Now that the Kobe and LeBron one-on-one match-up has been decided (didn't Kobe say he would beat the Miami Heater if they ever squared off? - Nuff said!), it is time to look into some of the other fantasy match-ups that we wish we could see.
Kobe and LeBron barely merit consideration when you think of some of the possibilities out there, crossing over historical boundaries to pit greatest centers, guards and forwards of one era against those of another.
There are so many amazing contests that we would love to see, but these are the best of the best.
So, let the ball be tipped, the dribbling begin, the dunks resound and the jumpers fly!
Is there any question that Bill Russell is the greatest professional team player of all-time? His Boston Celtics won 11 championships and he was surely the focal point of every win.
Somehow, his lean 6'10" frame was able to ford off more physically dominant players - most notably Wilt - and gain him everlasting fame as the greatest defender of all time.
But, those were team wins on arguably the greatest basketball team ever. Just how would the cackler do against the likes of Kareem Abdul Jabbar, the man with the most unstoppable offensive weapon on the court.
While Bill could leap and time his blocks with great alacrity, Kareem's skyhook would easily fly over the shorter Russell on the baseline. Was there ever a more consistently frustrating shot as Kareem's patented hook?
And, what was Russell's go-to shot? None that is notable. He was a great shot-blocker and passer, not a shooter.
While defense often rules in team sports, it would ultimately be Kareem's height and multiple moves down low that would give him the edge.
This is Ali vs. Frazier on the hardcourt.
Bulk vs. finesse.
Guile vs. girth.
The skyhook vs. the dunk.
The match-up I would most like to see would be Kareem vs. Shaq in their primes. There is little question that Shaq was an immovable force with great footwork who was as dominant down low as any big man in the history of the game.
He simply takes up way too much space to guard and his sheer bulk makes him virtually impossible to move. The lithe Kareem would have had a tough time guarding the Kong Kongesque Shaq.
Still, I believe that Kareem's sleight of hand and balletic ability to pirouette from right to left or left to right would frustrate Shaq to no end. And, should Kareem actually be able to front Shaq and keep him even five feet from the basket, well we all know his inability to shoot facing up.
Once again, Kareem's masterful skyhook would prevail and Shaq would be tired and frustrated by the more athletic big man.
Physically, these are the two most dominant players to ever strap on high tops.
There are some who would make a case for Wilt Chamberlain being the greatest basketball player of all time and that would make it tough for anyone to match up against him.
But, both Wilt and Shaq played a similar game, relying almost exclusively on their gargantuan strength and unmatchable power to shrug off opponents as they slammed the ball through the hoop. Both became excellent passers and team players as they matured but neither could shoot a free throw if their life or championship game depended upon it.
Basically, this competition seems to be a draw, almost like two Sumo wrestlers facing off with a basketball between them. They would pound each other into submission in a brutal brawl that would leave both exhausted...and tied.
There is a never-ending argument about who is the best power forward to ever play the game: Is it Karl Malone or Tim Duncan?
These guys faced off a lot during their career and it is difficult to say who got the better of whom. Both are tremendous scorers and excellent team players.
It is possible say that Malone may not have scored so many points if it weren't for the pick-and-roll mastery of his favorite passer John Stockton. Still, the man may have had one of the sport's most perfect bodies for a forward and he was a fantastic scorer and finisher.
Duncan, on the other hand, seems like the gentle giant. There would be something almost cuddly about him if he wasn't such a whiner (he never, ever committed a foul according to him!). He learned team play and unselfishness at the feet of David Robinson and when the big man retired, he filled his shoes perfectly.
The beauty of both of these men was their versatility. Possessing solid footwork down low they often scored on sheer strength yet both have the ability to shoot a mid-range shot. You don't want to leave Tim Duncan open at 15 feet.
And, that would probably be the reason to give him an edge over Malone in a one-on-one. Both can put the ball on the floor, but ultimately Duncan would have one shot too many for Malone.
Talk about a highlight reel.
If there were no Elgin Baylor, there may not have ever been a Dr. J...or for that matter, a Dominique, Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant.
Elgin flew through the air with the greatest of ease, eventually finding his way to the basket with various alley-oop arm swings and a gracefullness that has rarely been matched. While he never won a championshhip, he single-handedly took basketball from a flat-footed set shot to a game of whirling dirvishness.
Then came the Doctor. No one has ever combined the jumping ability, both long and high, of Dr. J. Yes, he operated, performing surgery on any defender who dare come near him. He played in an era of 7-foot centers and turned them into stick-in-the-mud dwarfs.
Baylor had a bit more bulk than the good Doctor and both could shoot from long range. This would be a classic backyard who-can-fly-higher contest that would ultimately be won by Erving most likely due to a mid-air dunk where he switches the ball from one hand to another.
How was it possible for Larry Bird to get free so often for that slick jump shot? And, then to make so many of them?
For sheer grit and competitiveness, no one can match Bird. In the annals of the sport, he goes down as one of the top five players ever based on his passing, shooting and team play but also on his fight. He never quit.
He and Dr. J squared off for many years and even got into a noteworthy fight or two. Being in the same division with Dr. J's career on the downswing and Larry's on the up, it was a fight to the finish.
All in all, Dr. J possessed more speed and upward mobility than Bird. Bird perhaps was more sly, more of a player who would back you down to the basket and then show you four for five moves including a fall-away jump shot that was virtually unstoppable.
In this match, Bird would ultimately hit one too many three-point range shots for Erving to survive leaving the Doctor in the waiting room.
A lot of people say LeBron is like Magic in that he is a consummate team player who likes to get his teammates involved in the game.
Sorry, but I know Magic, and Lebron, you are no Magic Johnson.
Still, in a face-off, they would show two very different styles.
Lebron is a brute whose drives to the basket are epic and scary. Would you want to take a charge from this guy?
Meanwhile, Magic is a wizard, flashing a smile while he kills you. Which way is he gonna go? Is he going to scoop, drive or pull up and shoot.
Lebron has yet to prove his ability to shoot consistently from the outside, something that Magic proved he could do as he matured.
With no one to pass to, both of these guys would have to rely on their biggest assets and Lebron would attempt to bully Magic down low.
Still, it is Magic who has won all of those championships, shown he knows how to win, while Lebron has yet to prove his mettle. Ultimately, the Magic Man would throw up a final baby hook to seal the deal.
At 6'5", 220 lbs. he was so impossible to guard he could shoot, dribble, pass and rebound better than any one person in the game. Who could possibly guard this guy?
A little leaner and an inch or so taller, MJ would play shut-down D on the Big O. But, Oscar is like no other guard MJ has ever faced: tough, strong, dribble left, dribble right, with so many moves and a sweet and pure jumper of impeccable form. He would back Michael down into the post and have his way with him.
That is until he missed. Then MJ would do his thing and what a thing it was. No player in the Big O's day could jump like that, maneuver like that, and score like that.
Michael would juke Oscar into oblivion. Game, set and match.
While they may be friends and even co-stars of their own documentary and biography, whenever Larry and Magic had to step on the court against each other it was war.
We all know what great team players they were. We can see those rapid-fire no-look passes from Magic to Worthy and those behind the back wonders from Larry to McHale. We know how they made their teammates better so that each of them won their share of championships.
A pair of gym rats, Magic and Larry know the tricks of the game, the head fakes that lead to easy jumpers or even reverse lay-ups. These guys could play to 100 and the score would be tied.
It may not be fair to even wonder about such a contest with each of them being such hard-asses on the court and relishing the defeat of their opponent more than any two players ever.
So, who would win it? Would it come down to a clanking long-range shot by Bird that Magic scoops up and lays in or missed left-handed lay-up by Magic that Larry turns into a swish from the corner.
Whatever the outcome, there is little question that nothing would be left on the court.
This may be the most difficult match-up to determine especially as Kobe seeks to match and even surpass Michael in the number of rings.
Since he came into the league a gangly kid with no college experience just ridiculous basketball skills honed in Europe while his dad played ball there, Kobe has been compared to Michael. That's pretty amazing being compared to the best.
But, he has lived up to every ounce of expectation and more.
This would be a match of the two best tongue-waggers the game has ever seen. Each can take over a game either defensively or offensively and turn everyone on the court into jaw-dropping onlookers.
Imagine the TV ratings of such a match-up!
Kobe is considered the best finisher in the game today with a superman like jump shot that always seem to go in.
Michael's range of talents surpassed any before him as he possess complete control of his body whether launching himself from the free throw line for a massive dunk or taking an off-balance jump shot at the buzzer.
Both Michael and Kobe turned themselves into team players, but both are individual stylists who always want the ball in their hands with the game on the line.
This contest has been debated by the best in the business, by players who played against both and even a coach who mentored both.
But, finally the ball would be in...Michael's hands with the final point to be made and both would sky high above the rim, Kobe contesting and Michael dunking with the final point going to the Bull who single-handedly resurrected the game.