Superteams are becoming more of the norm in recent years, as superstar players have figured out that teaming up with each other gives them the best chance to win NBA titles. Of course, talent wins chips and there have been some all-time great teams that have dominated the league in their eras. More specifically, superstars are no longer willing to grind out an entire career with one franchise because spreading the wealth by joining other stars gives them an easier path to titles. Of course, there are exceptions including Giannis Antetokounmpo with the Milwaukee Bucks last year, but the majority of stars want to team up in today’s game.
What Kevin Durant did in 2017 was abnormal, because he joined the team that ultimately stopped him a year prior. With the Oklahoma City Thunder 3-1 up against the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 Western Conference Finals, Durant (and Russell Westbrook) did not play well enough to guide his team to the Finals for the first time since 2012. Durant set the precedent that joining a team a player “should not” join was a thing of the past because he would win 2 straight championships and 2 straight Finals MVPs thanks to his decision.
But what if past superstars mimicked Durant and joined teams that they could not beat? That means there would be a handful of teams that would go close to an unbeatable 82-0 record to shatter the Golden State Warriors’ record of 73-9. These below instances would create some of the greatest teams ever, and it would have been unbelievable to watch these superstars play alongside opponents who beat them in the playoffs.
1990-91 Detroit Pistons - Michael Jordan
Starting Lineup: Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman, Bill Laimbeer
The greatest incarnation of a superstar joining a team that he lost to would include Micahel Jordan joining the “Bad Boy” Pistons. Before Jordan became a 6-time NBA champion and dominated the league for years, he was getting beat down by Isiah Thomas and the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons were a dirty team, and they were proud of that.
If Jordan, one of the toughest competitors in sports history, joined the Pistons, the franchise would have destroyed the league’s competition for many years. Jordan retired a 10-time scoring champion and 6-time Finals MVP, so clearly his talent as the greatest player ever is well documented. Having the greatest scorer ever on the Pistons means the franchise would have an MVP-caliber player because they are the first team in NBA history to win championships without one.
Jordan with the Pistons would mean Detroit wins at least 6 championships and the entire course of NBA history would have changed. Jordan overcame the odds and defeated the Pistons eventually, but joining them would have gifted Jordan and Detroit an insane amount of championships.
1993-94 Chicago Bulls - Charles Barkley
Starting Lineup: B.J. Armstrong, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Charles Barkley, Horace Grant
The 1993 Chicago Bulls squad won it all thanks to the brilliance of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, but imagine if they were to acquire the great Charles Barkley. The league’s MVP and unstoppable force, Barkley was an offensive force in 1993 as he finished 1st in the MVP race by averaging 25.6 PPG and 12.2 RPG in the regular season, taking his numbers to 26.6 PPG and 13.6 RPG in the playoffs.
Armed with an unstoppable low-post game, Barkley led the Phoenix Suns to the NBA Finals against Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. The Suns could not overcome Jordan (41.0 PPG) and lost in 6 games. Had Barkley forced his way to Chicago the following season, the Nulls would have an unstoppable Big Three with Jordan, Pippen, and Barkley.
Charles was 30 years old in 1994 and was still playing at a high level. Chicago’s trio would be the perfect mix of defense and offense, while Phil Jackson controls the egos in the dressing room by making it clear that Jordan was the man on the team. Quite frankly, this team would win at least 70 games per season and would push Golden State for the best record ever.
1995-96 Houston Rockets - Shaquille O’Neal
Starting Lineup: Kenny Smith, Vernon Maxwell, Clyde Drexler, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal
The 1995 Houston Rockets were a team that played together because role players needed to step up in big games to help Hakeem Olajuwon lead them to glory. That is what happened in the NBA Finals when a prime Shaquille O’Neal could not lead the Orlando Magic past the Rockets in the Finals.
Despite 28.0 PPG and 12.5 RPG by Shaq in the Finals, the Rockets were able to overcome a talented Orlando team thanks to Hakeem (32.8 PPG and 11.5 RPG) and 11-year veteran Clyde Drexler (21.5 PPG). Shaq would soon become the dominant force in the league, but he faced a better player in Olajuwon in the series.
Had Shaq forced his way to Houston, the Rockets would have been hilariously unstoppable. While three-pointers were becoming a more prominent part of the game, a duo of O’Neal and Olajuwon would have ransacked every frontcourt in the league en route to multiple championships. Not even Michael Jordan’s Bulls would have stood a chance against them.
1998-99 Chicago Bulls - Karl Malone, John Stockton
Starting Lineup: John Stockton, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Karl Malone
One of the most amazing Finals showdowns for two years would be the Utah Jazz taking on the juggernaut Chicago Bulls. John Stockton and Karl Malone were a dynamic duo, but they could not keep up with Jordan and Pippen on the court. MJ would average 33.5 PPG in the 1998 Finals, while Pippen would drop 15.7 PPG. Malone was a force averaging 25.0 PPG and Stockton was his usual self, averaging 9.7 PPG and 8.7 APG.
Had Malone and Stockton given up on Utah and joined the team they lost to, the Chicago Bulls would have been unstoppable on offense. Jordan and Pippen already captured their 6th championship together, but the additions of Malone and Stockton would have kept the band together for another run. The only way for Jordan to get close to Bill Russell’s 11 championships would be if Chicago acquired Malone and Stockton because the Bulls would have won at least 2 or 3 more titles.
2001-02 Los Angeles Lakers - Allen Iverson
Starting Lineup: Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant, Rick Fox, Horace Grant, Shaquille O'Neal
Allen Iverson came closest to winning an NBA championship in his career when he guided the 76ers to the Finals to face the Los Angeles Lakers. Iverson was considered a top-5 player at the time and was one of the top scorers in the world after winning league MVP in a sensational year.
Philadelphia were not a great team by any means, as the second-best player on the team was a 34-year old Dikembe Mutombo who was not an offensive threat at the level of Kobe Bryant or Shaquille O’Neal. The 76ers went as Iverson went, even if the guard was hardly 6’0”. With Iverson’s incredible scoring ability, the 76ers were still a threat against anybody. They proved that, as the Lakers would lose Game 1 in surprising fashion thanks to a 48-point performance from Iverson.
Had Iverson forced his way to join Los Angeles, we might be looking at one of the best teams ever. Kobe never played with a dominant perimeter player as great as Iverson, and that duo could have averaged 60 PPG. Shaquille O’Neal is the most dominant player of his era, and with Allen Iverson on the team, Phil Jackson would have a lot of headaches on his hands. But he would have likely sorted it out and won multiple championships.
2004-05 Los Angeles Lakers - Kevin Garnett
Starting Lineup: Gary Payton, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Karl Malone, Shaquille O’Neal
The 2004 Los Angeles Lakers ended the year in disappointment when they lost in 5 games to the Detroit Pistons in the Finals. They had won 3 straight titles before that and were looking to do the unthinkable in terms of winning even more titles. Unfortunately, their chemistry was not up to par.
The Lakers defeated MVP Kevin Garnett and the Minnesota Timberwolves in 6 games in the Western Conference Finals, proving their worth as an all-time great team behind Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. For Garnett, it was clear he did not have enough help in the series outside of Latrell Sprewell (20.8 PPG).
If Garnett forces his way to the Lakers, there is no way the Lakers break up the following season. Kevin most likely encourages Karl Malone to keep going, forming a dynamic frontcourt alongside Shaquille O’Neal. The beauty of Garnett’s game was his versatility, and head coach Phil Jackson would have found a way to keep everyone on the same page en route to league-wide domination.
2008-09 Boston Celtics - LeBron James
Starting Lineup: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett
For years, the Boston Celtics were a thorn in LeBron James’ side. The King came close every year with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but couldn’t quite get the job done. In 2008, the Celtics overcame Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals and would do it again in 2010.
With the Big Three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen; alongside a rising Rajon Rondo, the Celtics were unbelievably talented. For LeBron, he ended up forming his own superteam in Miami but what if he joined the team that beat him?
With a prime LeBron, the Celtics would have been incredibly dominant. Instead of winning only 1 championship together, Boston wins multiple rings and James most likely equals or even usurps Michael Jordan’s count of 6 rings.
2012-13 Miami Heat - Kevin Durant
Starting Lineup: Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Chris Bosh
The 2012 Miami Heat were once again stacked with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh on the roster after an incredible offseason. The Heat would have placed Kevin Durant as the starting small forward, with LeBron starting alongside Chris Bosh in the frontcourt. Of course, Mario Chalmers and Dwyane Wade would have completed an incredible starting five that would have easily defeated a team like the San Antonio Spurs in the Finals.
As currently constructed, the Heat were manhandled by the Mavericks in the Finals before taking care of business against Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City Thunder. Miami had one of the greatest trios on their team, but the addition of offensive superstar Kevin Durant would have made them scary good. Durant averaged 28.0 PPG and 8.0 RPG with the Thunder in 2012, taking his numbers to 28.5 PPG and 7.4 RPG in the playoffs.
The Heat would have Durant to match up with the likes of Kawhi Leonard while LeBron dominates the Spurs series en route to his 2nd Finals MVP of many with the Heat. With Durant on the team, Miami has the greatest team ever and they would win 6 titles as long as they stay together. Knowing Durant and his unselfishness, he would get along with The King on the court without a fuss. Of course, James would be the best possible leader for the team by controlling Draymond Green’s temper and making sure everyone is in check.
2014-15 Miami Heat - Paul George
Starting Lineup: Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, Paul George, LeBron James, Chris Bosh
The 2014 Miami Heat were once again stacked with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh on the roster after 3 straight Finals appearances. The Heat would have placed George as the starting small forward, with LeBron starting alongside Chris Bosh in the frontcourt. Of course, Mario Chalmers and Dwyane Wade would have completed an incredible starting five that would have easily defeated the San Antonio Spurs in the Finals.
As currently constructed, the Heat were manhandled by the Spurs in the Finals by a record margin. They could not keep up with Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili with their current roster, and the addition of two-way superstar Paul George would have made them scary good. George averaged 21.7 PPG and 6.8 RPG with the Pacers in 2014, taking his numbers to 22.6 PPG and 7.6 RPG in the playoffs.
The Heat would have George to match up with Leonard while LeBron dominates the Spurs series en route to his 3rd Finals MVP with the Heat. George and the Indiana Pacers famously struggled with the Heat in the playoffs, falling to the eventual finalists in 6 games. George had help with David West and Lance Stephenson, but not enough to compete with an all-time great Big Three.
2018-19 Golden State Warriors - LeBron James
Starting Lineup: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green
LeBron James is truly one of the greats and also the best player during the 2010s era. What he did as a champion and leader was truly magnificent, and he made it look normal to dominate the court every time he was on it. But by far the biggest foe and roadblock for James over his career has been the Golden State Warriors. Led by Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green; the Warriors were simply better than The King’s Cavaliers.
After losing in the 2015 Finals, 2017 Finals, and 2018 Finals to the Warriors; it might have been an easy decision for James to join the Golden State Warriors. While the Kevin Durant situation would be unclear, LeBron would join Curry, Thompson, and Green to form once again an unbeatable team. Other than Durant, the best possible teammate on the court might be Stephen Curry and to a lesser extent Klay Thompson.
James thrives with the ball in his hands and he would create countless shots for the two greatest shooters ever. With Durant on the roster as well, the Warriors would be unbelievably dominant. James fell to the Warriors three times in the Finals, and he probably would have 7 or 8 championships if he opted for Golden State instead of remaining with Cleveland and eventually leaving for Los Angeles.
2019-20 Toronto Raptors - Giannis Antetokounmpo
Starting Lineups: Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Kawhi Leonard, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Pascal Siakam
The 2019 Toronto Raptors shocked the world when they captured the NBA championship behind their new acquisition, Kawhi Leonard. Thanks to the genius of Masai Ujiri, the Raptors essentially swapped DeMar DeRozan for Leonard, giving the Raptors a top-50 player of all-time to build around. With veterans Kyle Lowry and later Marc Gasol on the roster, Leonard was able to carry the team to an incredible Finals run. Of course, supporting stars Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet were also incredible contributors on both ends of the floor.
The 2019 Toronto Raptors are considered one of the most unlikely teams to win a title, but their roster was truly stacked with talent and leadership across the roster. Lowry was one of the best point guards in the league, and an incredible roster built on defense made Toronto a force on the court. Their biggest challenge might have been getting past Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks, defeating them in 6 games in the Eastern Conference Finals.
But what if Giannis Antetokounmpo ditched his loyalty for Milwaukee and joined the Raptors? The Greek Freak would have likely started alongside Pascal Siakam and Kawhi Leonard in the frontcourt, with Lowry and VanVleet completing the lineup. Quite frankly, this squad would be almost unbeatable in all areas of the floor thanks to defensive leadership and unstoppable offense. Either way, the Raptors would have ended up as champions in 2019 and the coming years as well thanks to the best duo in the league with Leonard and Giannis.
Credit for an idea: Clutch Points