What makes a great starting five? Is it the ability to coexist with other top players and win a championship? Does it come down to the chemistry and cohesiveness of the unit as a whole? One thing can be certain when it comes to finding the best lineup, the players need to complement each other’s strengths and cover the weaknesses.
So with that being said, who would be the greatest NBA starting five of all time? Maybe there is a surprise or two in here for you!
NBA All-Time Starting 5
Point Guard: Magic Johnson
There may not be a player that better complements any style of ball like Magic could.
At 6’9”, 220lbs, he was an absolute giant at his position but had that flash in his game that can’t be taught. A true pass-first point guard, Johnson has exactly what the rest of this starting five needs. He is a player that is physically imposing in his position but also has the personality and skills to facilitate others.
When the rest of these positions are revealed, you’ll understand why we need a distributor here. Whether you need a stop on defense, or someone to push the pace for a fast break, he is the perfect point guard for any era of basketball. A true all-timer who most would agree deserves this nod.
Honorable Mentions: Stephen Curry, John Stockton
Shooting Guard: Michael Jordan
His Airness is unquestionably the shooting guard on this team and is also likely the first option for scoring. His resume speaks for itself. A six-time champion that featured two separate three-peats and an astonishing six-time Finals MVP, Jordan was absolutely the man you wanted on the court for your team in a big game.
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It wasn’t just his scoring prowess that had fans and players alike in awe, but he was also a nine-time defensive first-team player and was a defensive player of the year! So whether you need a bucket or a stop, good luck finding a better player than MJ. He is the type of scorer that makes any team better.
Arguably the greatest player who ever laced up his sneakers, Michael Jordan is every coach’s dream for a shooting guard.
Honorable Mentions: Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade
Small Forward: LeBron James
King James may have created the positionless player we see more and more frequently in the NBA, but we will factor him into his original position here.
James is absolutely the most well-rounded basketball player that has ever played the game, but his best quality may be between the ears. He is known for being able to help exploit any team’s weaknesses and his run of 10 straight NBA Finals appearances helps to prove this.
He almost singlehandedly created the chase-down block, has arguably the NBA’s greatest defensive play of all time and, oh by the way, is the NBA’s scoring king at #1 career points. There isn’t a single skill that James does not have in his bag, but what is most impressive is his ability to showcase them all.
In the 2016 Finals, James became the first player to lead the five major stat categories in a single series: Points, Assists, Rebounds, Steals, and Blocks. A player like this has to be on your shortlist for best ever and rightfully is in the all-time five.
Honorable Mention: Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen
Power Forward: Kevin Durant
In what will assuredly be argued, KD coming in as the four man is the perfect addition to this legendary team. For all their benefits on the court, I would argue that I don’t really have a deadly shooter in the lineup until now!
Durant has the purest jump shot of any player on this list and is an absolute mismatch for any player guarding him at this position. Standing at 6’10” and with the ball skills of a guard, there is no player in the world who can effectively stop Durant for long periods of time. Maybe this position is more likely to garner a bigger player who bangs down low, but I think you get the addition of a stretch four by placing Durant here.
Good luck guarding wherever Durant wants to pull up from! Or maybe he takes it to the hole! Good luck getting a bucket on him as well, Durant plays real defense as a big man.
Honorable Mentions: Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan
Center: Shaquille O’Neal
The most dominant player at his position ever, Shaqtus no doubt is the man for the middle of this legend-loaded team.
To start, there is no one that has ever measured up to his 7’2” and 325lbs of sheer muscle in his prime! He quite literally went through other centers and in some cases, dwarfing them. At the peak of his powers, he averaged a full season of 29 points, 12 rebounds, and three blocks a game. He won rings being the focal point of two teams, the Lakers and the Heat.
There is no better player to anchor your team than he, and if you were lucky enough to see his prime, you understand that as controversial as it is to make these lists, he makes as good of a case as any to be considered over Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Laker land and All Time.
Honorable Mention: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell
Main Image: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports