NBA Sports: What is the best lineup ever?
Who would you put in a starting lineup of the best NBA players ever? What would make them effective? What about the old versus new era?
*Revised the Best NBA Sports Lineup. 2021: I have decided the best team ever would be position-less basketball plus Shaq.
Ahh, this is a fun sports question for the ages. Of course, our biases and the era we were born in will naturally concede our favorite players possibly making the list of “the best starting lineup ever.” The truth is, if money was on the line and players from the old era had to play today’s game, I’m tilted towards modern players because I believe athletes are faster, stronger, more agile, quicker, and stronger than athletes of old.
My last argument was, “Would you want the best runner in the old era, Roger Bannister, on your Olympic Track team right now?”
No, either would I.
Wilt would never be on my team in today’s game. I only saw highlights and most of his buckets looked like dunks, fadeaway 10 footers, and overpowering guys for putbacks that didn’t know what a weight room was (no doubt he was one of the best athletes of his time, but guess what, athletes get better, stronger, and faster every year).
The truth is if I was choosing, and there were a million dollars on the line, I want modern players and competitors that fit well together that can guard in this era. Veterans. Synergy. Skill. Two-way players. Length and versatility. Guys that do whatever it takes to win both offensively and defensively. This understanding is why Coach K produced more gold medals than Larry Brown.
Both had superstar NBA players, but how you make your team, how you construct the pieces and who you choose to play together, what synergy they have, how many high character, emotionally stable players are on the team, and how their chemistry works together matters more than their superstar status or individual stats.
Yes, Kareem may be able to score some buckets today, but I think Shaq would murder him down low, straight put him in the basket, or worse, in the bleachers. And I love Kareem’s game. I wish more centers today played with that level of skill. I wish we still got the ball predominately inside and let centers go to work, but modern centers rely less on post moves and more on strength, positioning, power, athleticism, and physicality. Or maybe they are European bigs that rely more on outside shooting and finding space to score from picking, rolling, or popping than setting up on the block.
Defense wins championships, but bad offense and poor synergy can just as easily lead to the other team’s easy scores.
In the modern era, the defensive focus must be on controlling ball movement by guarding and switching screening action (mostly pin downs, staggers, flares, ball screens, pick and pops, or rolls) and negating the necessary mismatches or shooting opportunities that come from the rotations needed to stop these systematic screening movements. Modern era’s defense would switch and defend, minus Shaq in your starting five.
By putting Shaq in my best starting lineup ever, I would have problems playing small ball, hard hedging ball screens, or getting out to versatile centers that like to pick and pop, but most people will have non-shooting bigs in their “best lineup ever” as Wilt, Kareem, Sabonis, and the old classics like to be on the block.
But like I said, any other lineup than Shaq, unless you went small or position-less basketball, I’d imagine in old or new eras would have a hard time stopping Shaq defensively, due to his sheer athleticism and overwhelming power, so it goes both ways.
Notice the difference between body types from the old era to new.
Sorry old era, Shaq is dominating you string beans.
MY BEST NBA SPORTS LINEUP STARTING FIVE: (Jordan wins starting spot in both eras), here is who I would put all my money on as the best lineup ever:
Center: Shaq (4 titles) — Pros: Completely overpowering any center from old or new. The most athletically talented big to ever play. A great chemistry guy. His humor would make any team more fun to play on. Cons: Can’t shoot free throws, may have trouble hedging/switching/helping on screens.
Forward: Larry Bird (3 titles) — Pros: A true floor spacer, amazing passer, facilitator, and one the best minds basketball has ever seen. In his prime, he completely dominated the NBA. He would talk so much trash to whomever he is guarding, they would inevitably lose confidence and take bad shots. Cons: Will have trouble defending switches on smaller, faster guards.
Forward: Kevin Durant (1 title) —Pros: I like KD as a synergy starter here due to his pure shooting ability and there doesn’t need to be another high usage player in the starting lineup. Cons: Seriously, I can’t think of any, he is 6'11 and can play both sides of the ball.
Guard: Michael Jordan (6 titles) — Pros: You can give him the ball anytime, anywhere. He is the G.O.A.T. I love his defensive ability more on this team and his ability to talk trash, completely play mind games with his opponent, and dominate them on both sides of the court. Cons: Not a great or high volume three point shooter. The game has changed, MJ would have to take and make more threes, and move the ball more since he is probably guarding himself (against the other team’s best starting lineup ever).
Point Guard: Lebron James (3 titles) — Pros: He would be my point guard. A high-powered Magic Johnson in my eyes (on steroids). Can create, shoot big shots, switch any screens, and has an amazing I.Q. Cons: Holds the ball too long. Tries to do too much. Has to give into the coach’s system of ball screens, player and ball movement. Much like when they won with Miami their first two years.
The hardest choice to make for me is using a center like Shaq. In today’s game, there is a huge need for mobile, versatile players (aka. the Warriors), that can shoot, pass, and dribble competently. But Shaq completely changes the game due to his one-of-kind physicality and brute power down low.
Everyone else, in my opinion, is the most versatile, overpowering players offensively and defensively in their primes. Two-way players, two pure shooters in Larry and Kevin, and then high usage, ball-in-hand guards like Lebron and Jordan to offset them.
Pretty much every player has to be double teamed offensively, can switch almost all screens defensively, which leaves plenty of fast breaks and breakout scenarios after getting stops. I believe in the modern era of basketball, creating spacing, rotations, and mismatches from ball screens, any screening action, or playing 1v1 and making defensive rotations happen are absolutely paramount offensively.
Shaq would have to ready to move and ball screen!
Everyone on my best NBA sports starting lineup ever up can find the open player, dominate 1 v 1 match-ups, and plays with a high basketball I.Q.
OLD ERA (before HGH) BEST NBA SPORTS STARTING FIVE:
Center: Kareem Abdul Jabaar (6 titles)
Power Forward: Hakeem the Dream (2 titles)
Small Forward: Larry Bird
Shooting Guard: Michael Jordan
Point Guard: Magic Johnson
Here, playing in the Old Era, I think having two 7-footers is actually an advantage, as there are fewer threes being taken, more attacking the rim, and well-rounded play both inside and out. Bigs actually had huge roles in the old era, where you could get them the ball on the block and they had actual skills and moves rather than sheer athleticism and power like today’s centers.
In his prime, Kareem and Hakeem together would swat away greater than 8.5 shots a game in their prime!!!
Please, in the old era, against those poor unsuspecting souls that thought closer is better, it’s over. Fast break all day Magic. Bombs away Larry. Dunk fest MJ.
A closer shot is not always a better shot.
Also, if your old era starting five plays my old era starting five, good luck scoring against a set of more skilled twin towers than David Robinson and Tim Duncan. The other three speak for themselves. Switch screens. Defend. Force them to drive.
WHAT IF WE PLAYED SMALL BALL AND THE OLD ERA PLAYED THE NEW ERA’S BEST NBA STARTING FIVE?
I actually think playing small ball is the way to beat the modern era. By taking out centers, you create athletes that can switch, play 1v1, and compete based on their basketball talents, not size, or pure physicality. This old-era versus new-era game would be amazing to watch.
Charles Barkley, Pippen, Jordan, Magic, Bird
KD, Lebron, Kobe, D. Wade, Klay Thompson
Who would your small ball fifth choice be in the modern era?
Klay is probably a weird choice for my starting five to play against the old era, but my reasons are better than yours because you don’t understand synergy of real-life players on the court. Klay is one of the best defenders and floor spacers in the game. Kawhi/Draymond might be a great pick as well as they can guard anyone and be role players like Klay.
If you put Steph there (which would also be very fun to watch), he is automatically a mismatch defensively guarding the likes of Larry, Magic, Jordan, or Pippen, all lengthy guards. If you put another talented player like Kawhi out there, you are mashing up Kawhi’s slashing, athleticism, and defense with an attacking Lebron, D-Wade, and Kobe, which would lead to poor synergy due to Kawhi’s lack of pure shooting ability and floor spacing.
Plus, I want length and versatility, and Klay helps with synergy and can guard very, very well. He has also proven he can go from the #2 option on an NBA championship team to the #3 option and still be just as efficient. I believe playing with NBA superstars, you must have that sort of high character mindset to know your role and keep winning.