My brother needed some ‘dude time’ recently, and I was happy to oblige. No need to explain, but here — townie bar, pitchers, wings, loaded fries, and a strong TV-to-wall ratio. Joe’s older than me by a few years, and we’re adults now (kinda), so we don’t have a ton of time for this kind of thing. He’s got kids. I’ve got a cat. Ya know — adult stuff.
Joe’s not exactly an NBA fan, so when he tosses out, “How about that LeBron James?” I immediately was about to start gushing like he just said, “How about that Kate Upton?” But, before I could agree, it turned out that I didn’t agree. Because he didn’t know what he was talking about.
“He really sucked this postseason, huh? Can’t believe they still won.”
I almost went Hulk Smash on him with words instead of giant green fists, but I held back the green and calmly explained how wrong he was. Stupid media got to him, and he was blinded to the ridiculous play of LBJ. And as Joe does, he changed the subject.
“Either way -- no team could ever beat the Dream Team! Best. Team. Ever.”
Cheers to that.
“You could create a team with all the other players in NBA history, and they STILL wouldn’t beat the Dream Team.”
Sounds like a challenge.
So, I created the anti-Dream Team. Not the 12 worst players ever, but the team that could oppose that ’92 squad in a theoretical battle. It takes a second to realize the number of all-time greats that aren’t at your disposal when making this roster, but I pressed on. As a matter of fairness, I required myself to select one player from the college ranks, and he had to be a senior for the 2013-14 season. Christian Laettner needs a nemesis, too. Here we go ...
Centers (2): Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell
Flustered by the absence of MJ, Magic, and Bird, I decided to start at center, and it came down to three choices — Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul Jabbar. All three are arguably the greatest of all time at their position. I knew I’d take Russell, the greatest winner of them all, great defender, great rebounder, and no ego. I didn’t exactly flip a coin for the other two, but Chamberlain was my pick. I won’t regret it, but many will say I’m wrong. That's what comments are for (see below).
Power Forwards (3): Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, and Dennis Rodman
Stop freaking out. I know you read at least one of those, maybe two, and said, “Is he #@$%ing nuts?” No. I’m building a team here, not decided who the greatest of all time are at their position. Duncan is a no-brainer. KG is one of my personal favorites with unmatched intensity, and as a 7-footer, he towers over Malone and Barkley. Rodman is the attitude and the production who will go toe-to-toe with anyone, frustrate everyone, and give an edge to the team.
Small Forwards (3): LeBron James, Julius Erving, Doug McDermott*
I can’t wait to see LBJ and Pippen go head-to-head as two of the greatest athletes to ever run the floor. Wait ... this isn’t real life? Right. Either way, LeBron is another no-brainer. Dr. J brings even more athleticism to face what I expect is the biggest weakness of the Dream Team, which is athleticism at the 3-position. Larry Bird and Chris Mullin are substantial drop-offs from Pippen in that regard. McDermott (soon-to-be senior at Crieghton) is Bird-like in that he can step back and shoot a 3-pointer, but, let’s face it, he’s not playing.
Shooting Guards (2): Kobe Bryant and Reggie Miller
Kobe is the only possible match-up for Jordan, even though I don’t think it’s close. However, Bryant’s competitive drive can sustain a worthy performance. Miller provides that assassin from 3-point range I think every great team needs. He’s not the athlete of Clyde Drexler, but he’ll give fits on the offensive end while stretching the floor for the bigs to do damage inside.
Point Guards (2): Oscar Robertson and Isiah Thomas
Oscar wasn’t this high on my original mental list, but when I saw his measurables, I thought, “Here’s a guy to match up with Magic.” At 6-5, he’s probably the only point guard in history who wouldn’t get bullied on one end of the court. And Isiah is another attitude pick. I was close to saying Steve Nash or Jason Kidd, but Thomas would have a chip on his shoulder playing for this team after getting snubbed in 1992.
Respectfully Denied: C - Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon; PF - Elvin Hayes, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin McHale; SF - Elgin Baylor; SG - Jerry West, John Havlicek, Ray Allen, Dwyane Wade; PG - Jason Kidd, Steve Nash.
Almost forgot a coach. While Chuck Daly was a great coach, the genius of his selection to lead the Dream Team was his demeanor. He was a manager, like Coach K has been over the last decade-plus. And speaking of the Blue Devil (see what I did there?), Mike Krzyzewski is my pick.
But seriously, all-time greats tend to cancel one another out, but there is room for preference. I’ll take my centers over Ewing and Robinson, but it’s only slightly over the course of a game or series. None of these guys are getting dominated, just beaten.
LeBron almost forces Daly to play Pippen and forfeit arguably his best shooter (Bird), at least to start. I actually think Pippen could neutralize LBJ better than anybody else, and LeBron’s preference to defer when he’s stymied helps the Dream Team. But, if Bird and Mullin get hot, who knows?
Power forward is where I see the greatest chance to swing the game in either direction. Malone and Barkley are imposing players who bullied opponents in their career and then surprised them with superior skill. The height and range of Duncan and Garnett can either neutralize bulls like those two, or be neutralized by them. Depends on the night. It’s a push.
Jordan is Jordan and he’s going to get his, despite Bryant’s best efforts and considerable talent. Bryant likely wouldn’t be shut down, but ... Jordan is Jordan. Reggie can be an X-factor on offense or a liability on defense. Meanwhile, nobody runs the point like Magic, but Oscar’s job is to minimize that, and I think he’d do it to a degree.
Choosing a theoretical winner in this game is almost as ridiculous is coming up with the roster in the first place. For sake of argument, I’ll say Dream Team in seven, with Jordan being the difference. Like always.
Now you go.