Space Jam. It’s a great movie, but an even better conversation starter.
What if you had to pick a team of NBA all-time greats to defend the earth in a basketball game?
Who would you choose? And why?
This discussion took place for a little while on today’s (February 10th) First and 10 on ESPN 2 between Skip Bayless and John Ireland.
Assume every player is in his prime and think about it long and hard. The fate of the Earth is in your hands.
There are lots of ways to assemble this team; pick the one that would work best together or pick the most immensely talented players you can. You can choose fundamentals with guys like Tim Duncan and John Stockton. Maybe old school tough guys like Bill Laimbeer and Bill Russell.
Almost everyone’s teams will be different because of their personal preferences about players and there is no right answer, but it’s always exciting to discuss and argue about.
Here is my list…
There were a few good choices for my point guard. My discussion centered around Magic Johnson, John Stockton, Steve Nash and Oscar Robertson. I liked Stockton and Nash a lot because I knew my team would not be lacking scorers, but in the end I decided to shy away from them because of their lack of size and defensive deficiencies.
It was a tough choice between Magic and Robertson. I love Magic Johnson and think that he is likely the greatest point guard in NBA history. I ended up choosing Robertson though because of a few things. He has the size (6'5") to guard almost any point you can throw against him, taller or shorter. He also can hold back his scoring evidenced by his ability scale back his shot attempts late in his career.
The biggest reason will be more evident after you see the rest of my players, but my team has a huge hole in the rebounding department at the forward positions. Robertson's career average of 7.5 rebounds per game will hopefully solve this problem.
I already know this will be disputed by almost everyone. I will not argue currently that Bryant is a better player than Michael Jordan. Jordan is the greatest player of all-time and deserves to be on almost every team.
I chose Bryant for one reason. I think that with all of this talent around him he will do a better job as a creator and passer than Jordan would have. This choice also still gives me a guy that I can count on in crunch time of a game to hit a big shot.
I see Bryant being the star of my team, but not necessarily my leading scorer.
There wasn't really another small forward I considered at this position. He was the first player I decided on and it would be hard for anyone to convince me otherwise.
He will be the perfect compliment to my guards who excel at creating opportunities for others because he is arguably the best shooter in the history of the league. Getting Bird open shots would be the equivalent of throwing Babe Ruth batting practice fastballs every time he stepped to the plate.
Power forward is one of the hardest positions to choose the top players because there are so many different styles to play to position. I decided to go with who I think is the best power forward of all-time, Dirk Nowitzki.
He revolutionized the way the position is played and has constantly added new things to his game over the years. One of the most complete scorers in the NBA he can succeed inside and out. Pairing him at the forward with Bird will give me the best possible shooting duo to knock down the jumpers Robertson and Bryant will create for them.
I also considered Charles Barkley, Tim Duncan and Karl Malone. However, I opted to go with shooting over defense and rebounding which may come back to haunt me.
This was an easy choice for me because I value dominance over skill and talent. You can argue that there were many more skilled big men than Shaq over the years, but no one ever dominated like he did against the talent he did it against. Even in his old age he can still show flashes of what he once was.
I hope that with the attention he gets in the paint will help some of the poor rebounders I have around him. He commands double-teams on the block that will open up jump shots for my great perimeter players and if they choose not to double he can more than handle a 1-on-1 match-up.
Obviously, you must consider guys like Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Hakeem Olajuwon, but Shaq's dominance puts him ahead of the field for my team.