A big factor in determining the greatest NBA players ever is team success, and many of the game’s best players enjoyed both individual and team accomplishments throughout their careers.
But who benefitted from playing with the best teammates? Is a player who had the luxury of playing with other All-Stars lesser than one who didn’t? It’s hard to say, but if one thing is certain in basketball, it’s that no singular player can win by himself.
So let’s look at a few of the top players ever in LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, and compare how many All-Star teammates they each had. For a player to make this list, he must have made at least one All-Star team while being on the same roster as one of these legends.
Larry Bird – 7 All-Stars
Bird went to five Finals and won three in the 1980s. He was an incredible player, but he didn’t do it alone. He enjoyed the company of Kevin McHale and Robert Parish for almost his entire career, which led to the Celtics being perennial contenders.
Bird, in his first couple seasons, also played with the legendary Tiny Archibald. The dynamic and famously-small point guard was well past his prime after tearing his Achilles tendon in a previous season, but he was still a premier playmaker in the league in the early 1980s.
Dennis Johnson, Reggie Lewis and Danny Ainge all made one All-Star team alongside Bird. They each were great complementary pieces on those Boston teams, with Johnson transitioning from the star he was in Phoenix to a more playmaking-oriented role on the Celtics. Lewis picked up more of the scoring load once Bird, McHale and Parish began to age, and Ainge was a feisty player and top-level shooter.
Talents: Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson, Tiny Archibald, Dave Cowens, Reggie Lewis, Danny Ainge
LeBron James – 7 All-Stars
James ties Bird with seven All-Star teammates. You might think it would be more considering James is the only player on this list to play for multiple franchises, as well as being a pioneer of the player-empowerment era.
Still, James’ best teammates were Dwyane Wade, Kyrie Irving and now Anthony Davis. These three were the main reasons he joined the franchises he did in free agency, and although Davis wasn’t in Los Angeles when James arrived, James knew the organization would attract at least one player of Davis’ caliber.
Chris Bosh and Kevin Love were also All-Stars, but they each sacrificed production to be the third-wheel on championship teams. Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Mo Williams were the only two All-Stars from James’ first stint in Cleveland, but they both were more a product of James’ influence than great players in their own right.
Talents: Anthony Davis, Dwyane Wade, Kyrie Irving, Chris Bosh, Kevin Love, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Mo Williams
Kobe Bryant – 6 All-Stars
The late Kobe Bryant comes in third place with six All-Star teammates, although the main two he had success with were Shaquille O’Neal and Pau Gasol. Bryant always played well alongside a great big man, and these two allowed the Laker legend to shine on the perimeter while they controlled the paint.
Bryant played with two other formidable big men in Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum, but the team didn’t have extended success with either of them as feature players. Howard was despised by Bryant, while Bynum’s knees failed him just as he was developing into a star.
Eddie Jones and Nick Van Exel were Bryant’s All-Star teammates in his early seasons in the late 1990s, but neither of them stuck with the team long enough to share in L.A.’s three-peat in the early 2000s. They were good players in their own right and had success elsewhere, yet their score-first styles likely wouldn’t have allowed Bryant to blossom.
Talents: Shaquille O’Neal, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Dwight Howard, Eddie Jones, Nick Van Exel
Magic Johnson – 5 All-Stars
Despite winning five of his nine Finals appearances, Johnson played with just five different All-Star teammates throughout his career. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was clearly the greatest of his teammates as the two dominated the league for several years together, but James Worthy eventually became the Lakers’ second-best player by the late 1980s and even won the 1988 Finals MVP.
Jamaal Wilkes and Norm Nixon were valuable All-Star teammates during Johnson’s early years, but their impact was eventually replaced by Worthy. A.C. Green is probably the worst All-Star on this list. He somehow made it in 1990 while averaging 12.9 points per game. It must have been because the team won 63 games that year.
Talents: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Jamaal Wilkes, Norm Nixon, A.C. Green
Michael Jordan – 1 All-Star
Jordan’s Bulls won six championships in the 1990s, yet somehow he only played with one other All-Star during that time: Scottie Pippen. Pippen is arguably the greatest second-option of all time, and he and Jordan dominated like few duos ever have throughout NBA history.
The tandem was dynamic offensively and ferocious on defense. They complimented each other extremely well, and almost no other team could match their abilities during that time. One wonders how many championships they could have won if they acquired another All-Star player.
Talents: Scottie Pippen