Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics: The All-Time Starting Fives
The Lakers and Celtics meet again tonight for the second time in less than two weeks. In their Jan. 30 match-up, Boston rode a late flurry to pull away from the champs, 109-96. They've met in the NBA Finals a dozen times including twice in the last three seasons.
But which team would win a seven game series with each franchise's best five players at their disposal?
Let's start with the pieces to the puzzle.
Celtics Point Guard: Dennis Johnson
Dennis Johnson gets the nod over Bob Cousy, Jo Jo White and Rajon Rondo. Johnson's size, defensive prowess and ability to hit the open shot gives him the edge.
Lakers Point Guard: Jerry West
"The Logo" may be better known as a shooting guard, but handling the point guard duties on this team gives the Lakers a scoring threat who can guard Dennis Johnson. West was All-Defense the first five seasons the honor existed, including four first-team selections.
Celtics Shooting Guard: Paul Pierce
Yes, he's a normally a small forward, but someone has to guard the next guy. His 2008 NBA Finals MVP gives him the edge over contemporary Ray Allen and Celtic great John Havlicek.
Lakers Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant
His assassin's mentality would be infectious on a team of winners. Bryant is the perfect late-game complement to "Mr. Clutch," Jerry West.
Celtics Small Forward: Larry Bird
Larry Legend's hustle and determination lead when his jump shot doesn't. He's an easy pick for the greatest Celtic forward of all-time.
Lakers Small Forward: Magic Johnson
He played all five positions in game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals, even jumping center to start the game. Magic could stay in front of the slow-footed Bird while his 6'9" frame mirrors his counterpart. Johnson could also play point forward leaving West on the wing.
Celtics Power Forward: Kevin Garnett
The 6'11" Kevin Garnett would anchor the paint with his defensive intensity. His all-around game would contribute to one of the best passing front lines in history.
Lakers Power Forward: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Kareem's sky hook is virtually un-blockable and he is one of the best shot-blockers of all time. His height advantage over Garnett would draw a double-team leaving Bird and Pierce open from the outside.
Celtics Center: Bill Russell
Along with Garnett, Russell would create the most prehensile back line combo ever. If they could hold the Lakers to one shot, the Celtics could find an advantage on the break off of Russell's outlet passes.
Lakers Center: Shaquille O'Neal
This was the most difficult selection. The Celtics big men couldn't guard Wilt Chamberlain or Shaquille O'Neal one-on-one. Shaq gets the edge for his slightly better foul shooting.
While each team boasts big shot makers and great passing, the Laker big men hold a physical advantage that would not be denied.
Then again, Shaq is currently a Celtic. Put Laker Shaq in a Celtic uniform against Wilt and you have a battle for the ages.