The NBA has been around for nearly 70 years and there have been amazing players every step of the way. The early days of the game had players like George Mikan, Bob Cousy, Ed Macauley, Dolph Schayes and Bob Pettit. They were followed by the legendary exploits of Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and John Havlicek. Since then, countless great players that have put on a NBA uniform, including stars of today like Tim Duncan, LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
With so many wonderful, and game changing players through the course of league history, there were plenty of options for the all-time team. There were no brainers when it came to building this team, while other selections were much more difficult. The center position was the most taxing of the bunch to decide on. While players like Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson and Hakeem Olajuwon are considered top 25 players in league history, there was no room for them on this team because of how deep that position is. There were also some pretty impressive forwards with legendary careers who didn’t make the cut. The four that had serious consideration who just missed out were Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, Elgin Baylor and Julius Erving. The guards that are on outside, looking in are Bob Cousy, John Havlicek, and Isiah Thomas.
Although doing a team like this is all about personal preference and it is very challenging to compare players from different eras, there is nothing that gets sports fans going more than trying to decide who they would want on their all-time team.
Here is a look at my all-time NBA “Dream Team” if it could be built today.
All statistical and award information is from Basketball-reference.com.
Jerry West, 1960-74: a list like this wouldn’t be complete without the Logo. West is one of the best pure shooters and scorers in the history of the game. He played 14 seasons in the league for the Los Angeles Lakers and was an all-star every single season. West averaged more than 30 points a game in four different seasons and was also a very underrated all around player. He led the NBA in assists in 1971-72 at 9.7 a game and was also a solid rebounder. He earned all-NBA first team honors 10 times and made the all-defensive first-team four times. His most impressive season came in 1965-66 when West averaged a career-high 31.3 points to go along with 7.1 rebounds and 6.1 assists in 79 games.
For his career, West averaged 27 points, 5.8 rebounds and 6.7 assists in 932 games. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
Kobe Bryant, 1996-current: Bryant has proved that killer instinct and the desire to the be the best can take you along way. Even though his career started slower than most on this list, Bryant has been one of the best players in the league for nearly two decades. He has been an all-star in 16 of the 18 seasons he has been in the league and won the MVP in four of those games. He has finished in the top five in scoring in 12 different seasons making him one of the NBA’s all-time elite scorers. Bryant is also very impressive on the defensive end of the floor where he has earned all-defensive first-team nine times. Throw in 11 all-NBA first-team appearances and the league MVP award in 2007-08 and you can see why Bryant easily deserves to make this team. On top of that, he has been a huge part of five NBA championship teams, including back-to-back years as the finals MVP. His most impressive statistical season came in 2005-06 when Bryant averaged 35.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.8 steals in 80 games.
To this point in his career, Bryant has averaged 25.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.5 steals in 1,245 games and is a sure-fire, first ballot hall-of-famer when he is finished.
Larry Bird, 1979-92: Bird was a great player from the day he stepped on an NBA court until the day he was done. Even though he had physical limitations, Bird was nearly impossible to guard and was one of the best passing big men in league history. He was an all-star in 12 of the 13 seasons he spent in the NBA (the only season he didn’t make it was a year he only played six games) and led the Celtics to three NBA championships. Bird was the league MVP three times and finished as the runner-up on four other occasions. He was also named all-NBA first-team nine times and led the league in free-throw shooting four different seasons. His most impressive statistical season came in 1987-88 when Bird averaged 29.9 points on 52.7 percent shooting from the field, 41.4 percent from behind the arc and 91.6 percent from the free-throw line. He also added 9.3 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.6 steals in 76 games.
For his career, Bird averaged 24.3 points, 10 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.7 steals in 897 games. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1998.
Bill Russell, 1956-69: Russell was the backbone of 11 NBA championship teams in his 13 years in the league. Although he wasnt a prolific scorer like many of the players on the team, he is one of the games all-time greatest defenders and rebounders. Russell finished in the top three in the league in rebounding all 13 seasons and was at the top of the list five times. He was an all-star for the last 12 years of his career and was the league MVP five times. One of his most productive seasons came in 1961-62 when Russell averaged a career-high 18.9 points to go along with 23.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists.
For his career, Russell averaged 15.1 points, 22.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists in 943 games. He earned his trip to the Hall of Fame in 1975.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 1969-89: The master of the sky-hook could do it all on a basketball floor (other than shoot the 3). The leading scorer in NBA history could finish in the paint, knock down free-throws, pass out of the double-team and hit the offensive glass. On the other end of the floor, Abdul-Jabbar was a great shot blocker and rebounder. He was an all-star 19 out of his 20 seasons in the league and earned six championships rings in his time with the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers. He earned all-NBA first-team honors ten times and was the league MVP on six occasions. One of his most productive statistical seasons came with the Bucks in 1971-72 when he averaged a league leading 34.8 points on 57.4 percent shooting from the field, 16.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists.
For his career, Abdul-Jabbar averaged 24.6 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.6 blocks in 1,560 games. He earned enshrinement in the Hall of Fame in 1995.
LeBron James 2003-current: James in an amazing athlete who can get it done on both ends of the floor. He has carried the torch for the NBA (along with Kobe Bryant) since early on in his career. He has made 10 all-star games in 11 seasons in the league and has taken his team to a pair of NBA titles in five finals appearances. James has been all-NBA first-team seven times and all-defensive first-team in five of the last six seasons. He has also finished in the top four in the league in scoring in each of the last 10 years and taken home for league MVP trophies. One of his most impressive statistical seasons came with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2009-10 when he averaged 29.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 8.6 assists, 1.6 steals and one block in 76 games.
To this point in his career, James has averaged 27.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, 6.9 assists and 1.7 steals in 842 games.
John Stockton 1984-2003: who else could you put at the back-up point guard spot other than the all-time league leader in assists and steals? Stockton was the consummate pass-first lead guard who worried more about whether his team won than his individual honors. Even with that mind-set, the honors still came. Stockton made 10 all-star games in his 19 years in the league and was the All-Star Game MVP in 1992-93. Stockton led the league in assists in nine consecutive seasons and also won a pair of steals titles. He earned all-NBA honors 11 times and was all-defensive second-team player in five seasons. One of his most productive seasons came in 1990-91 when Stockton averaged 17.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, 14.2 assists and 2.9 steals in 82 games.
For his career, Stockton averaged 13.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, 10.5 assists and 2.2 steals in 1,504 games. He was awarded his place in the Hall of Fame in 2009.
Magic Johnson 1979-91, ’95-96: Johnson earned every bit of his nickname as one of the most creative passing point guards the league has ever witnessed. Johnson was the ideal floor general for the Los Angeles Lakers who could find his hall-of fame teammates for open looks or get the big bucket himself when necessary. He earned trips to 12 all-star games on was the MVP of that game twice. Johnson also took home three finals MVP awards and another three league MVP trophies. He earned all-NBA first-team nine times and managed five NBA championship rings as well. One of his most impressive seasons came in 1988-89 when Johnson averaged 22.5 points, 7.9 rebounds, 12.8 assists and 1.8 steals in 77 games.
For his career, Johnson averaged 19.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, 11.2 assists and 1.9 steals in 906 games. He was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002.
Oscar Robertson, 1960-74: Robertson was an astounding talent who was far ahead of his time and is still considered when of the best all-around talents that the game has ever seen. Robertson made the all-star game in the first 12 seasons of his 14 year career and was the MVP of the game three times.. He was also a mainstay of the all-NBA first-team, earning the honor nine straight seasons. Robertson also added six assist titles to his resume’ and was the NBA MVP in the 1963-64 season. One of his most impressive statistical seasons came in 1961-62 when Robertson averaged 30.8 points to go along with career highs in rebounds (12.5 per game) and assists (11.4 per game), to leave him as the only player in NBA history to average a triple-double for an entire season.
For his career, Robertson averaged 25.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, 9.5 assists and 1.1 steals in 1,040 games. His induction into the Hall of Fame came in 1980.
Michael Jordan, 1984-93, ’95-98, 2001-03: what would the best team of all-time be without the games best player? Jordan is one of the main reasons why the games is one of the most popular sports in the world today. He was an all-star every year he was in the league and won the scoring title 10 times. He took home six titles to go along with six finals MVP awards and five league MVP trophies. Jordan also earned all-NBA first-team honors 10 times and all-defensive first-team nine times. One of his most impressive seasons came with the Chicago Bulls in 1988-89 when Jordan averaged 32.5 points on 53.8 percent shooting from the floor to go along with eight rebounds, eight assists and 2.9 steals in 81 games.
For his career, Jordan averaged 30.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 2.3 steals in 1,072 games. He was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.
Tim Duncan, 1997-current: Duncan has been a star for the Spurs ever since he heard is name called with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1997 draft. He has earned 14 all-star game appearances in his 17 years in the league and was the MVP of the game in 1999-00. Duncan has been a double-double machine throughout his career who has always stepped up his game when playoff time came around. Duncan has earned two MVP awards as well as three finals MVP trophies while winning five rings. He has been named all-NBA first-team 10 times and all-defensive first-team eight times. One of his most productive seasons came in 2001-02 when Duncan averaged a career-high 25.5 points, 12.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.5 blocks in 82 games.
To this point is his career, Duncan has averaged 19.9 points, 11.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.2 blocks in 1,254 games. There is absolutely no doubt as to whether Duncan will make the Hall when his illustrious career finally comes to an end.
Wilt Chamberlain, 1959-73: Chamberlain is the most dominant low post scorer the league has ever seen. He won the scoring title seven times in 14 seasons and was the top shooter by percentage on nine occasions. Chamberlain also owned the glass with an astonishing 11 rebounding titles to his name. He made 13 all-star games and was named the NBA MVP four times. He also added seven all-NBA first-team selections and two championship rings to his list of accomplishments. His most impressive season (and the best year of anyone in NBA history) came in 1961-62 when he averaged 50.4 points, 25.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists in while playing more than 48 minutes a night over 80 games.
For his career, Chamberlain averaged 30.1 points, 22.9 rebounds and 4.4 assists in 1,045 games. He was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in 1979.