Culture

5 Players That Would Create an Unbeatable All-Time All-NBA Team

Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan signals to his teammates during the first quarter of Game 5 of the NBA finals in Chicago, Friday, June 12, 1998. (AP Photo/Beth A. Keiser)

If you could pick any five players from NBA history to create a super team, which five would you pick? I’ve selected five NBA all-time greats, and I believe that it wouldn’t matter which five NBA players were on the opposing team. My team would win. I’m going to list the team and then provide an explanation for why I chose each player. So, without any further ado, here is my unbeatable NBA team:

G: Michael Jordan, G: Klay Thompson, G/SF: Scottie Pippen, PF: Tim Duncan, and C: Shaquille O’Neal.

Michael Jordan

Strengths: scoring, game closing, defense, court vision, overall leadership, GOAT.

I don’t think I need to explain why I chose Michael Jordan. However, I do want to point out that the rest of my team is constructed around him. I’m not claiming that the remaining four players are the all-time best at their position (although, arguments can be made that Duncan and Shaq are the best ever at their positions). This is why players like Kobe Bryant, George Gervin, and Clyde Drexler aren’t on the team. Players that need/demand the ball in their hands would not pair well with the GOAT.

Klay Thompson

Strengths: outside shooting, defense, understands spacing.

I imagine that Klay’s inclusion raises the most eyebrows. Hear me out, though. The main reason that Klay made my five is for his incredible outside shooting ability. In fact, originally, I was considering selecting Steph Curry. After talking through the list with a friend, though, I was reminded that you get almost the same outside shooting threat with Klay but without giving anything up on defense. As great of a shooter as Curry is, he would be a defensive liability. And when my hypothetical team is going up against other hypothetical all-time great NBA teams, I can’t afford to have any holes on defense. With Klay, my team has that all-important lethal threat from outside but in a long package that defends well. Remember, this team wouldn’t be asking Klay to carry the scoring load. As a shooting threat, he automatically helps with spacing. What’s more, he knows how to move in space and utilize his body in ways that help create matchup nightmares for the opposing team’s defense.

Scottie Pippen

Strengths: defense and more defense, excellent court vision (passing), plays well with Jordan.

Putting together hypothetical teams is fun. One trap while doing so, though, is failing to consider personalities and the ability to play alongside each other. For example, I have no idea how LeBron would play alongside Jordan (and Jordan is the lynchpin on the team). We all know how Pippen plays with Jordan. Besides Pippen’s incredible defensive prowess that will create nightmares for the other team’s primary scorer, he can pick up the scoring load if needed.

Tim Duncan

Strengths: rim protector, fundamentally solid, unselfish, solid rebounder and scorer.

Of course, there are far sexier picks than Tim Duncan. But, really, can you think of any other power forward (who can also play center) who gives you everything you need/want but without bringing the risk of needing to be the center of attention? Not to mention, he ain’t called The Big Fundamental without reason. No ego but with great skills on both ends of the court.

Shaquille O’Neal

Strengths: physically dominant, rim protector, scoring threat down low.

Shaq is the one wild card on my team. Don’t misunderstand, if I were ranking the greatest basketball players of all time, Shaq would rank above everyone else on this list except MJ. In his prime, Shaq was as physically dominating a force on the basketball court as the NBA has ever seen. No matter what center plays opposite him, that center is going to lose the battle down low against Shaq more often than not.

The Team

The two most obvious weaknesses for my team are lack of a true point guard and that the big men don’t help stretch the floor. Those two weaknesses, though, are fool’s gold on the opposition’s scouting report. Jordan and Pippen have already proven that they don’t need a true point guard to win championships. Both players have great court vision and are excellent passers. Not to mention that Jordan, the team’s primary scorer, can create his own shot; he doesn’t need a point guard. A three-point threat helps Jordan more than a true point guard. As far as the big men not really stretching the floor, the matchup nightmares offset that. Besides, do you really want big men getting in the way of Jordan, Pippen, and Klay way while they’re making magic on the perimeter?

As far as my team’s strengths (their many, many strengths), I think the main strength is that it creates mismatches on both sides of the court. Severe mismatches. If the other team doubles Jordan, think about what’s going to happen. Likewise, if the other team chooses to focus on Shaq, think about what’s going to happen. And, then, the kicker: I’ve put together a team with zero holes on defense. My two bigs are excellent rebounders and rim protectors (combining their two best seasons, Duncan and Shaq are about two blocks a game below the NBA team record for a season) and they have the ability (at their prime) to rotate out if needed. My front court, with MJ as the shortest at 6’6″, is long and fast with blazingly quick hands. True, you can put together a squad that will score, but they will have to work for those points like they’ve never had to work before. And that brings me back to the other end of the court where the bedraggled, gasping-for-air opposing team that has just exerted more energy than they’re used to just to get a shot off has to stop the GOAT.

Michael Jordan can score at will against anybody. Full stop. My team is constructed to maximize Jordan’s strengths, but without giving up anything on defense. There are no five players in NBA history that could stop my team from scoring. Outside, inside, and in between, pick your poison. Their ability to score against any five players in NBA history combined with their ability to defend any five players in NBA history makes my team virtually unbeatable.