We often get caught up in a single player's accomplishments when analyzing the NBA, because of the immense impact a superstar can bring to the game. More so than any other sport, basketball is greatly influenced by a single talented player. But many ignore the aspect of basketball being a team game, and even the greatest players of all time had help on their rosters.
When looking at the best scorers and players over the past few decades; Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Kevin Durant have all dominated the game as superstar players. Each one of these players have won NBA championships but they could not have done it without their teammates. In order to see which one of these stars had more help, here are the all-time starting lineups of each player's teammates.
Michael Jordan's Best Teammates
Steve Kerr, Toni Kukoc, Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, Dennis Rodman
Michael Jordan is the greatest player of all time with 6 championships, but he didn't necessarily have the greatest teammates (in terms of individual talent) with him. Instead, Jordan's teammates played perfectly around him to do the little things that were actually very important. Steve Kerr is one of the best shooters ever with a career 45.4% 3-PT FG, while Kukoc thrived as a scoring forward off the bench. Horace Grant was tough and defensive-minded and was a solid starter throughout his career.
By far Jordan's greatest teammates were Dennis Rodman and Scottie Pippen. Rodman was on the team during the second 3-peat and is widely regarded as the best rebounder to ever play the game. Rodman averaged 5.2 PPG and15.3 RPG while playing some of the best defense of his generation. Of course, Scottie Pippen is regarded as a top-50 player of all time and was possibly the best sidekick ever. Even though Jordan was mainly responsible for the Bulls' 6 titles, his teammates contributed by being tough competitors and team players.
Kobe Bryant's Best Teammates
Derek Fisher, Rick Fox, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, Shaquille O'Neal
When one thinks of Kobe Bryant's greatest teammates, Shaquille O'Neal is the first and most important name that comes to mind. Shaquille O'Neal might be the most dominant force we have seen in the modern era, capturing 3 straight NBA championships with the Lakers alongside Kobe Bryant. It was Shaq who had the big numbers and the most impact for the majority of every game, which is why he was crowned Finals MVP 3 times.
Kobe's next best teammate was Pau Gasol, a future Hall of Famer. Kobe Bryant was struggling to carry a poor Lakers team after Shaquille O'Neal left, and Pau Gasol was acquired to help the shooting guard lead the Lakers to 2 more championships. Gasol averaged 17.7 PPG and 9.9 RPG as a Laker and was critical to Kobe's career.
Derek Fisher and Rick Fox were some of the best defenders at their positions and were always there to hit big shots when needed. Lamar Odom, a 6'10" versatile forward, also makes the cut as one of Kobe's greatest teammates because he helped the Lakers capture 2 championships alongside Gasol and Bryant in 2009 and 2010.
LeBron James's Best Teammates
Kyrie Irving, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Love, Chris Bosh, Anthony Davis
LeBron James is considered the greatest small forward ever and is on the Mt. Rushmore of all-time great players. As a member of the Cavaliers, Heat, and Lakers; The King has captured 4 NBA championships and 4 Finals MVPs in his Hall of Fame career. LeBron has also had help in the forms of 4 future Hall of Famers. LeBron had Dwayne Wade, the most important player of his career, who showed him how to win on the big stage. Alongside Wade, who already won a title in Miami, LeBron won 2 straight NBA titles.
Chris Bosh was also in Miami and is one of the most underrated stars of his era. Bosh made the All-Star Team for 6 straight years in Miami and was a critical two-way player alongside James and Wade. With Cleveland, LeBron also had help in a 7-time All-Star Kyrie Irving and 5-time All-Star Kevin Love. Kyrie and Love were pivotal pieces in the Cavaliers championship run, as the former hit the game-winner in Game 7 of the 2016 Finals while the latter played lockdown defense on Stephen Curry to seal LeBron's 3rd championship.
Of course, Anthony Davis makes the cut as the best big man to ever play with LeBron. Davis and LeBron were too big and too skilled for any team to handle and they wiped the floor with the league last year during a COVID-shortened season.
Kevin Durant's Best Teammates
Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Draymond Green
Kevin Durant is an all-time great player who has had some all-time great teammates. Durant was fortunate enough to start his career with Russell Westbrook, an explosive point guard who is one of the most unstoppable players of his generation. Although Westbrook was erratic at times, he was one of Durant's best teammates ever. James Harden was also Durant's teammate in the Oklahoma City Thunder days, coming off the bench as an impactful 6th man.
By far Durant's greatest teammates were Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. Klay does not make the starting five since there are 4 guards already in the lineup, which means 2-time Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green starts at center. Curry is Durant's best teammate as a 2-time MVP and the man who helped the latter win his first championships. Finally, Durant is on a superteam with MVP candidate James Harden and 2016 NBA champion Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn.
Which Superstar Has The Better Lineup?
Even with a lineup stacked with All-NBA guards, Kevin Durant has the best starting lineup of teammates. The amount of scoring help he had was unparalleled and surpasses even the likes of what Shaquille O'Neal or Dwyane Wade brought to Kobe and LeBron's teams as well. Durant is recognized as one of the greatest players in NBA history and also the superstar who had the best teammates over his career.
The fact that Michael Jordan only needed an All-NBA star in Scottie Pippen is perhaps more proof that he is the most dominant superstar in NBA history. In terms of the best possible teammate, Kobe Bryant had that in Shaquille O'Neal. Shaq is the greatest player on any list because of his dominance as a 3-time Finals MVP and is a top-10 player in the game. In terms of All-NBA talent, Bryant only needed Shaq and Pau Gasol to earn 5 rings.
LeBron James played with a lineup of 5 All-NBA caliber teammates as well and certainly has had his fair share of help. Importantly, LeBron had to collect his help by taking control of his own future and building his teams in free agency. Kevin Durant has done the same, except that he formed arguably the most dominant superteam in NBA history in Golden State and has a chance to do it again with the Brooklyn Nets next season.
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