B/R NBA Staff: Drafting and Building the Ideal '90s Superstar for $15

Bleacher Report NBA StaffFeatured ColumnistMay 5, 2020

CHICAGO - MAY 12:  Michael Jordan #23 of the Chicago Bulls attempts a layup against Shaquille O'Neal #32 of Orlando Magic during Game Three of the 1995 Easter Conference Semi-Finals at the United Center on May 12, 1995 in Chicago, Illinois.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 1995 NBAE (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)
Barry Gossage/Getty Images

With '90s NBA on the brain thanks to Michael Jordan, the Chicago Bulls and The Last Dance, Bleacher Report is running back a recent favorite with a nostalgic twist.  

B/R presented an attribute board to five writers and asked them to draft and build their ideal '90s superstar. Once a player was chosen, he was off the board. The draft was snake-style, and the order was random. Each writer was required to spend exactly $15.


With five new Frankenstars below, which player are you taking in an NBA nostalgia reboot league? Hit the app to share and let us know how you'd spend your $15. 


1. Will Gottlieb's '90s Superstar

First Pick (1st overall): Michael Jordan, Scoring ($5)

Second Pick (10): Shawn Kemp, Size/Athleticism ($3)

Third Pick (11): Steve Kerr, Jumper ($2)

Fourth Pick (20): Scottie Pippen, Defense ($4)

Fifth Pick (21): Kevin Johnson, Playmaking ($1)

Draft Strategy Going In: When I learned I had the No. 1 pick in the draft, my process was immediately to take Michael Jordan's scoring and see what fell to me. Nine picks is a long way to go in a pool of 25, but I was hoping to get a combination of either playmaking, size/athleticism or shooting to help compliment the first selection.

Why My Player Tops the Rest: By the time my second pick came around, I had a decision to make: pay up for Scottie Pippen's defense or go with a combination of size/athleticism and shooting to boost Jordan's qualities.

With most of the competition already at around $9, I bet that no one else would pay up for Pippen and that I could get him with my fourth-round pick. Instead, I chose Kemp, whose 6'10", 230-pound frame with out-of-this-world bounce would make Jordan's post moves even more unguardable and his driving even more forceful. If the '90s strategy to slow Jordan down was to beat him up, doing that would be a lot more difficult if he were built like Kemp. 

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 13:  Shawn Kemp #40 of the Western Conference All Stars shoots a layup against Scottie Pippen #30 of the Eastern Conference All Stars during the 1994 NBA All Star Game played on February 13, 1994 at the Target Center in Minneapo
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

On the turnaround, I grabbed a value pick in Steve Kerr's shooting. He was more a role player than a high-volume shooter, but his 52.4 three-point percentage in 1994-95 was an NBA record for 15 years. 

My gamble paid off, and I was able to add Pippen's defense and Kevin Johnson's playmaking with my final picks. Pippen was one of the most versatile defenders of all time, and in Kemp's body, he would be able to add even more rim protection to the switching and lockdown perimeter defense he already had.

Meanwhile, Johnson averaged 9.1 assists per game over his career and helped run the offense on a 1992-93 Phoenix Suns team that made the Finals. His playmaking and basketball IQ will surely help when this player is double- and triple-teamed due to his scoring dominance. 

In a very on-brand play, I got three Bulls players rolled into one, but their strengths complemented each other in a way that makes the result an incredibly dangerous and versatile player on both ends. With Kemp's body and Johnson's handles, it would be impossible to defend him and impossible to score against him on the other end.

Will Gottlieb


2. Greg Swartz's '90s Superstar

First Pick (2nd overall): Shaquille O'Neal, Size/Athleticism ($5)

Second Pick (9): Reggie Miller, Shooting ($4)

Third Pick (12): Jason Kidd, Playmaking ($3)

Fourth Pick (19): Karl Malone, Scoring ($2)

Fifth Pick (22): Patrick Ewing, Defense ($1)

Draft Strategy Going In: The plan going in was to take the best possible attribute first, then proceed to surround my '90s Frankenplayer with complementing strengths. 

Getting the second pick in the draft, I felt like the Memphis Grizzlies in 2019. I knew I'd be missing out on the obvious first choice, but I still had a strong pick on the board at No. 2. 

Why My Player Tops the Rest: With Michael Jordan's scoring off the board, I went with what I felt would be the second-most-difficult attribute for players to stop: a young Shaquille O'Neal's size and athleticism.

Young Shaq was running the floor, dunking over people and pulling down backboards. We've never witnessed an NBA big man with this combination of size and athleticism, which provides a tremendous base to build upon.

Next, I paired Shaq's size with perhaps the greatest shooter of the '90s by adding Reggie Miller's jumper. A 7'1", 294-pound dude shooting over 40 percent from three? Who's stopping that?

ORLANDO, FL - MAY 23:  Reggie Miller #31 of the Indiana Pacers shoots the ball against Shaquille O'Neal #32 of the Orlando Magic during game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on May 23, 1995 at the Orlando Arena in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User ex
Fernando Medina/Getty Images

Of course, not wanting to be greedy, I added the passing, handles and basketball IQ of Jason Kidd, an All-Star with both the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns in the '90s who led the league in assists during the 1998-99 season.

To finish off my Shaq/Miller/Kidd combination, I added the scoring and finishing ability of the NBA's second-leading scorer of all time and one of the greatest players of the '90s in Karl Malone. To sprinkle in some defense, I selected Patrick Ewing, who averaged 2.5 blocks per game throughout the decade and was an All-Defensive team member.

A young O'Neal who shoots like Miller, runs a team like Kidd, scores like Malone and protects the rim like Ewing seems like a pretty solid combination of talents.

Greg Swartz


3. Andy Bailey's '90s Superstar

First Pick (3rd overall): John Stockton, Playmaking ($5)

Second Pick (8): David Robinson, Size/Athleticism ($4)

Third Pick (13): Dikembe Mutombo, Defense ($2)

Fourth Pick (18): Glen Rice ($1)

Fifth Pick (23): Allen Iverson, Scoring ($3)

Draft Strategy Going In:  With the third pick, it was all about seeing which $5 options were left at the outset and picking the best available. From there, I knew I had to focus on what I thought was the best possible pick in each round to ensure that I wound up at exactly $15.

Some fans won't love to hear this, but I was dreading the possibility of ending up with Allen Iverson's inefficient scoring, and that's exactly what happened. I think the rest of the build overcomes the inefficiency, though.

Why My Team Tops the Rest: John Stockton is listed at 6'1" and 170 pounds. He wasn't gifted with Derrick Rose-like athleticism. On paper, he shouldn't have been able to obliterate everyone else on the assists and steals leaderboards and finish his career with the eighth-best box plus/minus in NBA history. Off-the-charts skill and basketball IQ more than bridged any size-and-athleticism gaps he had.

Now, with those skills and IQ supplemented by 7'1", 235-pound David Robinson's physical profile? That, in and of itself, is a GOAT candidate.

14 Feb 2002:  Guard John Stockton #12 of the Utah Jazz drives past guard Allen Iverson #3 of the Philadelphia 76ers during the NBA game at the First Union Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  The Jazz defeated the 76ers 98-91.\ NOTE TO USER: User expres
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

But that's not all.

This player also has Dikembe Mutombo's defense (which might not be on the same level as Robinson's, but that's neither here nor there), and Glen Rice's jumper is icing on the cake (which may only be a bit sweeter than Stockton's, but that's also neither here nor there).

In a way, these two picks could be used to make the point that all of these categories are ultimately interconnected. Good defense relies on IQ and athleticism. Playmaking is easier when defenses have to respect your jumper. And with all four of those attributes in place, adding Iverson's killer instinct ties them all together.

Iverson's 51.8 career true shooting percentage is shy of the league average of 52.9 over the course of his tenure. But he is seventh all-time in career points per game, and it's impossible to imagine that inefficiency remaining in place when he's suddenly Robinson's height and shooting with Rice's jumper. Stockton's playmaking probably turns plenty of ill-advised attempts into assists, as well.

The two guards might be the perfect counterbalances, actually.

Andy Bailey


4. Sean Highkin's '90s Superstar

First Pick (4th overall): Gary Payton, Defense ($3)

Second Pick (7): Penny Hardaway, Playmaking ($4)

Third Pick (14): Hakeem Olajuwon, Scoring ($1)

Fourth Pick (17): Ray Allen, Shooting ($5)

Fifth Pick (24): Charles Barkley, Size/Athleticism ($2)

Draft Strategy Going In: In doing these sorts of exercises, I tend to go for players whose games I enjoy aesthetically over purely the most dominant players.

Penny Hardaway at his peak, before the injuries, was one of the most electrifying guards in the league. So I jumped at the chance to combine his playmaking with the defense of Gary Payton, one of the best guards ever on that side of the ball, in the first two rounds.

14 Nov 1996:  Guard Anfernee Hardaway of the Orlando Magic dribbles the ball down the court during a game against the Charlotte Hornets at the Orlando Arena in Orlando, Florida.  The Magic won the game 96-89. Mandatory Credit: Andy Lyons  /Allsport
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Why My Player Tops the Rest: Neither Hardaway nor Payton were $5 traits. Put those in the body of Charles Barkley, whose 6'6", 252-pound frame was quite athletic, with the $5 jump shot of Ray Allen and the post scoring ability of Hakeem Olajuwon and you get one of the most unstoppable, unique and, more importantly, fun players imaginable.

Sean Highkin


5. Zach Buckley's '90s Superstar

First Pick (5th overall): Dennis Rodman, Defense ($5)

Second Pick (6th): Kobe Bryant, Scoring ($4)

Third Pick (15): Allan Houston, Shooting ($3)

Fourth Pick (16): Tim Hardway, Playmaking ($2)

Fifth Pick (25): Grant Hill, Size/Athleticism ($1)

Draft Strategy Going In: I wanted an elite skill to start my draft, and luckily, the draft board delivered two of them to start my selections (Dennis Rodman's defense and Kobe Bryant's scoring). Since I already had the outline of a two-way Goliath, that generally pushed me in a best-attribute-available direction for the remainder of the draft.

Why My Player Tops The Rest: Where do I start?

While our '90s timeframe keeps the late, great Mamba away from his full power, he was already laying the foundation for an arsenal that would go on to net a pair of scoring titles and the fourth-most career points in NBA history. Even at this stage of his development, he offered fearless and ferocious finishing, a knack for getting to the free-throw line and footwork so advanced you'd forget he made a prep-to-pro leap.

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 17: Kobe Bryant #8 of the Los Angeles Lakers battles for position against Michael Jordan #23 and Dennis Rodman #91 of the Chicago Bulls on December 17, 1997 at Chicago Stadium in Chicago, IL NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

So, this Frankenballer is both a two-time scoring champ and a two-time Defensive Player of the Year. Sheesh.

Next, I wanted to take the top off his offensive potential, so I doubled down with Allan Houston's sniping and Tim Hardaway's distributing. Houston hit the fourth-most triples over his 12 NBA seasons and retired with a 40.2 percent splash rate. Hardaway, who clowned defenders with a killer crossover, is one of only four players to amass 7,000 assists and fewer than 2,500 turnovers.

The draft board and my budget both pointed me toward Grant Hill's size/athleticism to close out the proceedings, giving my creation an ideal wing build with strength and explosiveness packed into a 6'8", 225-pound frame.

Just to recap, this is a generational scorer and defender with a 40 percent outside shot, a dizzying array of dribble moves and physical tools even superstar wings would covet. Hopefully we're playing for a trophy because I'm already clearing out space on my mantle.

Zach Buckley

ESPN's Ramona Shelburne and JA Adande, Director of Sports Journalism at Northwestern University, join "The Full 48 with Howard Beck" to discuss the Michael Jordan documentary, "The Last Dance," and the surprising revelations about Michael Jordan's close relationship with Kobe Bryant, and how that relationship clearly influenced Kobe's basketball career. They also talk about Kobe's early years imitating Michael Jordan, MJ's initial reaction to Kobe Bryant, the perception of fans, media, and other players, and how all of that transformed into a close bond protected by both MJ and Kobe.