The All-Star Game is coming up this weekend, and even with the new format with team leaders, we are getting to see the best players go up against each other. Throughout NBA history, the format has been Eastern Conference All-Stars going head-to-head against Western Conference All-Stars and we have been rewarded with some iconic All-Star matchups.
What if we could put together a game for the ages, taking some of the greatest Eastern Conference All-Stars ever and placing them in a battle against the greatest Western Conference All-Stars? In a do-or-die format, only one team can come out on top through winning intangibles and clutch moments. The East will consist of 4-time scoring champion Allen Iverson, 6-time NBA champion Michael Jordan, 3-time champion Larry Bird, 4-time champion LeBron James, and 2-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Meanwhile, the Western Conference All-Star Team will have 3-time champion Stephen Curry, 5-time champion Kobe Bryant, 4-time scoring champion Kevin Durant, 5-time champion Tim Duncan, and 4-time champion Shaquille O’Neal. Clearly, both teams have superstar talent but there can only be one winner and here is how it plays out.
Allen Iverson vs. Stephen Curry
This matchup is offensive-driven, as Allen Iverson and Stephen Curry have a combined 6 scoring titles between them. Iverson is one of the most unstoppable guards in NBA history and will have little issue taking the game to Curry who is not known as a defensive stopper. As a midrange demon and an aggressive scorer, Curry will have some issues on defense.
But Steph is also an elite scorer, and he stands at least 3” taller than Iverson. That means Steph will be able to move off the ball to get shots up, nailing shots from deep consistently. Playing alongside great leaders in Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan, Steph will have the game come very easy for him.
Michael Jordan vs. Kobe Bryant
Michael Jordan is regarded as the greatest player and all-around scorer because he simply is. Jordan was usually stronger and more athletic than any player in his era, and that even includes Kobe Bryant. Jordan understands he will have to play at his best to counter a Kobe Bryant who will be hungry for one-on-one matchups.
For Bryant, his main assignment will be defending Jordan to the best of his abilities to prevent #23 from taking over. Kobe will be tasked with scoring as well, but he will likely defer to Durant and Curry in moments to focus on dealing with MJ. Bryant is aware enough to understand that Jordan is a player who can take over a game, and will be ready for his defensive assignment.
Larry Bird vs. Kevin Durant
There is no doubt that Larry Bird is the second-best small forward ever, dominating the league during the 1980s en route to 3 MVPs and 3 Finals MVPs. In his matchup with Kevin Durant, Bird will have to use his smarts and all-around game to counter his opponent’s unreal athleticism. Larry never fooled anyone into thinking he was an elite athlete and will do everything in his power to get under Durant’s skin.
Kevin is considered a top-3 small forward ever, but he tends to defer in the presence of other superstar teammates. That is not because Durant lacks killer instinct, but because he is very unselfish and does not mind others getting involved. But for the Western All-Stars, Durant understands his role is to lead the team in scoring because that is the only way to prevent Larry Legend from dominating.
LeBron James vs. Tim Duncan
LeBron James has played many positions including small forward and point guard, but he will start at power forward for the Eastern Conference All-Stars. The King will be a point-forward, as he will lead the offense as his scorers try to get open. James is another unselfish player who will pick his spots and shoot over 50% while feeding his teammates all night long.
Tim Duncan is a pure power forward using his size and skills to be a force in the paint. The Spurs legend will have issues with LeBron when the King is on the perimeter but will manage in some way. On offense, Duncan will be a focal point because he has the skills to set up his teammates and also be a force on the glass.
Giannis Antetokounmpo vs. Shaquille O’Neal
The Greek Freak would rather dominate his favored power forward position, but he will have to start at center for the Eastern Conference All-Stars. Giannis is a powerful player, but he (like everyone else) pales in comparison to a behemoth like Shaquille O’Neal. Antetokounmpo will be able to space the floor well in this game, finding his range from the perimeter against O’Neal.
Of course, Shaq will have his usual numbers in the post as he nullifies what Giannis brings on the stat sheet. The Diesel is the biggest man on the court, and his pairing with Tim Duncan will cause the Eastern Conference stars a massive headache in the paint. With O’Neal asking for the ball, Giannis will have to play harder than ever.
Eastern All-Stars Advantages
The East have two fantastic floor generals and overall leaders in Michael Jordan and LeBron James, two superstar players that will be massive factors in this game. Jordan will be tasked with being the go-to scorer, and he will answer the call against a rampant Kobe Bryant.
With LeBron, the East have the best playmaker on the court and will take advantage on a West team that lacks a natural playmaker. With Jordan and James on the court together, Bird and Iverson will generate good looks all game long while Giannis pushes the pace on the break.
Western All-Stars Advantages
The Western All-Stars have elite big men, giving the team a massive advantage in the paint. Duncan and Shaq have size and skill in the paint, forcing the East to collapse on defense to prevent giving up easy looks. Of course, that opens up the court for Curry, Durant, and Bryant.
With three superstar perimeter players, the West will have a fantastic inside-outside offensive game plan to put constant pressure on the opponent. The West will feed the bigs early to get them going and will take advantage when the East decide to focus on stopping the interior.
The game has to come down to on-the-fly adjustments and clutch moments on defense because both teams are level in terms of all-around superstar talent. The East will get off to a great start, ending the first quarter in their favor 33-24. Jordan finishes the quarter with 10 points on 5-8 shooting, while Iverson chips in 8 points on 2-2 3-point shooting. The West will need an answer in the second quarter, and they get it through Kobe and Durant.
The dynamic duo combine for 20 points in the second quarter, shooting an efficient 55%. Adding in a double-double performance by Shaq in the first half, the Western All-Stars have a terrific end to the first half as they lead 62-57. The leading scorers are Jordan with 15, Kobe with 12, and Durant with 10. O’Neal also has 10 points and 10 rebounds in a dominant performance so far.
The third quarter is very even, finishing 90-90. LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo are the stars of the quarter, finishing with a combined 22 points, 11 rebounds, and 6 assist combined in the quarter. O’Neal gets doubled early, forcing him to pass to his perimeter stars who shoot an inefficient 42%. With the Eastern stars heating up, the West have a tall task ahead of them to end the game in their favor.
The 4th quarter will be the do-or-die moment for both teams, and a few massive moments will decide the outcome. LeBron James finishes with 5 assists in the quarter, feeding Larry Bird and Allen Iverson for 5 easy shots over the 12 minutes. Both perimeter stars only miss a combined 5 shots, while Giannis finds a way to deter Shaq from taking over the quarter by fouling in the appropriate moments. Of course, O’Neal goes 5-10 from the free-throw line.
With the game tied 105-105, the East go off with 4 straight buckets off Western All-Star misses. Kobe, Durant, and Curry go 0-4 in that span, while the East score 10 straight points. A Jordan And-1, a Larry Bird 3, and two layups from LeBron James on the fast break effectively kills the game. The West try to come back, but the clinical defense and fast-break offense over the span of 2 minutes put the game to bed. Michael Jordan leads all scorers with 31 points, while LeBron chips in a triple-double with 22 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. Kobe and Durant combine for 55 points, but it simply isn’t enough.
Final Result: Eastern Conference All-Stars vs. Western Conference All-Stars 120-109
MVP: Michael Jordan