Excluding big men, the most dominant and most popular superstars are arguably Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James. They were primary ball handlers throughout their careers and could do their damage from the perimeter and by attacking the basket.
Since the great Michael Jordan, who is widely regarded as the best player ever, we have seen Kobe Bryant and LeBron James take over the league with incredible talent and success with their teams and as individuals. Kobe Bryant won five NBA titles while LeBron James won three, and each of them is the undisputed kings of their eras after Michael Jordan. While neither of them equals or surpasses Jordan’s six rings, they are right there in the conversation.
But which player played with the most talent by their sides? Did Jordan’s 6 rings occur because he simply had the best teammates, or did LeBron and Kobe have better teammates throughout their careers? It’s time to uncover which of these all-time great players played with the most talent.
LeBron James – 15 Talents
Without question, LeBron had the most talent on his team throughout his career. Even though he had some very bad teams, especially at the beginning of his career, he always managed to play with some Hall of Fame quality players and very talented players.
To start off with, LeBron James had Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Mo Williams as his sidekicks. Williams was an All-Star playing next to LeBron, and an absolute marksman from the perimeter. He was also a very capable point guard who complimented LeBron well. In the paint, Zydrunas Ilgauskas was a unique 7-footer who could stretch the floor and had a nice hook in the paint. While neither of them were Hall of Famers, they were damn good players and All-Star quality.
LeBron also played with Antawn Jamison, Shaquille O’Neal, and Ben Wallace. Even though these players were past their primes, they were still talented players who got it done on the court. Shaq was still a large player who controlled the paint, while Wallace was known for his defensive tenacity and ability to block shots. Jamison could still score at a capable rate and made a career off of his ability to score inside and from the perimeter as well.
During the next phase of his career, he had two Hall of Famers by his side in Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. At that time, he had two of the best players in their position and it is no wonder why James won 2 NBA titles with them. The Heat were unstoppable with their Big 3, and the best version of LeBron came out during this period. LeBron also had the luxury of playing with sharpshooter Ray Allen, who is a top-five shooter ever and one of the most clutch players to have ever played.
Even after having the Big 3 with the Heat, he re-joined the Cavs who had a terrific Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. Clearly, this is better than the duo of Williams and Ilgauskas as Kyrie is probably headed to the Hall of Fame. James won an NBA title with Kyrie Irving as the primary scorer and clutch-shot maker, while Love did all the dirty work by grabbing rebounds and nailing perimeter shots.
The next phase of LeBron’s career had him alongside former MVP talent Derrick Rose and former MVP candidate Isaiah Thomas. Even though Rose wasn’t the same Rose from 2008 and Thomas was coming off an injury, they were still capable players and clear All-Stars when healthy. Unfortunately, LeBron could not form a dynamic partnership with either of them and this didn’t last long.
During the most recent phase of LeBron’s career, he teamed up with yet another top-five player in the game with Anthony Davis. AD is in his prime and extremely dominant on both ends of the floor. LeBron and AD have made the Lakers the favorites for the NBA title and they are also accompanied by future Hall of Fame big man Dwight Howard and former NBA champion Rajon Rondo.
Clearly, LeBron James has had some incredible talent to help him win three NBA titles. LeBron was still the undisputed best player on every team he has been on, but he has had the most talent by his side.
Talents: Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Anthony Davis, Isaiah Thomas Derrick Rose, Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo, Mo Williams, Ray Allen, Shaquille O’Neal, Antawn Jamison, Ben Wallace, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Kobe Bryant – 9 Talents
Kobe Bryant had the great Shaquille O’Neal, and that was a huge helper for his three NBA rings. Shaw was a force of nature who won three straight Finals MVPs during their run together. Shaq was the perfect teammate to Kobe, who loved playing alongside great big men to dominate the boards and be a paint presence. None were as good as Shaq.
Besides O’Neal, Kobe also had Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum who were the twin towers that helped him win two more NBA titles. They gave Kobe lots of help in the paint because Kobe was clearly a shooting guard who couldn’t affect the game on the inside that much. Kobe also had Lamar Odom, a very versatile talent who did everything well on the floor. Even though Odom was a great sixth man, he was crucial in forming a bond with Kobe and being a great playmaker and scorer for the team.
Kobe also had Ron Artest, Dwight Howard, and Steve Nash at his side. At one point, they all played together although it did not work out in Kobe’s favor since all of them suffered from injuries and were a hot mess chemistry-wise. Artest was key for Kobe’s last NBA title, as he played tough defense and hit big shots to help the Lakers win Game 7. Nash was older but still one of the best playmakers in the league while Dwight suffered his own injuries but was still the best big man in the game when he played with Kobe.
Finally, Kobe also had an old Karl Malone and Gary Payton to compliment him and Shaq in 2004. Of course, they reached the Finals for the fourth straight year but could not get it done over a very bonded and disciplined Detroit Pistons squad.
Talents: Shaquille O’Neal, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Dwight Howard, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Karl Malone, Gary Payton, Steve Nash
Michael Jordan – 2 Talents
Many claim Michael Jordan is the greatest of all time, and the amount of talent he played with only helps his cause. Without question, Scottie Pippen is a top-50 player of all time and arguably the best perimeter defender ever. He was also very versatile as a defender and could guard bigs in the paint as well. Pippen was also the primary playmaker for the Chicago Bulls Dynasty that won 6 NBA titles and could score 20 PPG as well. In terms of being the best sidekick to a superstar, Pippen might be the greatest ever.
Rodman was also a terrific defender and usually found a way to bother the best bigs in NBA history thanks to his defensive awareness and physical gifts. Rodman was the perfect third wheel for the Bulls, and although he couldn’t score, he did all the dirty work including getting every rebound off the rim. Jordan was the man taking all the shots, so Rodman had to focus on making key plays to help his team win.
But still… that is only two truly talented players. Jordan had two Hall of Famers by his side, but it was through his own accord why he won 6 NBA titles for the Bulls and this only further solidifies the case that Jordan is truly the best player to have ever done it.
Talents: Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman