The Ultimate Starting Five

We’ve all done it. We’ve all been guilty of talking smack about who the best players of all-time are, and everyone’s got an opinion.

Take for example that one mate who plays it by the books, picking the classics like Kareem and Bird, or that one wildcard that still thinks about Gilbert Arenas when he’s eating breakfast. And we all know that one buster who just started playing 2K and thinks he knows wassup: “James Harden bruh.”

No matter the group of friends, picking an all-time squad of five is always a hot topic of discussion, but what about the NBA players themselves? What do they think?

Well ponder no more my curious hoop head, for all will be revealed amongst the doldrums (cc: Zach Lowe’s favourtie word) of the offseason.

Recently, during a sneaker tour of Spain, Kevin Durant sat down with ‘NBA Maniacs’ to answer a few Q’s and cheese up some soundbites. During the interview Durantula was asked about his all-time starting five.

Starting with the point KD listed the following basketball Gods: Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan and Shaquille O’Neal.

Now we could waste the rest of the offseason arguing back and forth about who does and doesn’t deserve a spot, but let’s just remember, this is KD’s list. So rather than just talk about the selections, I feel as though we can take it a step further. Everyone’s heard about Durant’s top five, but what about his top five’s top five?

Stay with me here.

I have tried my very best to uncover the ultimate team by using each of the players above and seeing what their own all-time starting five is.

To help improve the sample size I have also included the opinions of various other elite players and who they believe deserve a spot.

By cross referencing all the line-ups chosen, I have come up with the unofficial all-time starting five’s all-time starting five.

Point Guard: Magic Johnson (4 selections)

Guard Magic Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers stands on the court during a game at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California - Photo Courtesy of The Sports Post
Guard Magic Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers stands on the court during a game at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California – Photo Courtesy of The Sports Post

Bench: John Stockton (2 selections)

No one had ever seen a point guard like Magic Johnson before.

He was a 6’9” magician who commanded the fast break with such flash and charisma, splitting one-handed bounce passes through legs and egos. His no look dimes were so accurate he could’ve been rocking a blindfold out there (or at the very least an eyepatch). All this and he could still cover any position on the floor. It should be no surprise that Magic commands the point guard position in this list.

Kobe, MJ, LeBron and The Glove all had Magic at their point, paying homage to the level of talent ripe in the NBA during the 80’s.

The guy did everything well. His career averages of 19.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and 11.2 assists speak for themselves. An incredible player on and off the court.

Shooting Guard: Michael Jordan (6 selections)

Michael Jordan #23 of the Chicago Bulls looks on against the Los Angeles Lakers - Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Michael Jordan #23 of the Chicago Bulls looks on against the Los Angeles Lakers – Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

Bench: Kobe Bryant (2 selections)

Let’s talk about who didn’t pick Jordan rather than who did because come on now, he’s the GOAT.

For those of you who don’t know what that means, I’m not talking about a hairy Bovidae munching on some overgrown grass. I’m talking about a marble statue floating through the air. A logo who crippled defences and dismantled opponents. A tongue wagging, red mesh rippling basketball genius known as the Greatest Of All Time.

Dr. J, Karl Malone and Gary Payton are the only players to leave MJ off their all-time greatest list. Julius defends his selection by saying he’s had the same five ever since he was 15 years old.

Karl Malone picked MJ’s old teammate Scottie Pippen instead of Jordan, saying the reason was because Scottie led the team in every statistical category while Mike was gone.

Karl just seems a little Ready Salted if you ask me.

Small Forward: Larry Bird/Scottie Pippen (tied at 3 selections each)

Larry Bird with Scottie Pippen and Clyde Drexler - Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein
Larry Bird with Scottie Pippen and Clyde Drexler – Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein

Bench: Dr. J (2 selections)

Easily the most divided position of the lot, an underrated Scottie Pippen shares the 3 with Celtic legend Larry Bird.

Unsurprisingly Scottie was mentioned in MJ’s line-up. His former teammate and fellow all-time starter having his back much like he did in Chicago. He also got the nod from Jason Kidd, and interestingly was chosen by old rival Karl Malone who picked Scottie over Jordan.

Larry Legend features as a starter thanks to his arch rivals the Lakers. Both Magic and Kobe chose Bird as their starting small forward, showing respect to the clutchest moustache the game has ever seen. He can also be found atop LeBron’s Mount Rushmore (his top four players of all-time), which gave Bird the narrow advantage over Dr. J.

With career averages of 24.3 points, 6.3 assists and 10 rebounds, Bird has the advantage when it comes to the numbers, but don’t feel bad for Scottie. With six championship rings won with the Bulls he doubles that of Bird’s. Either way you slice it, that’s a lot guac for a lot of chips.

Power Forward: Tim Duncan (3 selections)

Spurs Forward Tim Duncan during a game earlier this year - Photo By Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports
Spurs Forward Tim Duncan during a game earlier this year – Photo By Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Bench: Kevin McHale (2 selections)

He’s still tip-toeing up and down the pine like there’s a broom handle up his booty, but already people are ready to crown Big Timmy D the greatest 4 to play the game. With a ridiculous career double-double to the tune of 19.5 points and 11 rebounds, it’s kinda hard to argue with them.

He’s living proof that consistency both individually and as a core is a winning formula in the NBA.

He’s proven he’s clutch, increasing his averages in the playoffs and he’s won both early and late in his career. Since 1999 Duncan has won 5 chips with the Spurs and proven every single year that he’s not too old to bang with the best of them.

The guy refuses to go away. Maybe that’s why he’s a perfect fit in the all-time best of the best.

Centre:  Bill Russell (5 selections)

The Celtics legend Bill Russell putting on a block party - Photo Courtesy of 15 Minutes With...
The Celtics legend Bill Russell putting on a block party – Photo Courtesy of 15 Minutes With…

Bench: Wilt Chamberlain (4 selections)

As time goes by people tend to forget even the greatest of legacies and Russell is no exception to this. He seems to have slowly faded from people’s minds as one of the greatest. Kids just aren’t picking him on 2K these days. But his NBA peers haven’t forgotten how dominant the Celtic legend was.

The five-time MVP was such a shot-blocking force that he changed the way defence was played. Complete and utter dominance in the 60’s earned him 11 championships with the Celtics and could very well be the reason he narrowly edged out Wilt for the starting job.

Much in the way he ripped down 51 boards in a game, Russell snatched the centre position from Wilt in this all-time starting five.

It’s safe to say that opinion will always be split on which players were the best ever. People’s definition of what it takes to be great will always vary, which is why there are so many different all-time starting fives out there. This is simply a list of players who earned the respect of their peers and proved to be the most consistent among popular opinion.

Additional players randomly included: Jason Kidd, Karl Malone, Julius Erving, Kevin Garnett, Gary Payton, Scottie Pippen and LeBron James.

*each player wins their traditional position based on the number of selections they receive in other player’s line-ups.

*some players (Tim Duncan) have yet to talk about their all-time starting five or have an incomplete list (Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron James)

By Oliver Dunn

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