Everyone knows that the Lakers are one of the two most storied franchises in the league. They have had MVP caliber players throughout every era of NBA history, and they have a multitude of championships. Los Angeles as a city is a huge destination for any star player: there’s a reason for the Lakers managing to get players like LeBron James or Pau Gasol, who weren’t originally Lakers. Throughout their history, Los Angeles has had too many superstars to count, more than a lot of franchises combined.
Shaq O’Neal recently posted a photo and says the Lakers Superteam would beat the Non-Lakers Superteam. And that was the beginning of the huge debate about who would win.
What if we pitted an All-Time Lakers starting lineup against an All-Time Non-Lakers starting lineup, both rosters full of GOAT players. An all-time game between greats would be something that any NBA fan would want to see. The Lakers would have a huge star-studded five: some of the best players to have ever walked the earth. But the Non-Lakers team would have the resources from all over the league: it’s not like all the best players in NBA history were Lakers. Let’s see how the two teams stack up.
Team Lakers: Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal
Team Non-Lakers: Stephen Curry, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Tim Duncan, Hakeem Olajuwon
Point Guard: Magic Johnson vs. Stephen Curry
At the point guard position, you truly have a battle of eras. Stephen Curry represents the fast-paced 3PT dominant style of the modern game. He was a unanimous MVP and anyone could tell you that Curry was someone who changed the game. Magic Johnson, on the other hand, was more like a traditional point guard: flashy passing, good defense, and clutch shooting. Johnson’s shooting was no huge display of marksmanship, but he was passable at it. Pitting one of the best small PGs of all-time against the best big PG of all-time should be a showdown to watch.
Stephen Curry has three championships with the Golden State Warriors: he is a powerhouse on the offensive end and his impact there is felt. On this all-time team, he’d have to play more of a facilitating role, mitigating some of his scoring impact. Magic Johnson on the other end, would be more of a natural playmaking PG, making him perfect for a team with a lot of other scorers. The slight edge goes to Magic Johnson due to his playmaking and defensive upside over Curry.
Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant vs. Michael Jordan
Kobe Bryant is undoubtedly one of the greatest players to ever live. His death earlier in the year was a huge tragedy, but his memory lives on with everyone in Los Angeles. If you knew anything about Kobe Bryant, you know that his game was based almost entirely on Michael Jordan’s. This all-time matchup could let us see something that most of us have only seen on old TV clips. Kobe Bryant has five championships and Michael Jordan has six; they’re both some of the greatest scorers to ever play the game of basketball.
No one would want to bet on either player to win this matchup. Both are elite scorers who could score 30 points on any given night. Kobe Bryant had less natural talent than Michael Jordan, but he made up for it with hard work. It is hard to give the edge to either: but if the choice must be made, it has to be Michael Jordan. Until someone definitively proves otherwise, Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all-time and the edge goes to him.
Small Forward: LeBron James vs. Larry Bird
Larry Bird is one of the best players to ever live. Bird is one of the faces of the Boston Celtics franchise and widely considered as an elite shooter in his era. Bird could play make, shoot and defend, all while talking trash to your face. He wouldn’t have been afraid of anyone on the court, not even LeBron James. LeBron James is an all-around small forward who is like the next evolution of the combo forward. LeBron James isn’t as good of a shooter, but his athleticism and basketball IQ are just as good if not better. This matchup would be between two forwards who were similar players in different eras.
Larry Bird is a good shooter; he would space the floor effectively and be an important presence at the SF position. While Bird may mitigate some of LeBron James’ impact, the edge here has to go to LeBron James. James has a claim to being a top-two player of all-time and is known as a winner. LeBron James can be a great ballhandler, and play any role on the court. LeBron James would probably find a way to score against Larry Bird, and when locked in could make Bird’s life miserable on the defensive end. LeBron James wins the matchup.
Power Forward: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar vs. Tim Duncan
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has won at every stage of his career. He has six championship rings, six MVPs and has led the league in rebounding. Abdul-Jabbar has also won with two different teams, and his skyhook was an unguardable move. Abdul-Jabbar would be a handful for anyone matched up against him, but if anyone could slow him down it would be Tim Duncan. Duncan has 15 All-Defensive selections and is known as one of the best fundamental players ever. Duncan’s post-up game is simple but legendary; he is a five-time NBA champion with three Finals MVPs. Duncan would impact the game on both ends of the floor but likely take a backseat to other scorers.
Abdul-Jabbar gets the nod here. While Duncan is an All-Time legend, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had the size and finesse to win inside against anyone. Duncan could stop some of the bleedings, but most of the time, Abdul-Jabbar’s transcendent post-game would come out on top. Duncan’s post-up game would also be tested by Abdul-Jabbar’s rim-protection and defensive prowess. They would be even on the defensive end, but Abdul-Jabbar would be better on the offensive end, handing this matchup to the Lakers big man.
Center: Shaquille O’Neal vs. Hakeem Olajuwon
Shaquille O’Neal in his prime was an unstoppable force of nature. O’Neal long terrorized his opponents during his time with the Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers, and Miami Heat. His time with the Lakers resulted in a three-peat and perhaps the best one-two punch of all-time. O’Neal could dunk on anyone, through contact in a league with a ton of other giants. O’Neal’s physicality and athleticism gave him the edge in most matchups during his heyday. However, Shaquille O’Neal once lost to the man he’s playing in this matchup: Hakeem Olajuwon.
Hakeem Olajuwon is the one center who had an answer for Shaquille O’Neal: he had the strength to hold his own, and an array of post moves that could confuse even the best defender. Olajuwon has beaten O’Neal in the Finals even though his team was way less talented. Olajuwon showed that he was the better player, and even though he won fewer rings there is a tangible head-to-head matchup we can refer to. While O’Neal didn’t lose during his time with the Lakers, if Hakeem was physically in his prime to face Lakers O’Neal, history probably would have repeated itself.
The first quarter is all about pushing the pace for the Non-Lakers team. This is due to the influence of Stephen Curry, and the ability of Olajuwon and Duncan to be more mobile on the offensive end. The two big men could also space the floor from the midrange position, allowing for some easy spot-up opportunities. Towards the end of the quarter, Magic Johnson manages to slow down Curry getting hot.
Curry’s quarter was highlighted by three 3PT makes to start, but he finished with two misses to even it out. Team Lakers are taking a beating, but eventually starts abusing mismatches towards the end of the first quarter. Abdul-Jabbar and O’Neal, in particular, have huge buckets inside on the smaller Non-Lakers lineup. End of quarter score: 25-27 Non-Lakers lead.
During the second quarter, LeBron James decides to impose his will on the game and take the lead: he sets up his big men in transition and finds Kobe Bryant for open shots. This quarter is continuously dominated by Lakers greats as the Non-Lakers fall under a barrage of scoring from the two superstars, with others contributing.
Michael Jordan carries almost all of the Non-Lakers scoring for the quarter with 18 points, while Kobe Bryant and LeBron James have 13 points each. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ends up using his skyhook a few times in succession, before getting double-teamed. The Lakers score 32 points in the quarter, and despite Larry Bird’s buzzer-beater three, things don’t look good for the Non-Lakers. End of quarter score: 57-48 Lakers lead.
The third quarter is a defensive slugfest. The presence of Magic Johnson for the Lakers and Tim Duncan for the Non-Lakers shores up the defense for both sides and points are hard to come by. Despite that you see Olajuwon score one on one using post moves while getting a couple of huge stops. Michael Jordan comes up big during this quarter as well; his team needed scoring, so he managed to add another 8 points to his total for the night. It was a low scoring quarter, with each side scoring 20 or under in the quarter. End of quarter score: 67-68 Non-Lakers lead.
The fourth quarter rolls around, and we see that Kobe Bryant has been quiet, scoring-wise since the second quarter. He knows that Michael Jordan is tired from carrying the scoring for the Non-Lakers; as one of the people who weren’t scared of Jordan, he would go right at him. As Jordan had spent a lot of energy on offense, other players must focus more on defense.
While there are a few plays where other players are involved, the game down the stretch becomes Bryant and Jordan trading buckets one-on-one. Jordan finishes with another 15 points for the night, putting his tally at 38 points for the evening. Kobe Bryant finishes with 10 more points, but that wasn’t enough to beat Non-Lakers Team, because Michael Jordan was surrounded by two of the best shooters of all time, Stephen Curry and Larry Bird, with great fundamental big men Tim Duncan and Hakeem Olajuwon.
The Lakers team played great, but they only had Kobe Bryant as a shooter, while LeBron James and Magic Johnson are very similar players who cancel each other’s impact out. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal are an unstoppable combination, but Tim Duncan and Hakeem Olajuwon are some of the best inside defenders in NBA history, and when you add Michael Jordan, Stephen Curry, and Larry Bird, that team is almost perfect. An ultimate team with talent from all over the NBA is probably the only thing that could have stopped this Lakers team.
Also, don’t forget… When the Lakers Team was close to winning this game, Michael Jordan ‘took it personal’ and led the Non-Lakers Team with another big win.
Non-Lakers Superteam vs. Lakers Superteam: 102-98
Finals MVP: Michael Jordan (38 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists)