Hall of Fame point guard Magic Johnson once picked his all-time team, and it caused a ton of “barbershop” talk among NBA fans and pundits at the time. The legendary point guard decided to pick his squad around players he not only respected but admired, headlined by guards Isiah Thomas and Michael Jordan. He also rounded out his lineup with a top-two small forward ever in Larry Bird and two dominant big men in Tim Duncan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. There was even a tough decision Magic had to make between choosing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar over superstar Shaquille O’Neal:
“I like Shaq, but he was no Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. This man could dominate you with both hands. When they have to change the game because of you, that is greatness.” - Johnson
Clearly, on paper and in terms of on-court impact, Magic’s superteam would be very difficult to beat in a 7-game series.
But we might have a superteam that could take down Magic Johnson’s superteam across 7 games, and some massive names will be required to play with each other to make this happen. At the point guard spot, Magic Johnson has to start, ironically, because he is the best to ever do it. Kobe Bryant brings the talent against an all-time great talent in Michael Jordan, making this an exciting matchup on both ends of the floor. LeBron James has to be included because he is simply the best forward of all time and the player who will be the man for his team in the series. In the frontcourt, Kevin Durant is chosen to neutralize Tim Duncan because of his completely different playing style.
Finally, dominant center Shaquille O’Neal will go to battle on the court against a ridiculously impactful Abdul-Jabbar. Seeing the two giants battle down low will certainly set the tone for the series and will also make a ton of highlights. But will Team FW have enough to come out on top over Team Magic? Let’s find out.
Magic Johnson vs. Isiah Thomas
Magic Johnson starts at the point guard spot for Team FW, fittingly against his own chosen superteam. Magic will control the point guard spot a lot of the time but will be tasked with doing multiple things on the floor, including rebounding the ball and using his size against a smaller Isiah Thomas. A 6’9” guard, Magic will lead his team in APG and will be the perfect opponent for a tough small guy in Thomas. As great as Thomas is, Magic is simply on another level as a dominant guard.
Thomas will not generate assists as easily as Magic, but he will also lead his team in assists and control the offense with superstar players around him. By having some elite stars, including Michael Jordan and Larry Bird, beside him and an all-time great big in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Thomas will control the offense while also putting pressure on the opponents with his scoring ability. Thomas will also use his tactics to get under Magic’s skin when possible and also play the passing lanes to make an impact on defense.
Kobe Bryant vs. Michael Jordan
Kobe Bryant is one of the best scorers ever, and he will elevate his game when he sees the likes of Magic Johnson and LeBron James beside him. Bryant always wants to prove himself in the biggest games, especially when he is across the court from the greatest player of all time in Michael Jordan. Bryant will show his elite offensive game in the series to allow Magic and LeBron the priority of being playmakers and threats on the fast break. Bryant will be the second-leading scorer in the series behind Jordan, and will also go toe-to-toe with MJ.
Michael Jordan was the greatest offensive player at the shooting guard position ever and was also one of the greatest ever talents to pick up a basketball. Not to mention, Jordan influenced every all-time great player that came after him, including Kobe Bryant. To many who watched Michael, he is easily the greatest player of all time. The guard will bring his spectacular two-way abilities to the court to give his side a threat in multiple areas of the floor, although he will have his hands full with Kobe Bryant.
LeBron James vs. Larry Bird
LeBron James has an abundance of talent around him, and The King will use that to his advantage. He will average 27 PPG in the series along with 6 RPG and 7 APG. James will push the pace as much as possible with Magic handling the ball, and the fast break will nearly be impossible to stop when they both get out running. The King will also allow Kobe Bryant to lead the team in shot attempts and overall scoring.
Across from Michael is his former rival, Larry Bird. Larry Bird’s tasks are simple: nail shots, bring toughness, and rebound the basketball. Larry Legend will also form a dominant duo with Isiah Thomas on the perimeter and will do his best to slow the game down and feed the bigs. Bird’s numbers in the series will pale compared to LeBron’s on the stat sheet, although he will only average 16.8 PPG in the series on 50% FG.
Kevin Durant vs. Tim Duncan
KD is the perfect complementary piece to Magic, LeBron, and Bryant because he can play both on and off the ball. KD's ability to hit shots also comes into play, because he forces LeBron James to defend him tightly all game. KD is too deadly from the perimeter, so Duncan will be forced to play out on the “island” for most of the series. Tim cannot allow KD the space to get good looks from the perimeter and has to be placed in uncomfortable positions to defend.
Not to be outdone, Duncan’s basketball I.Q. comes into play quickly and in a hurry when it looks like he is getting outplayed at moments throughout the series. Duncan will live by scoring around the rim, although he will punish KD when the slender forward is defending him down low. The Big Fundamental knows he can score the ball whenever he wants in position but opts to control the pace of play in the half-court. The San Antonio Spurs legend will have a big impact in the series, especially when playing alongside Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Shaquille O’Neal vs. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Is there a more exciting matchup in the series than the one between the two superstar big men? Shaquille O’Neal will be critical for his side in battling Kareem down low and will take the game to the dominant big man. O’Neal loved games against other superstar players, and there will be a legitimate Battle of the Titans in the paint when he bangs against Abdul-Jabbar. Of course, O’Neal will also put up big numbers throughout the series and form a dynamic partnership with Magic, LeBron, and Bryant.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar vs. Shaquille O’Neal will be one of the most storied matchups in the series because Kareem will compete against a player with abnormal strength and physical dominance once again. Abdul-Jabbar played against Wilt a multitude of times and often came out on top because he had to use his skill and brain to come out on top. But Shaq will be a load to handle in the paint and will lead all players in rebounds with 15 RPG. Kareem will shoot the higher percentage, however, nailing 51% from the field over the series.
Team FW Advantages
Team FW has elite shot-making and floor-spacing, even better than Magic Johnson’s superteam that is led by solid shooters, including Isiah Thomas and Michael Jordan. Magic Johnson is arguably the greatest playmaker in NBA history, dominating the point guard position with ball-handling and basketball IQ. Thanks to Magic’s presence, shot-making won’t be an issue with the amount of talent on the roster.
Kobe Bryant is right with Michael Jordan as the greatest scorer ever, and Kevin Durant is one of the most elite perimeter superstars of all time. Finally, Shaquille O’Neal will average 23 PPG in the series, even against an all-time great center in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Team FW have 4 superstar players who can average 30 PPG in any series, and they can also space the floor at an elite level with a superstar center down low in the paint.
Team Magic Johnson Advantages
Team Magic’s squad has elite offense because they have Michael Jordan, the team’s main form of attack. Thomas and Bird are elite competitors, and the presence of Kareem down low makes it tough to fight for rebounds and score around the rim. Team Magic Johnson will make the series interesting on both ends of the floor.
Magic’s superteam can bring elite toughness to the court around Michael Jordan, and the shooting guard will be bolstered with Kareem and Tim Duncan. They have incredible size and ability to dominate the half-court and will be able to feed Duncan to punish the smaller KD. Magic’s team will need to use their size advantage throughout the series to gain the advantage.
Who Wins A Best-Of-7 Series?
Game 1 is slow-paced, resulting in both teams shooting only a combined 43% from the field and 30% from three. Michael Jordan has a strong first half, scoring 20 points. But in the second half, he is forced to be a passer, to no avail. Isiah and Bird do not shoot the ball well, and the bigs do not get the ball enough. With Jordan double-teamed, his team cannot find enough offense and have to submit to Team FW. On the other side, Magic has a virtuoso performance by creating easy looks in the fourth quarter for Team FW, and the game ends 100-91.
Game 2 also goes to Team FW because Kobe Bryant and LeBron James simply take over. Once again, Jordan does not have enough help because the bigs do not get the ball enough, and the paint is swallowed up by Shaquille O’Neal. The duo of Bryant and James brings it on every level, from three, mid-range, and at the basket. The two players simply do not let up, dominating the scoring charts and blowing out Team Magic. With Magic Johnson finishing with 12 assists, Team Magic finds it difficult to slow down the stars when they got going and lose the game in a 104-89 blowout.
Finally, Team Magic respond in Game 3. Michael has 40 points, Bird nails 5 three-pointers, and Thomas finishes with a game-high 12 assists. Michael also scores 10 points in the fourth quarter, essentially kickstarting a 20-6 run and ending the game as a result. Team Magic wins in a convincing blowout 111-99, as Team FW does not find enough scoring and defense to go up 3-0 in the series. As expected, this seems to be a tight series in the making after a convincing Game 3 victory by Team Magic.
Game 4 goes to Team Magic because there is no stopping the shooting by Larry Bird and the dominance of the big men. Kareem and Duncan have their best performances in the series, dropping a combined 50 points on 48% shooting from the field. The bigs dominate the game, and Bird chips in a triple-double to add to the massacre. Team Magic wins 110-85, as Team FW cannot find a way to shoot the ball at a high level. Thomas chips in 13 assists while MJ has a cool 25 points.
With the series tied 2-2, Team FW gets out to a convincing 60-45 start at the end of the first half and has to survive a massive comeback by Team Magic in the third quarter. Magic Johnson notches a triple-double, Shaq drops 32 points, and Magic finds Kobe for a jumper with 30 seconds to give his team a 2-point lead with 10 seconds left. A late Jordan jumper off an Isiah Thomas pass ties the game with 1 second left. Amazingly, Magic lobs up a pass to Shaq, who manages a tip at the buzzer to run away with a 2-point victory in a massive Game 5.
With their backs on the line, Team Magic needs to force a Game 7 and find a way to do so. Michael Jordan drops a game-high 35 points, although he has to do that through 29 shots. Bryant counters with 28 points, as Team FW completely runs out of steam on the defensive end by the fourth quarter. MJ refuses to go out without swinging, and it works because he nails back-to-back jumpers to force a Game 7. Duncan registers an impressive 7 blocks, while Kareem’s skyhook also comes into play whenever the offense stagnates. An impressive Game 6 victory by Team Magic, 100-94, results in a Game 7 showdown for the ages.
In a pivotal Game 7, all players play up to par. But the game is all about the 4th quarter, where the superstars of both sides find their rhythm on offense. Jordan scores 30, Magic registers 13 assists in a 20-point triple-double, and Shaq counters Kareem toe-to-toe. In the end, a shot that goes into force OT happens with the clock expired by a few milliseconds. Team FW went 5-5 on their last shots, all assisted by Magic and scored by LeBron, Kobe, and Shaq. Michael responds, although he is forced to pass the last-second shot. A Larry Bird three-pointer somehow banks in at the buzzer to win the series, but it is a few milliseconds too late. As a result, Magic Johnson and Team FW escape with a Game 7 victory. Unsurprisingly, for his leadership, Magic Johnson earns Finals MVP.
Final Result: Team FW vs. Team Magic Johnson 4-3
Finals MVP: Magic Johnson