Here’s the deal:
Space Jam happens again. We have a bunch of psychotic Martians who have descended upon our planet, adamant that it is theirs for the taking.
Obviously we cannot take them on in a nuclear war. That might not stop some countries from trying, but after a huge mess, we decide to settle it like men would: by challenging them to a basketball game.
Since their team has traveled through space, it’s only fair that ours should travel through time. That’s right, we’re going to build a time machine, go back through the ages, and assemble the ultimate basketball team.
I’m sure a lot of writers on this site have done this before. Starting at point guard, Magic Johnson; starting at shooting guard, Michael Jordan, and so on. But hold on—is it Jordan from 1990 or from 1996? Do you realize that Jordan from 1990 actually punched his teammates during practice? How do you see someone like Kareem responding to that? Do you want an intergalactic melee?
In this article, I will assemble my ideal basketball team throughout the ages, using specific seasons of the players I have chosen. It’s a 12 man roster, with five starters and seven reserves.
(NOTE PLEASE READ: Yes, I borrowed the Martian premise from Bill Simmons, an author I greatly admire and whose quality of writing I strive to emulate. I also decided to pick players from specific years as well based on the way he did his team.)
The idea is not to choose the best players. The idea is to choose the players that best complement each other. You will also notice that almost the entire roster is biased toward players that played from the mid-1970s onward. The reasons for this are simple, and I shall give it to you with an example.
Wilt Chamberlain averaged 50 PPG and 26 RPG in 1962. Is there anyone who would not agree that if you were to stick Shaquille O’Neal in his prime, say either 1995 or 2000, that he might not even better those numbers? Russell was the only player who could handle Wilt. Walt Bellamy, supposedly the third best center after those two, was dominated by Wilt to the extent that during one particular game, Wilt blocked Bellamy over ten times during the first half, after telling Walt before the game that he would not get a single shot off.
I’m not belittling Chamberlain, I wouldn’t dream of it. The man is one of my all-time favorite players, bar none. But certain facts cannot be denied. The competition back when he was averaging fifty a game and Oscar Robertson was averaging a triple-double for the season was a lot weaker than it is today. Other than a few unique individuals, players from that age were just not as good as those of today.
It does not show up in the stats, but it does if you watch game tape. No one had a reliable jumper from beyond 22 feet at all. The reason the likes of Chamberlain and Russell were averaging over 20 rebounds a game was that each team was attempting over 100 shots on a regular basis—and missing sometimes over 60 of them.
Players of the more modern age may not put up mind-boggling numbers when compared to their older counterparts but are more well-rounded, understand certain concepts better, and are more athletic and fit. When I finish reading through the team, I would ask that you look back at my explanation and see if it makes sense to you.
So, without further ado, let us begin.