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Shaquille O'Neal's All-Time Starting 5 vs. Michael Jordan's All-Time Starting 5: Who Wins This Generational Duel?

Shaquille O'Neal's All-Time Starting 5 vs. Michael Jordan's All-Time Starting 5: Who Wins This Generational Duel?

Shaquille O’Neal is widely regarded as the most dominant big man in NBA history outside of Wilt Chamberlain. While Shaq did not have Wilt’s incredible length or speed, O’Neal was just a powerhouse with one of the most horrifying mentalities we have ever seen. Shaq knew he was bigger and more skilled than any center in the game, and focused on being dominant. 4 rings, 3 Finals MVPs, and countless historical moments are the result of that.

Meanwhile, Michael Jordan is the greatest perimeter player we have ever seen and arguably the single greatest talent the NBA has ever produced. Jordan won 6 rings with a sublime 6-0 record in the Finals with the Chicago Bulls. In reality, there is no comparison to him. But what if we were to create the ultimate starting five of Shaq and Jordan’s greatest contemporaries during their eras to predict a 7-game series between them? Here are the lineups of both superstar players in that regard, with Shaq and Jordan appearing on their respective teams.

Starting Lineups

Shaq's All-Time Starting 5: Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant. Michael Jordan. LeBron James, Shaquille O'Neal

Jordan's All-Time Starting 5: Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, James Worthy, Hakeem Olajuwon

For Team Shaq, the quality is surreal. The perfection on both ends of the floor cannot be understated, especially on offense. At point guard, Allen Iverson starts although he would much rather be the main scoring option on the team. That will not be possible with both Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan on the squad, so Iverson will have to showcase his playmaking skills more often than not.

Bryant and Jordan form the most dominant perimeter pair in NBA history, as the two greatest shooting guards that ever laced them up. Bryant and Jordan will take turns on offense while playing exceptional lockdown defense. LeBron James starts at power forward, although he will mainly handle the ball as a point forward. James is a locomotive and one of the most unstoppable forces ever, so scoring will come naturally to him. Shaq in the post makes this lineup perfect in every facet of the game and will have a historical battle with Hakeem Olajuwon.

For Team Jordan, the lineup features another perfect trio of perimeter players. Magic Johnson is widely regarded as the greatest point guard ever, Jordan the best shooting guard, and Bird up there with LeBron as the best small forward. Magic, Jordan, and Bird will be dominant on both ends of the floor and will be unstoppable on offense. Magic running the game to feed Jordan and Bird in the half-court and transition will be something out of a video game. Worthy plays a versatile role as a forward, thanks to his ability to defend 4 positions and also run on the break. At center, “The Dream” faces off with Shaq in one of the greatest matchups in the history of professional basketball.

Team Shaquille O’Neal Advantages

Team Shaq has the advantage of having Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan team up on the perimeter. In terms of the will to win and ultimate confidence, it will be hard to defeat a team with these two players. Adding in Allen Iverson, the greatest “little man” ever, makes the offense unstoppable. Iverson, Bryant, and Jordan will each average over 20 PPG in the series and will have no issue getting their looks when LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal are dominating the paint.

Shaq’s 5 is complete on both ends of the floor, and LeBron’s versatility particularly outmatches that of James Worthy. James is a 6’9” locomotive who can pass, rebound, and score at will; making him a scary partner to Shaquille O’Neal. Hakeem Olajuwon got the better of Shaq in prior NBA history, but O’Neal is still the most powerful player we have ever seen.

Team Michael Jordan Advantages

For Team Jordan, teamwork and efficient play will be their greatest strength. Magic Johnson will counter LeBron’s playmaking skills, except that he will focus on singlehandedly feeding Jordan, Bird, and Olajuwon on offense. Magic and Worthy will also be responsible for grabbing rebounds, running the break, and defending multiple positions. Bird playing as a spot-up shooter with Hakeem down low, Magic Johnson will make sure the team plays every possession perfectly.

Team Jordan does not have the intense firepower that Team Shaq has, but that also means they will rely on teamwork. Efficiency is often hard to beat, especially with 5 Hall of Famers on the court. Michael Jordan will lead the team in scoring in the series, although Hakeem will get his numbers as well as the second-highest scorer. Expect Bird to be the best pure shooter in the series, and his three-point accuracy will be another main advantage for the team.

Who Wins A 7-Game Series?

As expected, the series will go 7 games. Game 1 will go in Team Jordan’s favor because they will shoot 52% from the floor including 37% from the three-point line. Larry Bird steals the show with 5 three-pointers, while Magic grabs a triple-double. Team Jordan is too effective at moving the ball and forcing tough shots from Team Shaq, although an adjustment will soon be on the way.

Game 2 goes to Team Shaq, thanks to big games from Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. A late bucket by Jordan gives the team a 4-point lead with one possession remaining. Hakeem receives the ball from the inbound to score a fadeaway from mid-range, but too little time remains on the clock. Game 3, as expected, goes to Team Jordan. Once again, Bird nails 5 three-pointers while Jordan nets a game-high 42 points. With this type of efficiency on offense, a valiant effort from Shaquille O’Neal does not make up a 12-point loss.

Game 4 goes Team Shaq’s way, thanks to a 32-point, 20-rebound from their big man. O’Neal was unstoppable, as the rest of Team Jordan force-feed him the ball in the post. In the way of double teams, this was a virtuoso performance from O’Neal and nothing could have been done to stop him. Game 5 is where “The Dream” wakes up, taking advantage of a relatively low-scoring game. Both teams struggle to score from the perimeter and shoot under 45% from the field, with only Olajuwon nailing 55% of his field goals. Hakeem records 29 points, 13 rebounds, 8 assists, and 5 blocks to send the series to a pivotal Game 6.

Never to be outdone, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant combine for 70 points for Team Shaq. Jordan has 38, Kobe has 32, and there was no stopping both of these stars as they force a Game 7. Magic has a monster double-double, but Team Jordan owned the game from the start with James recording a triple-double. A Game 7 showdown awaits.

In Game 7, Team Shaq’s advantages show up. LeBron plays to his strengths, putting his head down and leading all scorers in the first half. LeBron’s aggression forces a desperate response from Team Jordan to protect the paint, opening the game up for the 3 scorers. O’Neal has a relatively quiet game, but Iverson, Jordan, and Bryant combine for 80 points. LeBron’s aggression and O’Neal’s presence were the keys to unlocking a rampant trio, something Team Jordan could not handle. In the end, Team Shaq takes a 120-102 victory in Game 7 with Jordan leading all scorers with a 36 PPG average to earn Finals MVP.

Result: Shaq's All-Time Starting 5 vs. Jordan's All-Time Starting 5 4-3

Finals MVP: Michael Jordan


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