The Golden State Warriors were the NBA’s leading force over the last 5 years or so, taking the place of powerful franchises like the Los Angeles Lakers, who once had all the power in the Western Conference.
Curiously, both teams kind of traded places over the last decade, with the Warriors surging as the league’s team to beat, while the Lakers were cast out of the playoff picture for years.
Thanks to the Warriors’ recent success, the team has drawn a lot of fans in California, and are now fighting toe-to-toe with the Lakers for the biggest fan base in the state.
Throughout the course of history, both franchises have had some of the best players to ever set foot on an NBA hardwood, but who would win in a hypothetical matchup between their all-time best squad? Let’s break it down once and for all:
Golden State Warriors All-Time Team
Point Guard: Stephen Curry
Even though there are a lot of people that still doubt Stephen Curry and think he’s overrated, some claim he should be considered as one of the top 5 best point guards in the history of the league.
Truth to be told, he has got a lot of arguments in his favor. He’s a two-time MVP, first-ever unanimous MVP, 3-time NBA Champion, a member of the 50-40-90 club, 1-time Scoring Champion and 1-time Steal Champion.
Curry is arguably the greatest shooter to ever play this game and became the Warriors’ dynasty driving force since entering the league -- and he’s an obvious choice here.
Shooting Guard: Klay Thompson
It seems like we take Klay Thompson for granted, but his contributions to the Warriors’ success should be duly noted every time people talk about their 5-year stint.
If Curry is the greatest shooter ever, then Klay could be a close second, at least in terms of form and release. Also, he’s found a way to consistently knock down three-pointers despite taking such a high volume (40% on 7.1 attempts per game).
Moreover, Thompson should get way more credit for his suffocating defense, with the fact that he’s only made 1 All-Defense team over his career being beyond preposterous. He is a top 3 shooting guard in the league.
Small Forward: Rick Barry
Long before the ‘Strength in Numbers’ era, Rick Barry was one of the first players to put this franchise on the map with his dominant scoring touch.
Barry was a walking bucket throughout his entire career, averaging over 30 points in 4 different seasons and leading the league in scoring in 1967. Also, he scored 24.8 points per game on 45% from the floor.
‘The Miami Greyhound’ made it to 12 All-Star Games, won 1 NBA Championship, was the Rookie of the Year, 1-time Finals MVP and made it to 6 All-NBA teams before eventually making the Hall-of-Fame.
Power Forward: Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant was at the bay for just 3 seasons but it was more than enough to have his jersey retired and, most likely, a statue erected in front of their new arena.
Durant embraced his new role with the Warriors after being the Thunder’s alpha dog. He ignored the hate he drew from joining a 73-win team and proved that he could make them better.
He had countless contributions to their last couple of Championships, winning 2 Finals MVPs, and 2 Championships during his time with the Warriors
Center: Wilt Chamberlain
Notably, Wilt Chamberlain played for both franchises, but his time with the Warriors was by far more significant, as they were the team where he showcased his talents as the league’s most dominant player.
Chamberlain was so strong and athletic that they literally had to change the rules to make it fairer for his opponents, but he was still unstoppable night in and night out.
Wilt led the league in scoring for 6 straight seasons when he played for the Warriors, including the season when he averaged 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds per game. He won the ROY and led them to a Championship as well.
Los Angeles Lakers All-Time Team
Point Guard: Magic Johnson
Magic Johnson is the greatest point guard in the history of the game, and it was a huge shame to see his career with the Lakers cut short after being diagnosed with HIV.
Johnson was a point guard trapped in a small forward’s body. He could play and guard all 5 positions on the floor, as he showed by subbing in for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the Finals during his first NBA Championship run.
He led the Showtime era at Los Angeles and holds the highest assists per game average (11.2). Also, he led the league in dimes 4 times and twice in steals, as well as winning a 3 MVPs and 3 Finals MVPs.
Shooting Guard: Jerry West
Long before Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, Jerry West was unanimously considered as the greatest shooting guard ever, and for very good reasons.
West was as impactful on the offensive end as he was on the defensive end, making it to 5 All-Defensive teams while also leading the league in scoring once. He did it all for the Lakers and is the only player to win Finals MVP despite being on the losing team.
Over the course of his career, ‘The Logo’ averaged 27.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, 6.7 assists, and 2.6 steals per game.
Small Forward: Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant was a late bloomer but once he took off, he never stopped. Now, he’s considered by most Lakers fans as the greatest player in franchise history.
The Black Mamba is the most fearless competitor the league has seen since Michael Jordan. He was a dominant scorer that would do whatever it took to lead his team to victory, even if that meant getting into his teammates’ faces.
Bryant won 5 NBA Championships, 2 Scoring Titles, 2 Finals MVPs, 1 MVP, 4 All-Star MVPs and made it to 12 All-Defense teams. That’s why both of his jerseys (8 and 24) are hanging high in the rafters.
Power Forward: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was simply unstoppable from the very second he stepped on the NBA hardwood, mostly thanks to his signature sky shook -- the ultimate unblockable shot.
Abdul-Jabbar was a major part of the Lakers’ success during the Showtime era. He completely dominated both sides of the glass, was a restless defender, and a guy that could light it up against the best centers in the world.
Throughout his 14-year career with the Lakers, he won 5 NBA Championships, 1 Finals MVPs, 3 of his 6 MVPs, a Scoring Title and led the league in blocks 3 times.
Center: Shaquille O'Neal
Shaquille O’Neal was the most dominating center ever. He couldn’t be stopped, and you could only hope to contain him, but not even the most physical defenders ever could.
Shaq made his way to the Los Angeles Lakers in 1997 and created a lethal tandem with Kobe Bryant. Together, they won 3 NBA Championships, with Shaq earning the Finals MVP honors three times.
Besides the tree-peat, Shaq gave the Lakers an identity. With them, he’d win 1 of his 2 Scoring Titles and 1 MVP, averaging 27.0 points, 11.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 2.5 blocks per game on 57% from the floor.
Both teams are stacked at every position, so this game could go down to the wire.
The Warriors have the upper hand in terms of shooting with Klay Thompson, Stephen Curry, and Kevin Durant, but can’t match up with the Lakers’ dominant frontcourt of Kareem and Shaq.
Playmaking is another aspect of the game where the Lakers would have the edge, with Magic Johnson running their offense. Still, the Warriors have two very capable creators of their own in Curry and Durant. Also, 4 out of their 5 starters can create their own shot with ease.
Chamberlain is a driving force on the glass and a strong big man, but Shaq could keep him in check in the post with his physicality, and Kareem was a more complete player with a bigger offensive repertoire.
When it comes to defense, the Lakers are also significantly better than the Warriors. Altogether, they have 31 combined All-Defense appearances and have the right personnel to protect the paint and the perimeter.
Intangibles also lean in the Lakers’ favor. When locked in, Shaq and Kobe were just unstoppable. They controlled the pace of the game, they got into their opponent's heads, and they always came up huge in the clutch.
That being said, we think this would be quite an entertaining matchup between two historic franchises, but the Lakers would ultimately end up on top by a double-digit margin.
All-Time Warriors vs. All-Time Lakers 100-115