Trying to assemble the best possible team is not an old activity, as we’ve seen how all major competitive sports have made these practices with relative frequency. The NBA is perhaps the most notorious league when it comes to superteams, but contrary to what many people believe, this didn’t start with LeBron James joining the Miami Heat seven years ago.
The Association has a marvelous history where there are several episodes in which the fate of a team was about to change, but never happened due to complications.
Today we are going to take a look at those movements that could take some teams to another level but never became official. These are 12 superteams that almost happened.
12. Shaquille O'Neal and Chris Webber (1993)
Have you heard about DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis? What about another twin towers that could have led and dominated the NBA during the 90’s? Well, Orlando was a good team to have hypothetical great squads as they are nowadays to land awful players.
Chris Webber was selected as the first overall pick in the 1993 NBA draft but he was immediately traded to the Golden State Warriors.
What if they kept C-Webb and put him together with Shaq? It would have been a nightmare for any team that tried to challenge these two giants. It’s crazy to see how things can be totally different depending on somebody’s decision at a specific time. Chris Webber not playing with Shaquille O’Neal is one of those cases.
11. Tim Duncan, Jason Kidd and Manu Ginobili (2003)
We all know the San Antonio Spurs’ history and how they have developed and discovered talents over the year; a big sample of that is Tony Parker, a guy who knew how to take the team to play at the maximum level against the biggest rivals.
However, Parker wouldn’t have had a very successful journey playing at Texas if they acquired the services of one of the best point guards in the game historically. Jason Kidd almost signed with the Spurs in 2003, but that never happened. Kidd playing under the tutelage of Gregg Popovich with the system and the philosophy of the Spurs would have been nothing but great. Unfortunately, we can only imagine what would have happen.
10. Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton (2003)
It is odd trying to define how this move would have gone, but plenty of people think it was the right one to make. During the first half of the past decade, the Detroit Pistons found the way to become a competitive team that defeated every rival thanks to their suffocating defense. However, they always missed something to become a real dynasty in the league.
Albeit this happened even before they reached the NBA finals against the Lakers, the Detroit Pistons picked Darko Milicic over Carmelo Anthony in the 2003 draft. Melo has proved his value over and over again, but failing due to the lack of supporting cast in their teams. Nevertheless, a lot of people think it probably would’ve been a disaster because of Larry Brown and his thoughts, but who knows, the only team Detroit missed during those years was a player who could score easily and Carmelo was the right candidate.
9. Dirk Nowitzki and Shaquille O'Neal (2004)
After all the problems Shaq had with his former teammate Kobe Bryant, both O’Neal and the Lakers decided to send the big guy to another team. Fortunately for Miami fans, the lucky team was none other than the Heat, where O’Neal created one of the best associations in the league with Dwyane Wade.
However, during that time the Mavericks were seriously going after Shaq in 2004. If the Lakers took the decision of sending O’Neal to Texas, we could’ve seen prime Shaq and Dirk Nowitzki playing together. It is not a minor detail that Shaq faced Nowitzki and the mentioned Mavericks a couple of seasons after that move in the finals. Imagine if they both led the Mavs during the best years of their careers.
8. Tim Duncan, Tracy McGrady, and Grant Hill (2000)
Alright, Orlando is not the best or most attractive place to play right now in the NBA, but back in the day they managed to assemble a very good team with Tracy McGrady and the expected to be the next Jordan, Grant Hill. They surely played good and it was a complete show watching them on a nightly basis, but the Magic always missed something that they could have in 2000.
So, Tim Duncan almost joined McGrady and Grant Hill in Orlando in 2000. Can you imagine the best power forward ever playing alongside one of the best backcourts in the history of the league? Well, it almost happened 17 years ago, but seeing how things went for Hill and the great tenure Duncan have had with the Spurs, it was good not to see this happening. T-Mac, however, had the chance to play with Duncan when his career was almost done. Unfortunately, he was unable to finally win the ring.
7. Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Pau Gasol (2007)
Ten years ago another huge movement could have taken place in the NBA when the Lakers almost acquired the services of one of the players that defeated them a year later playing with their maximum rivals, the Boston Celtics.
In 2007, the Lakers were set to trade both Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom for Kevin Garnett. Los Angeles would have had a core of Kobe, Garnett, and either Pau or Marc Gasol. Besides, as we said first, this would have worked better for them, as Garnett was a very important piece in the Boston Celtics’ title in 2008, playing against the Lakers, precisely.
6. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose (2010)
Before he joined the Miami Heat, there were several rumors about LeBron James and Dwyane Wade almost joining the Chicago Bulls commanded by Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng back in 2010. James and Wade were at that stage of career when you can only improve through every game and Derrick Rose was barely playing his third season as a pro.
If they were able to play together, that year the Big three would’ve taken everything, as Miami with LeBron and Bosh faced the Bulls with Derrick Rose and company in the Eastern Conference Finals. If Bosh never committed to go to Miami, this would have meant a new and really good beginning for the Bulls.
5. Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal (1999)
Scottie Pippen’s journey with the Houston Rockets was nothing but pleasant since his constant fights with Charles Barkley had a major role in his departure from the Texas team. During that year Pippen landed in Portland to play with the Blazers, where his career continued with any meaningful emotion.
At the same time, Phil Jackson was pushing for the Lakers to sign Scottie in 1999 but Jerry Buss refused due to the cost of Pip. The Lakers were the best place to land for any player at that time and this is another example. A big 3 of Shaq, Kobe and Scottie Pippen would’ve been something marvelous.
4. Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard (2011)
Ok, so six years ago one of the weirdest episodes in NBA took place when David Stern vetoed the trade of Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers. Even today there are people that remember that and blame the then-commissioner for the present and the bad seasons the team had after that failed trade.
Stern vetoed the traded thanks to the pressure of the rest of the NBA owners (at that time, the Hornets were owned by the league) as many –or most- of them believed the competitiveness would have been damaged if the Lakers didn’t give in at least one draft pick. The Lakers missed a great chance to team up Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul plus Dwight Howard that would’ve led the Lakers to relive the old glories. Instead, they traded Steve Nash and even though the Canadian player had a remarkable career, we couldn’t see the best of his game in California.
3. Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal (1996)
During 1996. we witnessed one of the saddest episodes in NBA history; we watched the second retirement of one of the greatest, the best point guard this game has ever seen, Magic Johnson.
If Johnson had stayed at least one more season in the association, we could have seen him playing alongside two great Lakers like Kobe and Shaquille O’Neal. Now that’s only an illusion, something that could happen but at the end, it didn’t. Kobe and Shaq won three titles with the Lakers, but there is no doubt that having Magic with them would’ve made the team a complete show.
2. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony (2014)
We all know Miami history when it comes to build Superteams and they nailed it in 2010 when they assembled a team with LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, but right after they lose against the San Antonio Spurs, the Heat’s front office started to search a new player to boost their squad.
The 2014 Miami Heat tried to add Carmelo Anthony to their high-powered big 3. They would’ve reportedly taken pay cuts to make this actually happen. Unfortunately for them, the Knicks offered Melo a deal that he couldn't refuse (5-year max contract). Maybe with this move LeBron would have stayed in Miami and stopped Golden State during that year’s finals.
1. Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler (1984)
Back in the day, the Houston Rockets could have had arguably the best core in NBA history. If they made the right decisions, there wouldn’t have been any competition for them. The Houston Rockets almost got Hakeem Olajuwon, Michael Jordan and Clyde Drexler in 1984. Imagine what would have happened if those three played together…
Even Bill Simmons talked about that in his book. The Rockets would’ve traded then-expected-to-be superstar Ralph Sampson to Portland for Clyde Drexler and the 2nd pick in the draft. They would’ve taken Hakeem first and his majesty second. Olajuwon and Jordan dominated the NBA during eight consecutive years in the 90’s; imagine if they both played alongside in a team.