Recently, we talked about how everyone has a number that they want to wear while playing. It usually has sentimental value, or for historic purposes, the number is a legend in its own right. No. 23 and No. 34 feature some legendary players, but there’s another number that has some of the all-time greats that frequently get overlooked.
No. 24 has a long list of successful NBA players. Outside of our starting lineup, you could include players like Bill Bradley, Bill Cartwright, Tom Chambers, Spencer Haywood, Richard Jefferson, Dennis Johnson, Bobby Jones, Sam Jones, and much more. With that said, Team No. 24 features a star-packed lineup that would give Team No. 23 a run for its money.
In an alternative universe where we could make a team just of players wearing these jerseys, it would look a little like this. In this exhibition, who would win?
Team No. 23: LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Jimmy Butler, Draymond Green, Anthony Davis
Team No. 24: Kobe Bryant, Mark Aguirre, Paul George, Rick Barry, Moses Malone
Point Guard: LeBron James vs. Kobe Bryant
With this team, LeBron would be forced to play as the team’s point guard. In 2020, LeBron led the league in assists at 35 years old. When it comes to being able to provide for a team, LeBron has no bounds. He is capable of being the prime ball-handler and creating shots for the other members of this team. LeBron would have plenty of scorers, but his greatest attribute is getting into the lane. Once defenders collapse, he will have someone open.
Now, this would provide a challenge for LeBron. Kobe Bryant is not a true point guard, but in this rotation, he would need to be the primary ball-handler. Bryant is one of the best isolation players in the game, so watching Bryant vs. LeBron would be primetime television. Bryant would also have a time playing defense on LeBron, but Bryant was a 12-time All-Defensive selection. This would be an ultimate battle.
Shooting Guard: Michael Jordan vs. Mark Aguirre
What else is there to say about six-time Finals MVP Michael Jordan. He led the league in scoring ten times and was a nine-time First-Team All-Defensive player. When it comes to an overall basketball player, Jordan is the greatest player of all time, so whoever his matchup is will have a tough time.
However, this would have an added layer. Aguirre was a member of the 1989 and 1990 Detroit Pistons “Bad Boys” teams. Those championship teams took out Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. It wasn’t until 1991, Jordan’s first championship, that the Bulls finally got past Detroit. Before Detroit, Aguirre was a three-time All-Star for the Dallas Mavericks, where he once averaged 29.5 points per game. In their primes, both players could go shot for shot.
Small Forward: Jimmy Butler vs. Paul George
Butler is a top-15 player in the league and one of the better small forwards. Butler is a team player, so he could handle the dirty work such as rebounding and defense for Team No. 23. With the offensive players on this team, he can focus on defense, guarding either Bryant or Jordan.
In a way, George would be in the same situation. George does his best when he is the second offensive option. On this team, he would be either three or fourth. With that said, that would allow him to focus on defense as well. When it comes to small forwards in this matchup, Butler and George own a combined nine All-Defensive selections.
Power Forward: Draymond Green vs. Rick Barry
Green would have to be the team’s defensive specialist when facing up against the great Rick Barry. The 2017 Defensive Player of the Year is used to guarding opposing bigs, but Barry (6-foot-7) wouldn’t be standing over Green (6-foot-6) in the post.
Like Green, Barry is one of the best all-around players we have ever seen. Barry was a champion in 1975, where he won Finals MVP. He was an eight-time All-Star, former scoring champion, and once led the league in steals. When Barry left the ABA, he was the all-time leading scorer. Watching Green try and defend this would be a true matchup to watch.
Center: Anthony Davis vs. Moses Malone
Davis would have his hands full in this matchup. Davis, a former runner-up Defensive Player of the Year, would have to slow down the three-time MVP in Moses Malone and play stellar offense down low. Davis is quicker and more agile, but Davis would potentially be the key on both floors by the end of the night.
Malone, a former Finals MVP, was also a two-time All-Defensive selection. He can play both sides of the floor as efficiently as anyone. Malone led the league in rebounding six times in his career, once averaging a career-high 17.6 boards. Davis, not a strong rebounder, would have to find a way to play with the physicality that Malone was known for.
Team No. 23 Advantages
Outside of having the two best players all-time in LeBron and MJ, this team features five legitimate defenders. Bryant, Barry, and Malone could cause some serious problems. However, the All-Defensive nods on Team No. 23 should help ease its fans' minds because defense wins championships. The defense will be the name of this game when it is all said and done.
Team No. 24 Advantages
Having Barry and Malone on this team post a huge matchup problem for Green and Davis. For starters, Malone is a much stronger rebounder than Davis. The second chance opportunities could be out there. If you give Bryant and Aguirre a second chance, the basket is going to go in. Green will have some success with Barry, but Barry has such a great offensive game that even Green’s best game on defense will still see Bary have over 30 points.
Who Would Win?
This will be a much tougher test than Team No. 34. Just to note, going against 10 NBA Finals MVPs in Jordan and LeBron is difficult. As we previously stated, defense wins championships, and Team No. 23 has the better defensive squad.
Jordan secured ninth First-Team All-Defensive selections, Green won a Defensive Player of the Year and has made the All-Defensive Team five times, while Butler adds another five himself. Davis is a former runner-up in the DPOY voting. Then, you throw in LeBron who can make athletic plays in his sleep, this is an untouchable lineup to crack.
With that said, Team No. 24 would make this difficult. Asking Bryant to carry the team offensively is too much, especially if you need him to play All-Defensive play on the other side. Bryant could go toe-to-toe with LeBron or MJ, but not both at the same time. Aguirre might be able to go shot for shot, but again, he’s not Michael Jordan. By the end of the night, Jordan will carry the team in crunch time.
Davis would have only eight points in this game, but the team would have him focus all of his energy on defense and rebounding. Davis will have 10 rebounds and five blocks in a tough matchup with Malone. For Team No. 24, Malone would be the MVP of the team with 20 points and 20 rebounds, but this would be a low-scoring contest.
Bryant would have an off-shooting night after being worn down on defense. Aguirre and George would be asked to carry the load and they aren’t clutch enough to do that. Barry and Malone would score over 20 each, but in the end, Team No. 23 would win by 10 points. The athleticism and talent on this team are too much, even though this would be a closer contest.
Team No. 23 vs. Team No. 34: Michael Jordan And LeBron James vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo And Shaquille O'Neal