is, and he would no doubt struggle against someone as athletically gifted as King James. It also doesn't help Johnson's case that James is a better outside shooter (33.7 percent from three for LeBron compared to 30.3 percent for Magic).

    However, if Magic really wanted to make LeBron's all-time top three, there would be no better way than to beat the man one-on-one.

Michael Jordan vs. Kobe Bryant

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    Representing the Old School

    Michael Jordan needs no introduction. If you ask 10 people who the greatest basketball player of all time is, eight of them would say MJ, and the other two would be fools.

    Just for fun, let's take a small glimpse at His Airness' accomplishments: 10-time scoring leader, six-time NBA champion, five-time MVP, 14-time NBA All-Star, 1987-88 Defensive Player of the Year and the NBA's third all-time leading scorer. He led the Bulls to a 72-10 record in 1996, a feat that will probably never be topped.

    If you really need a more expansive explanation of Jordan's greatness, you should just stop reading now.

    Representing the New School

    For years, we were told there would never be another Michael Jordan. In truth, those people are more than likely correct.

    However, if there was anyone close enough to being the next Michael Jordan, it would be Kobe Bryant. The "Black Mamba" came into the league in 1996 with none of the pomp and circumstance of his rival, LeBron James.

    The Charlotte Hornets selected Kobe Bryant No. 13 overall before trading him to the Los Angeles Lakers for Vlade Divac on draft day. He wasn't stigmatized by the cloud of being "the next Jordan" like James was.

    Instead, he worked tirelessly to build himself into being a carbon copy of the Bulls legend. Everything about Kobe is Jordan-esque, from his build to his mannerisms to his insatiable thirst to be the greatest. If you close your eyes while Bryant speaks, you may think you're listening to Michael Jordan.

    Bryant isn't quite on Jordan's doorstep, but he's on the same block. He's won five championships and has made 15 All-Star Game appearances. He's won one MVP, and he's 676 points away from passing MJ on the all-time scoring list.

    Again, he's not Mike, but he's closer to being like Mike than anyone we've seen since Jordan retired (and certainly more like Mike than Lil Bow Wow).

    Why It's Exciting

    Um...because it's the two greatest players of the last 50 years going head-to-head in their prime. This is Muhammad Ali fighting Joe Louis. This is the battle that basketball fans have talked about ad nauseam for years.

    We've had a couple glimpses of Jordan vs. Bryant at the All-Star Game, but it wasn't what it should be. Back then, Bryant was either too green or Jordan was too old.

    At the peak of their careers, Jordan-Bryant isn't just an epic clash. It's a pay-per-view event.