The Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers are two of the most storied franchises in NBA history, as they have had a collection of superstar talent that delivered multiple NBA titles over decades of basketball. The Bulls obviously had the luck of having Michael Jordan on the roster, because the shooting guard helped deliver the team’s only 6 titles. Of course, stars such as Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman were also critical in the Bulls’ success as a franchise
The Lakers are tied with the Boston Celtics for the most championships by a franchise in history. With 17 total NBA titles, perhaps the greatest collection of players have played for the Purple and Gold. We have seen Magic capture 5 NBA titles as the greatest point guard ever, while Kobe and Shaq delivered 3 NBA titles together. Of course, Bryant won another two with the Lakers once Shaq left.
Clearly, both the Bulls and Lakers are iconic franchises that were built off success. But which starting five of all-time great players on both teams would win a best-of-7 series? Here is how that would play out.
Derrick Rose vs. Magic Johnson
Two completely different players, this matchup is very intriguing, to say the least. Derrick Rose is one of the greatest athletes in his position ever, and he completely outshines Magic in terms of explosiveness and leaping ability. Rose is also an elite scorer who will put a ton of pressure on Magic as a defender.
But Johnson is taller, stronger, and a better passer. The legendary Lakers leader will average double-digit assists in the series while also grabbing close to 10 RPG. Magic understands he is overmatched as an athlete, but that does not mean he is overmatched as a leader and winner.
Michael Jordan vs. Kobe Bryant
Michael Jordan will be the best player in the series, playing like a man possessed to help his team get through games. As a whole, the Bulls are not as talented as the Lakers on the offensive end and Jordan will have to pick up the slack on most occasions. Over 7 games, MJ will average 39.2 PPG.
Meanwhile, Kobe Bryant will try to mimic what Jordan brings to the table as a scorer and elite defensive player. Bryant will also have to sacrifice a lot on offense to feed Shaq and Kareem, and will not handle the ball as much with Magic and LeBron on the court. Quite frankly, this series will not be a great one for Bryant.
Scottie Pippen vs. LeBron James
In the other marquee matchup on the perimeter, Scottie Pippen will approach this series as if he is equal to LeBron James. In some ways, he truly is because of his all-around skills and ability to be a leading playmaker. But for the majority of the series, Pippen will play like a poor man’s LeBron alongside Michael Jordan.
LeBron James will be able to control the pace with Magic Johnson, but he will also feel a bit out of place when playing off the ball. With so much talent around him, James will not have the smoothest transition between being a scorer and playmaker with two all-time great ball handlers.
Dennis Rodman vs. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Dennis Rodman is completely overmatched from a size perspective, but he is the perfect man to try to stop Kareem Abdul-Jabbar from taking over the series. The Bulls forward is one of the best defenders in NBA history and will act as a massive nuisance in the way of Kareem.
Meanwhile, Abdul-Jabbar will have to adapt to the power forward spot alongside O’Neal because the Diesel will clog the paint on most occasions. Kareem will have chances to let off his skyhook as much as possible, but he won’t have his usual number of looks.
Artis Gilmore vs. Shaquille O’Neal
At the center spot, superstar Artis Gilmore brings toughness and two-way play for the Bulls. Bolstered by the presence of Dennis Rodman, Gilmore will have a fantastic series as the primary big man in the paint for Chicago and will feed off the presence of Rose and Jordan.
Shaq will have his usual impact, dominating the series with scoring and rebounding. O’Neal will lead the Lakers in scoring and rebounding, putting up 28 PPG and 14 RPG in the series. O’Neal will have his frustrations next to Kareem, but the big man’s impact will be huge for the Lakers.
Team Bulls Advantages
The Chicago Bulls have a perfect collection of stars on the court because they complement each other on both ends. Derrick Rose can push the pace while Jordan takes the bulk of the shots because the hierarchy of offensive players is clear with the Bulls. That is clearly not the case with the all-time Lakers.
The Bulls have 3 stars who will play sensationally in their role because Pippen made a career out of being a sidekick to MJ. Focusing on defense and playmaking, Scottie will have no issue in his role. Rodman is also a player willing to sacrifice anything for wins, and Artis Gilmore will do his best to counter what Shaq brings on the floor.
Team Lakers Advantages
For the Lakers, their advantage comes in their elite ability on both ends of the floor thanks to superstar power. Magic is the best point guard ever because his intangibles as a winner cannot be ignored. Bryant and James form a dynamic duo on offense, although there will be mix-ups on possessions.
Kareem and Shaq are also unstoppable down low and will be critical to what the Lakers do on offense and defense. Both stars have unstoppable paint offensive skills and will outmatch the Bulls bigs in terms of talent.
Who Wins A Best-Of-7 Series?
In a best-of-7 series of this magnitude, the winner will need one player to stand out above the rest. After all, there are a total of 10 superstars competing against each other at a high level with all the marbles on the line. Here is how this historic series would play out.
Chicago take Game 1, mainly because Derrick Rose and Michael Jordan go off. The duo completely stun the Lakers’ backcourt, because they go an efficient 52% shooting from the field combined including 40% from three. Not known as three-point shooters, Rose and MJ find their distance by combining for 6 threes made.
Game 2 goes to the all-time Lakers squad because Magic Johnson completely runs the show. The superstar point guard has his best game of the series, going 11-15 from the floor and finishing with 30 points and 13 assists. Magic takes Rose in the paint on most occasions, using his hook shot to score easy points. With the majority of the Bulls’ defense focused on stopping Shaq and Kobe, Johnson owns this game.
Game 3 happens to be all about Shaq and Kobe because both stars combine for 60 points, 20 rebounds, and 10 assists. Rodman and Gilmore manage to keep Kareem under wraps, for the most part, giving Shaq the space to dominate the inside. Bryant also heats up in the second half, scoring 14 points in the third quarter with his idol Michael Jordan defending him most of the way.
As expected, Jordan responds with a vengeance. He holds Kobe to only 41% shooting while scoring 32 points of his own. Michael spends the first half feeding Rose and Pippen and getting others involved. The shooting guard finishes with 7 assists in the first half, matching James in that regard. But in the second half, Jordan scores 20 of his 32 points while only missing 3 shots. With the game tied 101-101, MJ takes Kobe in the post before draining the game-winner with 0.4 seconds left.
With the series tied, LeBron James steps up. The superstar decides to completely dominate in the matchup, scoring 38 points on 11-17 shooting from the field. His assists are rather low (4 assists), but his offense came to him naturally. When The King has his rhythm, it is best to stay out of his way. Kareem chips in another 20, and the Lakers blow out the Bulls by 15 points at the end of the game.
The Bulls respond because every star plays efficient ball. Rose, Pippen, Jordan, and Gilmore combine for 55% shooting from the field which is incredible considering the quality of the opponent. Gilmore goes the entire game with only 2 missed shots, and Pippen spends the majority of his time at the free-throw line. MJ does not take as many shots as he normally does, but a balanced effort against a dominant Lakers squad is what was needed in a pivotal Game 6.
With the series on the line, the Bulls and Lakers head to Game 7. What separates both teams, in the end, is chemistry, because the Lakers struggle to find a rhythm when it mattered most. Los Angeles force-feed their bigs early on, which does not necessarily work against a rampant Rodman and Gilmore defense. By slowing the pace down, the Bulls hone in on defense and allow Rose and Jordan to run the break.
In the 4th, the game is tied 99-99 with 35 seconds left. Kobe Bryant drains a tough shot once switched onto Rose, giving the Lakers a 101-99 lead. Unfortunately for Bryant, he endures a tough shooting night, going 7-21. His teammates are not much better, because no player shoots over 50% from the field. With 20 seconds left, Jordan has the ball. A double-pick results in Jordan going one-on-one with LeBron, with fans on their feet. Jordan attacks the basket, drawing contact and heading to the line for 2 free throws. With 5 seconds to save the series, James inbounds to Bryant who forces a while shot that rims out. In unbelievable fashion, Jordan leads the Bulls to an epic victory in Game 7.
Result: All-Time Bulls vs. All-Time Lakers 4-3
Finals MVP: Michael Jordan