My All-Time NBA Starting Five

Posted: January 9, 2014 in sports

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the all-time greats in the game of basketball and I’ve been studying the play styles and competition level of each era. After having all of these random thoughts about NBA greats of the past I knew I had to make this post. Every basketball fan has thought “what if?” What if my favorite team in 2014 played in 1980? What if LeBron James went head to head with Michael Jordan? What if Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant played together? These incredible match-ups will obviously never happen but it’s always great to think about. In this brief post I will be giving you my all-time starting five and sixth man.

1. Point Guard: Oscar Robertson

At point guard i chose “The Big O” Oscar Robertson. I know Ervin “Magic” Johnson is the popular choice for the greatest point guard of all-time but I feel like Oscar gets overlooked. Not too many people will go back past the 1980s when talking about the greats. those players from the 1960s to early 1970s seem to get overlooked. Magic wasn’t the first over-sized player to run the point. Oscar Robertson was 6’5, 220 pounds, with a ridiculous wingspan that allowed him to finish at the rim and rise over opponents effortlessly. Not only could he get the job done offensively but defensively he was a nightmare. He was always in the passing lanes and he had the hand-eye coordination to rip the ball away from his opponents whenever he felt like it. In his second year in the league he earned the nickname “Mr. Triple Double” by averaging 30.8 PPG, 12.5 RPG, and 11.4 APG. Also back when he started playing, steals and blocks were not counted. In 1973 he averaged 4 blocks per game and finished the season with 77 steals. From his rookie year in 1960 to his final game in 1974 his numbers diminished slowly. If steals and blocks were counted in the early 60s maybe we’d be calling him “Mr. Quadruple Double” instead.

Honorable Mention: Ervin Johnson, Isaiah Thomas, Walt Frazier, Bob Cousy, John Stockton

2. Shooting Guard: Michael Jordan

This pick shouldn’t surprise anyone. To be honest just his name alone should give people enough of a reason why I chose him as my starting shooting guard. Do I really have to explain this? He’s a six-time NBA champion, five-time MVP. He’s won the defensive player of the year award and he’s been named to the All-Defensive First Team nine times. He gets the job done at both ends of the court and he always seems to be one step ahead of his opponents. Another reason I chose him is for his clutch-ness and his will to win. Michael Jordan has rare intangibles that you can’t explain. He’s simply just the greatest to ever do it.

Honorable Mention: Reggie Miller, Clyde Drexler, George Gervin, Kobe Bryant, Jerry West

3. Small Forward: LeBron James

I chose LeBron for my starting small forward because of his physical attributes. Sure, I could have gone with Larry Bird who’s arguably the most ruthless competitor and smartest player to ever man the position. Then there’s Julius “Dr. J” Erving who revolutionized the game before MJ with his spectacular athleticism and creativity around the bucket. I could even have chosen John Havlicek who put in as much work as Bob Cousy and Bill Russel on those 1962-78 Boston Celtics squads. But when I look at LeBron I see someone playing the position in a way that it’s never been played before. Other than Larry Bird no other small forward has ran the league longer than LeBron. He has excellent court vision so he can be a play initiator if needed and he has great rebounding skills. Even though he still has to build up his resume to be considered the greatest small forward ever I think it’s safe to say he’ll have surpassed many of the greats when he decides to untie his sneakers for the last time.

Honorable Mention: Larry Bird, James Worthy, Scottie Pippen, Julius Erving, John Havlicek

4. Power Forward: Tim Duncan

This was by far the hardest position to select a player from. How do you choose between Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, Charles Barkley, Tim Duncan and Karl Malone? Choosing Tim Duncan came down to accomplishments, but then after looking at the accomplishments i realized that he was so successful because he had a little part of each of those players games in his arsenal. He had defense like KG, footwork like Barkley, he may not be a three-point shooter like dirk but he could stretch the floor just enough, and he was great in the pick-n-roll like Karl Malone. Players have been better rebounders and scorers as him. Others have won multiple championships. But no player at the power forward position has provided the complete all-around package that Duncan has. His amazing resume speaks for itself: Four NBA titles, two MVPs, nine All-NBA First Teams, eight All-Defensive First Teams and three NBA Finals MVPs. This man just goes out there and gives it his all each and every night.

Honorable Mention: Kevin Garnett, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Mchale, Elvin Hayes

5. Center: Bill Russell

It took everything in me to not put Hakeem Olajuwon or Shaquille O’neal as the starter for my all-time team but it was just impossible to deny Bill Russell this spot. Has there ever been a winner like Bill Russell? Yes there have been more dominant centers that have put up far greater numbers like Wilt Chamberlain who averaged 50.4 PPG in 1961-62 and averaged 27.2 RPG 1960-61 but even he only managed to win just two championships. Individual accomplishments are great but basketball is a team sport. Your individual awards are supposed to be backed up by winning the ultimate prize. Bill Russell won 11 NBA championships in his 13 year career. He had great teammates in Bob Cousy and John Havlicek and one of the greatest coaches ever in Red Auerbach but those guys didn’t win a championship until he arrived in Boston. As a center Bill Russell focused on defense, he was an excellent shot-blocker and he is for sure one of the greatest rebounders of all time. On the offensive end things came easy and him because of his athleticism and just pure basketball instinct.

Honorable Mention: Shaquille O’neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Moses Malone

6. Sixth Man: Charles Barkley (PF)

Although Barkley was barely 6’5 playing at the power forward position he had all the power you’d want in a power forward. He had speed and great agility to go with that power and that combination made him a tenacious rebounding machine and a fast-break finisher. But one thing that made me want him as my sixth-man is his heart. He never backed down from a challenge and he always went out there and gave his teammates everything he had to give. His high motor and competitiveness created one of the most phenomenal players in NBA history. If he’s not starting for me he is for sure someone who is going to be the first one up off of the bench for me.

These five players would be the foundation for my all-time greats team. It’s a good mixture of just about every era of basketball. These players are not only talented but they are very versatile and very accomplished. There are plenty of other guys that I would love to throw into my starting lineup but to me these guys are the greatest ever at their positions. I know there’s plenty of people who will disagree with my line up  but the beauty of it is; topics like this create great debates and discussions. There’s so many combinations of greats that can be put together, so many great games that will never happen but all we can do is dream.


  1. Can’t argue with your choices for an awesome starting five! I’d love to see that lineup play with each other… I would, however, add three Honorable Mentions; John Stockton, Elgin Baylor, and Patrick Ewing. Agree?

    Nice post! Well done!

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