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The Best NBA Starting Five Of All Time And Why No One Can Beat Them

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The Best NBA Starting Five Of All Time And Why No One Can Beat Them

Discussing the greatest players of all time is always a fascinating topic, and it always causes a ton of “barbershop” talk among NBA fans and pundits at the time. Creating a superteam with five elite players is also the most popular method of comparing players, and we might have hit the nail on the head when it comes to the greatest starting five of all time. The names are Stephen Curry, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Shaquille O’Neal. Clearly, on paper and in terms of on-court impact, this superteam would be very difficult to beat over a season or even a 7-game series against a mix of any other opponents.

Those five players create a superteam that can take down any superteam that could be formed across any era, and some massive names will be required to play with each other to make this happen. At the point guard spot, Stephen Curry has to be chosen as the greatest shooter of all time and the best point guard of the 2010s. In the wings, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant bring the talent on both ends of the floor while also taking over in any clutch situations. Michael Jordan has to be included because he is simply the best player of all time and the player who will be the man for his team in the series, while Kobe is a carbon copy of him.

In the frontcourt, LeBron James is chosen because he has the size to defend other power forwards and also act as a point-forward on offense. Not to mention, he can play perfect small-ball to space the floor for his shooters. The center chosen to battle with other big men is none other than Shaquille O’Neal, arguably the most dominant big man ever. The greatest starting five ever will fight fire with fire, bringing O’Neal to the court where he will dominate the paint and, effectively, the scoreline.

Here are the greatest starting five of all time and why no one can beat them, even if another superteam of five all-time players is created.

Stephen Curry

Stephen Curry

Career Statistics: 24.3 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 6.5 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.2 BPG

Accolades: 4x NBA Champion, 2021-22 Finals MVP, 2x MVP, 8x All-Star, 8x All-NBA Team Selection, 2x Scoring Champion, 2015-16 Steals Champion

Simply the greatest shooter of all time. Stephen Curry is undoubtedly the most dominant perimeter shooter we have ever seen, and his unselfishness makes him an even better teammate. Steph can do a lot on the floor, from creating shots for teammates to creating 3-point shots for himself. That is why, by all accounts, he has to be involved in the greatest superteam of all time.

In terms of point guard play, Curry is among the best to ever do it. He has a better outside shot than any other point guard in history, and his handles rank among the very best. Sure, he does not have the floor leadership of Magic Johnson and is nowhere near as great of a passer, but he makes up for it with his shooting ability. Remember, Curry is a two-time scoring champion.

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan 1998

Career Statistics: 30.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 5.3 APG, 2.3 SPG, 0.8 BPG

Accolades: 6x NBA Champion, 6x Finals MVP, 5x MVP, 14x All-Star, 11x All-NBA Team Selection, 9x All-Defensive Team Selection, 1987-88 Defensive Player of the Year, 10x Scoring Champion, 3x Steals Champion, 1984-85 Rookie of the Year, Hall of Fame

Michael Jordan is obviously a first-name inclusion for the greatest superteam of all time. He is the greatest talent to ever walk the face of the Earth, and he is also the most clutch player of all time. On both ends of the floor, Jordan is also the greatest shooting guard ever. A Defensive Player of the Year winner and a 10-time scoring champion, MJ did it all over his illustrious career.

No doubt, a backcourt pairing with Stephen Curry would be extremely scary to come up against. Both players can score 30 points with ease and Jordan makes up for any deficiencies by the point guard. The Bulls guard will gladly tackle the toughest defensive assignment against other elite perimeter players.

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant

Career Statistics: 25.0 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 4.7 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.5 BPG

Accolades: 5x NBA Champion, 2x Finals MVP, 2007-08 MVP, 18x All-Star, 15x All-NBA Team Selection, 12x All-Defensive Team Selection, 2x Scoring Champion, Hall of Fame

Kobe Bryant has to be included whenever a team wants to win games. Kobe is obviously a top-3 scoring talent of all time, but he can also dominate the defensive end of the floor just like MJ. A 12-time All-Defensive Team member, Kobe also makes up for the deficiencies that Stephen Curry brings. Not to mention, on offense, the two-time scoring champion can take over games at will.

How can a team that has both Jordan and Bryant ever lose? The answer is that they can’t. Bryant is basically a mirror image of Jordan and both players cannot be beaten on both ends of the floor. By simply looking at Bryant’s track record and accolades, it is obvious the shooting guard has to be starting alongside Jordan and Curry.

LeBron James

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Career Statistics: 27.0 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 7.4 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.7 BPG

Accolades: 4x NBA Champion, 4x Finals MVP, 4x MVP, 17x All-Star, 17x All-NBA Team Selection, 6x All-Defensive Team Selection, 2007-08 Scoring Champion, 2019-20 Assist Champion, 2003-04 Rookie of the Year

LeBron James is the greatest small forward of all time, but he is very capable of playing small ball power forward. The King is an electric scorer, but he will act as a primary playmaker with the ball in his hands. He will allow the likes of Curry, Bryant, and MJ to feed off his passes. The fact that LeBron James is chosen also makes it clear why Magic Johnson was not chosen to be in the greatest superteam of all time.

James and Magic are extremely similar, and only one will be needed. To accommodate the superstar shooting and unselfishness of Curry, James was given the start because he can play power forward perfectly. A triple-double threat, LeBron can do it all as a versatile superstar.

Shaquille O'Neal

Shaquille O'Neal

Career Statistics: 23.7 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 2.5 APG, 0.6 SPG, 2.3 BPG

Accolades: 4x NBA Champion, 3x Finals MVP, 1999-00 MVP, 15x All-Star, 14x All-NBA Team Selection, 3x All-Defensive Team Selection, 2x Scoring Champion, 1992-93 Rookie of the Year, Hall of Fame

The superstar center that is the most dominant since Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O’Neal, has to be included. The reason? The evidence of being a leader of a superteam is there. He formed one with Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles, and they won 3 straight championships out of 4 Finals appearances. No doubt, Shaq has had more championship success than Wilt Chamberlain, and he has to get the nod.

Not to mention, O’Neal is a superstar offensive presence that can also play alongside the co-stars extremely well. Shaq also proved he could greatly dominate alongside superstar guards, including Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade, so he can do the same with the likes of Curry and Jordan as well. A former scoring champion and the most dominant physical force in the modern era, Shaquille O’Neal completes a petrifying lineup.

A Perfect Team Inside And Outside

This team on offense is horrifying. For one, they have the greatest shooter of all time in Stephen Curry. The point guard is extremely unselfish and will be able to get his shots up whenever he wants alongside other superstar teammates. Thanks to the presence of 4 other top-10 players of all time, Curry will have unlimited looks from deep. As expected, Steph will likely shoot 40% at the very least alongside his superstar teammates.

Michael is the greatest winner ever, and the best guard to have ever played. Michael makes up for Steph’s deficiencies on defense while also controlling the offensive side of the court. Even if MJ cannot shoot like Steph, he can create his own shots whenever he wants while also taking over in the clutch. MJ also elevates the play of others around him, a scary thought considering he is sharing the ball with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.

Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan are a match made in heaven because they will dominate both ends of the court. Kobe is one of the greatest scorers we have ever seen, and besides MJ, he is the most clutch player with the ball in his hands. Bryant will elevate his game when he follows Jordan’s lead, and their duo will terrorize any other superteam that could be possibly built. Most importantly, Kobe looks unbeatable when he shares the court with a star big man.

LeBron James is the greatest passer in the NBA right now, and one of the greatest playmakers of all time. While Magic Johnson and possibly John Stockton are considered better passers than The King, they cannot bring the level of athleticism that LeBron has. Other than Wilt Chamberlain and Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron is the most physically imposing athlete of all time.

Finally, Shaquille O’Neal is the perfect inside option because he is bigger and stronger than 99% of NBA players that have ever played. With Shaq in the middle, everything changes because perimeter play could be encouraged. Overall, this starting five is perfect inside and outside. Curry, MJ, and Kobe are all elite perimeter players who enjoy shooting from mid-range and from the three-point line. LeBron can run the point, and there is the option of Shaq inside the post.

Best Rival Team And Why They Won’t Win The Game

Obviously, it is easy to create superteams by looking at any of the top 75 players of all time. But in order to compete with the single greatest lineup ever, only a select few could be possibly chosen. At point guard, the rival point guard has to be Magic Johnson. Johnson is a triple-double threat who could pull 10 rebounds or gather 10 assists with ease and could be a scorer. But no doubt about it, Steph has the advantage in the greatest starting five ever because he is quicker than Magic and can come off screens to nail shots from the perimeter.

Magic is a bigger player than Steph and also a better playmaker, but he cannot blow teams out with three-point shooting like the latter, especially when playing alongside 4 other superstars. Next up, a mix of Larry Bird and Kevin Durant has to be chosen to accommodate Magic Johnson on the perimeter. Both Bird and Durant are “50-40-90” style players who can score 25 PPG with ease and do it at fantastic efficiency. Both Bird and Durant can also rebound at a high level, and have some of the highest basketball IQs in NBA history.

As great as Bird and Durant are as shooters, they do not have the elite athleticism that Jordan and Bryant have. MJ and Bryant are far more athletic than Bird ever dreamed of being and have the ultimate killer instinct and aggression that Durant seems to lack. Instead of having Durant sharing the ball and often accepting a secondary role, Jordan and Bryant will exert their athleticism and natural scoring instinct to shock defenders from the start.

Finally, a mix of big men could be chosen from Wilt Chamberlain, Tim Duncan, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. While these two names are certainly elite, they do not have the unique athleticism of Shaquille O’Neal. Shaq can run the floor better than any 300-pounder ever and has proven to be a clutch performer and multiple-time winner in NBA Finals more than Wilt. Chamberlain was a greater stat machine, but he was not the winner that Shaq was. Kareem and Duncan are both legendary forces, but they were not as big as Shaq and do not have the evidence of forming an elite partnership with either MJ or Kobe.

This Superteam Is Perfect, No One Can Defeat Them

Overall, no superteam could be formed to rival the greatest starting five of all time. Even a lineup with Magic, Durant, Bird, Duncan, and Kareem could not compete against them. The best starting five ever has a perfect blend of athleticism, defense, shooting, passing, and clutch ability. In terms of athleticism, 4 out of the 5 starters are absolutely elite. Jordan and Kobe are the two most athletic shooting guards ever, LeBron might be the most blessed athlete ever, and Shaq was an immovable force. Even Steph is incredibly quick and has an advantage over guys like Magic Johnson.

On defense, Jordan and Bryant will guard guys up the length of the floor while LeBron brings elite size and explosiveness at the power forward spot. Shaquille O’Neal only made 3 All-Defensive Teams in his career, but he was impossible to score against when he was in position in the paint. Steph is a defensive liability, but he has more than enough coverage. This means shooting won’t be an issue for the greatest starting five ever, because Curry will have free roam from the perimeter. We have seen Steph destroy teams with his shooting multiple times, and giving him plenty of space means this team could go unbeatable. 

What about passing? Well, there is LeBron James. Other than Magic Johnson, there hasn’t been a player better at elevating the play of others around him. The King will act as a primary playmaker at the power forward position, which creates a host of matchup problems. With James leading the offense and using his versatility in other areas, the greatest starting five of all time has plenty of coverage when it comes to playmaking or building team chemistry on the court.

Perhaps most importantly, Michael Jordan is on the team. Anytime Michael Jordan has another All-Star player, success is guaranteed. Give him 4 other superstar players and it is genuinely impossible for them to be beaten. His ability in the clutch was legendary, and he almost always came up in the biggest moments to lead his side to victory. Having Kobe Bryant by his side means the superteam can employ a two-pronged attack to close games. If any game gets tight, the best starting five of all time will rest knowing they have two killers and that settles it once and for all.


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