In terms of physical dominance, the first names that come to mind are LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal. Since the eras of Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, no superstars have imposed their strength and physical ability better than The King and The Diesel. 2-time MVP and current NBA champion Giannis Antetokounmpo might be joining this list soon, but he has a very long road ahead of him.
Looking back at the careers of LeBron and Shaq, it is clear that they are two of the ten greatest players who have ever lived. Quite naturally, both stars have also played with some incredible teammates as young players and later as veterans of the game. Both LeBron and Shaq have 4 NBA titles to their names, so which superstar would lead their lineup of best teammates through a best-of-7 series?
Kyrie Irving vs. Steve Nash
This matchup is hotly contested and one of the most unstable back-and-forth situations in the series. Irving will have zero problems scoring on Steve Nash, a player not known for his athleticism or defense. Irving holds career averages of 22.8 PPG and possesses the best ball-handling abilities that we have ever seen, along with natural clutch scoring instincts.
Nash is not the scorer that Irving is, but is a better shooter and playmaker. Nash will play an entirely different role to Irving and will be tasked with feeding O’Neal and Bryant in their favorite spots. When Nash is open, it is an automatic bucket. These stars go about impacting the game in different ways, but their overall impact is almost equal.
Dwyane Wade vs. Penny Hardaway
Wade and Hardaway bring a ton of athleticism to the table, as players who love attacking the rim and forcing the action. Wade is one of the best slashers in NBA history, standing at 6’4” and averaging 22.0 PPG over his Hall of Fame career. Wade is also the best defender on Team LeBron and will focus his efforts on containing Kobe Bryant and running on the break.
For Team Shaq, Penny is a special talent at 6’7” with incredible ball-handling skills. Penny only shot 31.6% from three over his career, and injuries cut short what would have been a Hall of Fame career. Penny will put a ton of pressure on Wade all game, but “Flash” has the advantage because of his superstar defensive abilities and slashing talents.
LeBron James vs. Kobe Bryant
The most highly anticipated matchup is between “The King” LeBron James and “The Black Mamba” Kobe Bryant. Both players are recognized as the best players in their generation, and the two stars who have come closest to what Michael Jordan achieved as a perimeter player. James and Bryant are two different players, but their impact will come in a major way. The King will be his usual battering ram self when he attacks the basket, and also control his team’s offense.
Kobe will be the undisputed go-to scorer for his team and will relish the opportunity to face a one-of-a-kind athlete in LeBron James. Bryant will try, for the most part, to get Kyrie Irving to defend him in the post and dominate with his fadeaway. Bryant will also go after LeBron on both ends of the floor, creating a memorable series matchup for the ages.
Anthony Davis vs. Kevin Garnett
In the second-most anticipated matchup, Anthony Davis and Kevin Garnett will go to battle as two of the most dominant power forwards in NBA history. Davis might be the most talented power forward with rare guard-like skills in a center’s body, while Garnett plays with raw passion and aggression.
During the entire series, Davis will outscore Garnett and his three-point shot will force Garnett to venture to the perimeter very often. Garnett will make things very uncomfortable for Davis, who will not be as efficient as he normally is. The Big Ticket will also form the best paint duo with Shaquille O’Neal, and his defense will be a primary reason his team will be a force when the game gets tight.
Chris Bosh vs. Shaquille O’Neal
Chris Bosh was an 11-time All-Star and one of the best power forwards of his time, but there is no way he (nor Anthony Davis) will be able to stop Shaquille O’Neal from putting up video game numbers in this series. Bosh will make O’Neal very uncomfortable on defense because his shooing and clever dribble moves will force The Diesel out of the paint at times.
But this matchup is all about Shaq. O’Neal will showcase once again why he is the most dominant big man since Wilt Chamberlain, and there will be no answer for a motivated and hungry 7’1” machine. His partnership with Kevin Garnett in the post will be deadly, while he will not mind when Kobe Bryant gets his shot attempts.
Team LeBron Advantages
Team LeBron is streamlined to allow their stars to be comfortable in their positions. In terms of balance, Team LeBron is perfect in terms of pace and space. Kyrie is one of the best ball-handlers we have ever seen and can take Nash or Penny off the dribble. Similarly, Wade and LeBron are masters in one-on-one situations, while they can rely on Davis and Bosh to go one-on-one as well. Team LeBron’s lineup is great on the break with go-to scorers, which will put a ton of pressure on Team Shaq to be uncomfortable on defense.
Team LeBron also have... LeBron James. Steve Nash is a master playmaker and will impact the game with his passing, but LeBron James will be the perfect counterweight as a bigger and more impactful superstar than the Canadian. LeBron is the best player on his team, and when surrounded by superstar offensive players, he will have an enormous impact on the series. With LeBron controlling the tempo and drawing plays for his clutch scorers, Team LeBron has a perfect balance.
Team Shaq Advantages
Team Shaq have Hall of Fame talent on the floor, but their main advantage comes in their unstoppable duo. After Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant might be the best duo of all time. They are a perfect inside-outside force because either player can go off for 40 points with ease, no matter what defensive resistance they come across. This type of scoring dominance is something Team LeBron does not have because Wade cannot shoot like Bryant while Davis cannot bully defenders like Shaq.
With Shaq and Kobe on the floor, the game opens up for the athletic Penny Hardaway and the sharpshooting of Steve Nash. Nash is a master playmaker who will feed Shaq or Kobe in their spots, and is the best shooter in the series. Hardaway is a handle on defense, while Garnett can put his mark on the game as the best defensive big in the series. In a nutshell, Team Shaq’s advantage is the all-time great duo of Shaq and Kobe.
Who Wins In A Best-of-7 Series?
A Best-Of-7 Series is determined by which team has the most talented players, but also by which team makes the most adjustments over the span of 7 games. In this case, the series will only last 6 games.
In this series, the main superstars will dictate the outcome. Team Shaq have the best duo on the floor because Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant are unstoppable on offense. O’Neal will be the force early on in the series, as Team Shaq grab a 2-0 series lead. Neither Bosh nor Davis can handle O’Neal down low, with the threats of Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant always looming. O’Neal forces a 30 point, 20 rebound performance in Game 1 followed by a 25 point and 17 rebound performance in Game 2.
As great teams with great players do, Team LeBron make adjustments. King James starts dominating the pace, something he let Steve Nash get away with in Games 1 and 2. With LeBron pulling the strings and his clutch stars showing up, his team comes back to even the series 2-2. Wade does a fantastic job bothering Bryant while Kyrie proves he is a special clutch player by nailing the game-winner in Game 4.
In Game 5, it was Kobe’s time to hit the big shot. The overtime game comes down with Kobe going one-on-one with Wade before The Black Mamba nails his patented fadeaway jumper to win the game with 0.3 seconds remaining. That shot will prove to be critical because Team Shaq put forth a near-perfect performance in Game 6, despite a monster 40-point performance by LeBron James. Game 6 is a tight one, with Team LeBron fighting with their backs against the wall. The 4th quarter sees Team LeBron hold a 6-point lead with 5 minutes remaining, but a Nash three-pointer and an O’Neal 3-point play evens the score across 2 possessions before Kobe and Garnett give Team Shaq a 4-point lead with 3.5 minutes of play. LeBron answers with a deep three-pointer, but a Kobe-Shaq connection puts the game out of reach with 2 straight field goals putting the series away. Team LeBron regret losing Game 5, but Team Shaq prove they have the best duo in the game by preventing a Game 7 where anything can happen.
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