Recently I’ve been thinking retrospectively a lot more than I usually would. Maybe it’s because I’m a second semester senior who needs to go out more, or maybe I’m starting to feel the big 22 getting closer and closer and my impending quarter-life crisis is messing with my noggin. Who knows? I don’t.All of this aside, however, I’ve given a lot of thought recently to a question that I’ve asked myself many times before: If I could pick the perfect squad of basketball legends to be my starting five plus a sixth man, whom would I select? Imagine the possibility of being able to take all of your favorite players in the history of basketball, regardless of what generation they played in, to form your own monster squad. Who would it be?After a lot of careful thought and consideration, I’ve made up my mind. I’d like to start my list with six honorable mentions. These include Bill Russell, Jerry “Mr. Clutch” West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Scottie Pippen, John Stockton and Charles Barkley. Because my perfect squad is going to consist of six men, these are the six other men I’d select if I were filling out an entire 12-man roster. The resumes of these players speak for themselves. Now onto my starters and my sixth man.At point guard is the best to every play at that position in the history of the NBA and that is Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Magic finished his career with the highest assists per game average in an NBA career, at 11.2. As a pass first point guard, Magic is the ideal floor general to facilitate the offense for this team, not just creating opportunities for the rest of his teammates, but also creating easy opportunities for teammates to score. Magic was, without a doubt, the cornerstone of the “Showtime Lakers” era of the 1980s that won five NBA championships. Magic possessed great size for a point guard at 6’9”, which made him very versatile and gave him the ability to play multiple positions on the floor. I’ll end by saying that an argument can be made that he was the best of all time. Shooting guard is probably the most controversial of my picks. I know a lot of basketball traditionalists are going to get on my case, but I’m going with my favorite player of all time, the great Kobe Bean Bryant. Die hard Jordan fans; we’ll get to him later. I grew up watching Kobe play and he has compiled one of the most impressive resumes in the history of the NBA. More than that, though, he is one of the most complete players in the game’s history. Offensively, Kobe possesses the ability to score in isolation, off the dribble, in the post, in transition and from beyond the arc. His ability to score from just about any place on the court sets him apart from those around him. Beyond scoring, though, Kobe is an underrated passer with great court vision and the ability to also create opportunities for his teammates. Defensively, Kobe is one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA as a twelve-time all-defensive team selection, something outshined by his offensive gifts.At the small forward position is the man, the legend, Larry Bird. “Larry Legend,” as he is known, is one of the best Celtics in the history of such a storied franchise. Bird was the leader of the Celtics teams that won three NBA Championships during the 1980s, and was one of the smartest and most scrappy players in the NBA, always playing aggressively to win. Some might criticize this selection, and say that LeBron James is the clear choice, but I’m not a LeBron fan whatsoever, and I don’t need another facilitator on my team, that’s why I selected Magic. Larry Bird, more than anything, possesses the intangible qualities that would not only make him a great leader, but a great performer in clutch time.Power forward is not even a contest. There is really only one logical choice here, and it’s Tim Duncan of San Antonio, a player who without question is the best power forward in the history of the NBA, an honor bestowed upon him while still active. For his career Duncan has averaged a double double in points and rebounds at 20.3 and 11.3, respectively, something you want out of your power forward. Duncan is also a prolific defender, being selected to the all-defensive team thirteen times in his career so far, and averaging 2.2 blocks per game for his career. Duncan’s discipline in training over the course of his career puts him and Kobe Bryant in a class all their own, as two of the hardest working and most accomplished players of their generation.Choosing my center was by far the most challenging. The NBA has a history of great big men. After a lot of careful consideration, my choice for center came down to the man with the “dream shake,” the great Hakeem Olajuwon. Standing at seven feet, and weighing in at around 250 pounds, Olajuwon possessed the kind of quickness and footwork that most centers would never be able to achieve. Hakeem was so quick on his feet and so smart that he developed his post game to be one of the best in the history of the NBA. Olajuwon averaged for his eighteen-year career a double double in points and rebounds at 21.8 and 11.1, respectively. One of the main reasons I selected Olajuwon over so many centers was his overall athleticism, and his ability to consistently block shots on the defensive side of the ball, averaging 3.1 blocks per game for his career.Due to what most would consider my snub of Michael Jordan, I decided to make him my sixth man. I know I’m going to catch flak for the clearly disrespectful demotion of the greatest of all time to the bench, but this is my column, so leave me be. Anyway, I’m placing him here because Jordan possesses the kind of electrifying athleticism and big play-making skill that you want out of your sixth man to spark your entire team. Imagine Jordan coming off the bench and proceeding to do some of the high-flying dunks that made him so hard to defend and really pumped up the crowd in Chicago all those years. The greatest thing about Jordan is that you get all that electrifying offense without sacrificing defense one bit. Jordan was named the 1988 Defensive Player of the Year, and was named to the all-defensive team nine times, while leading the league in steals three times in his career.These are my guys, and I’d be willing to put them toe-to-toe with any other squad that could be assembled.
Original Author: Juan Carlos Toledo