They have been much debate about all-time rankings and lists. We have seen analysts debate for years which player is the greatest of all-time in NBA history. What we can agree on is that the league has seen some of the most athletic players play in their league. Today’s talk is the “Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo and the athleticism he displayed in the NBA Finals on route to winning a Finals MVP.
If we looked back in history, who are the most athletic players at each position? If we made a starting lineup with those players, would that team go 82-0? Who would stop them? Let’s take a look at the most athletic starting lineup in NBA history, and you decide if this team would have been taken down by the opposition.
Point Guard: Russell Westbrook
Vertical Leap: 36.5 Inches
You would have thought that Westbrook’s vertical leap would have been higher given how he is consistently putting up crazy flying dunks in a game. He is also not the tallest player either, standing at 6-foot-3. With that said, Westbrook is impossible to guard with his elite quickness and speed, which makes it one dangerous combination.
When Westbrook was in his 20s, he was one of the fastest players in the NBA. Even at the age of 32, he remains one of the fastest players on the court with and without the ball in his hands. He has extreme vertical jumping abilities and has hit his head on the rim plenty of times despite being listed as a smaller guard.
The 2016-2017 season saw Westbrook average a triple-double in a season for the first time since Oscar Robertson in 1961. In his career, Westbrook owns four seasons of averaging a triple-double. That type of hustle is why he is the all-time leader in triple-doubles. That record was seen as never being broken. Instead, the very athletic guard accomplished the impossible.
Shooting Guard: Michael Jordan
Vertical Leap: 46 Inches
Some articles say that his vertical topped as high as 48 inches, while 46 is the most consistent among the bunch. Either way, Jordan’s vertical ranked either at the top or among the top in NBA history. Given his ability to rise so high above the room, his nickname “Air Jordan” became an international sensation. His dunking abilities were just one of his many skills.
When it comes to the overall athleticism talk, Jordan was said to be faster than the likes of LeBron back in the day. When he was entering the draft, he timed a 4.3-second, 40-yard dash. Jordan also had electric quickness in his body, but also his eyes. If you watch clips of “The Last Dance,” you will see how quickly he could read the defense and make incredible plays.
We saw Jordan once complete a slam dunk from the free-throw line in a Slam Dunk Contest. He could have jumped out of the arena if he wanted. Outside of basketball, Jordan was so athletic that he quit the game of basketball and participated in a brief professional baseball career. Not too many athletes are capable of competing in both, yet switching from one to the other.
Small Forward: Vince Carter
Vertical Leap: 43 Inches
Despite eight All-Star appearances and more than 20,000 career points in the NBA, Carter will always be remembered for one play that didn’t occur in an NBA game. The French media refer to this play as “le dunk de la mort.” The translation is “the dunk of death.”
Heading into the 2000 Summer Olympics, Frederic Weis, standing at 7-foot-2, was going to do his best to help the French basketball team compete for a medal. In the end, Weis could have won the gold medal, but everyone would have talked about how Carter jumped over him. This was coming off the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest, which is seen as one of the greatest showings in NBA history.
Carter was given the nickname “Half-Man, Half-Amazing” for what he could accomplish in his prime. His leaping ability was given comparisons to both Michael Jordan and Julius Erving. “Vinsanity” was as good as pop culture for the plays he made with the Raptors and the Nets.
Power Forward: LeBron James
Vertical Leap: 40 Inches
When LeBron led the Cavaliers to their title in 2016, there was an argument at the time as to who was the most athletic athlete in NBA history. Eleven-time champion Bill Russell poked some fun at LeBron, and the conversation was quickly picked up by the media. Eventually, the argument was moved between LeBron and Wilt Chamberlain with LeBron having a compelling case to win.
LeBron played football up to his junior year and was All-State in football. He finished his junior season with 57 receptions for 1,160 yards and 16 touchdowns before focusing solely on basketball. When it comes to his basketball career, we know what he has done from an accomplishment standpoint, but his athleticism has propelled him in a way.
The combination of speed, size, strength, and leaping ability at 6-foot-9 and 250 pounds is something that the modern fan had never seen before. Even at 36 years old, LeBron has a vertical of around 40 inches. That is a sight to see.
Center: Wilt Chamberlain
Vertical Leap: 48 Inches
In high school, Chamberlain was one of the most freak track athletes we have ever seen. He ran the 100-yard dash in 10.9 seconds. He threw the shot-put over 56 feet, triple-jumped over 50 feet, and won the Big Eight high jump three straight years. He was so dominant on and off the basketball court, that some media members believe that he should be named the most athletic player in NBA history.
Chamberlain was a 7-footer that should have his record book. He already owns the scoring record for scoring 100 points in a game. He wasn’t just somebody that dunked on every shot. He had a step-back, one-legged jump shot, finger rolls, and dunks. What Chamberlain did from the scoring and rebounding aspect were numbers we saw in a video game.
From pure athleticism, Chamberlain is the most athletic center we have ever seen. He might be the most athletic player we have ever seen. While his numbers were inflated, he would still have produced at a high level in the modern era. With his skills, it would still be tough for opponents today to stop him.
Credit for the idea: Sports Kingdom
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