Building the Ultimate Dream Team

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After a year of delays and pandemic related panic, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are finally here in 2021. We’ve had an extra 365 days to think about the games and wait for our favorite athletes like Simone Biles and Katie Ledecky to remind us that America is fucking awesome (at least athletically).

There is absolute chaos surrounding the USA Men’s Basketball team heading into Tokyo. Three players (Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday, and Devin Booker) are red-eyeing it to Japan after the NBA Finals, Kevin Love left the team because he wasn’t good enough to be there, Bradley Beal is gone thanks to Covid, and Zach LaVine isn’t in Japan yet because of health and safety protocols. That doesn’t even factor in their exhibition losses to Nigeria and Australia earlier this month in Las Vegas.

Any team that has to desperately ask Javale McGee to join the team at the last minute is in a heap of trouble. The Dream Team this is not.

Don’t fret over the current iteration of whatever this is. The United States still has the greatest conglomeration of basketball talent in the world. To prove it, we’re taking over Team USA and going all the way back through 75 years of NBA history to assemble the greatest basketball team in history: The Ultimate Dream Team. We’re inviting the best of the best to a top-secret training camp in a top secret location to battle against the best players from every era. The ultimate 12-man roster will emerge to take on the world and restore the good name of the US of A. Unlike the 1992 Dream Team and more in the vain of the 1980 Miracle on Ice Team USA Hockey Team, we’re not necessarily taking the 12-best players in history, rather the 12-players that play the best as a team. With that, here are the players we sent an invite to to join us at out top secret basketball camp.

Point Guard Camp Invitees:

Magic Johnson

Oscar Robertson

Isiah Thomas

Chris Paul

Jason Kidd

Bob Cousy

John Stockton

Steph Curry

Gary Payton

Walt Frazier

Shooting Guard Camp Invitees:

Michael Jordan

Kobe Bryant

Jerry West

Dwyane Wade

James Harden

Pete Maravich

George Gervin

Sam Jones

Ray Allen

Reggie Miller

Small Forward Camp Invitees:

LeBron James

Larry Bird

Kevin Durant

Julius Erving

Elgin Baylor

Scottie Pippen

John Havlicek

Kawhi Leonard

James Worthy

Dominique Wilkins

Power Forward Camp Invitees:

Tim Duncan

Karl Malone

Kevin Garnett

Charles Barkley

Kevin McHale

Bob Petit

Elvin Hayes

Dennis Rodman

Chris Webber

Anthony Davis

Center Camp Invitees:

Bill Russell

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Wilt Chamberlain

Shaquille O’Neal

David Robinson

Patrick Ewing

Moses Malone

Bill Walton

George Mikan

Willis Reed

Coach Camp Invitees:

Phil Jackson

Red Auerbach

Gregg Popovich

Pat Riley

Chuck Daley

John Kundla

Steve Kerr

Larry Brown

K.C. Jones

Eric Spoelstra

Before camp even begins, this team is undoubtedly built around two players: Michael Jordan and Bill Russell. MJ and Russell are the two fiercest competitors and best winners in NBA history. MJ led the Bulls to six championships and Russell has more than any other player with 11 rings. The greatest player ever and the greatest winner ever provide the perfect one-two punch, especially on the defensive end where Jordan is a nine-time All-Defensive selection and Russell is arguably the greatest defender in NBA history. They’ll serve as co-captains and will be the heart and soul of the team.

On the first day of camp, one player quickly asserts himself as the alpha of the group both on and off the court, Magic Johnson. A five-time champion and three-time MVP, Magic Johnson is one of the best leaders, and probably the best playmaker in the NBA’s 75-year history. He averaged 11.2 assists per game and had the versatility to play center in the NBA finals as a rookie.

After Magic, the team needs some shooting, enter Larry Bird. The “Hick from French Lick” won three straight MVPs from 1984-86 as well as three NBA Championships in 1981, ’84, and ’86. Bird is one of the most versatile players ever averaging 24.3 points, 10 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game in his career while shooting 37.6 percent from three. He won the first three ever three-point shooting contests at All-Star Weekend from 1986-88 and is regarded as one of the first great shooters in the NBA.

After Larry Bird, we’re going to pick the player with the most unstoppable shot of all time, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Kareem’s patented sky hook was unstoppable during his 20-year career. The 7’2″ center won six MVP awards and six NBA championships, five of them coming with the Lakers and All-Time Dream Team teammate Magic Johnson. He was the NBA’s greatest player of all time before MJ came along, and will anchor the offense in the paint.

As camp gets into days three and four, LeBron James is beginning to grind down the rest of the attendees. King James used his 6’9″ frame and unrivalled athleticism to beat the crap out of everyone else. He’s one of if not the most well-rounded player in history, a four-time champ and four-time MVP LeBron is a great scorer, passer, rebounder, and defender who can post up and play on the wing with a decent enough three-point shot. It would be insane to leave the King off the ultimate roster, and we’re not going to make that mistake here.

Time to add some more shooting to the Dream Team, which means it’s time to reunite Steph Curry and Kevin Durant. Curry, the greatest shooter ever, has a career three point percentage of 43.3 while Durant is at 38.4. The two teamed up to win two straight titles with Golden State, while Curry already had a championship under his belt before Durant arrived. Both have won MVPs (Curry won back-to-back) and Durant is a two-time Finals MVP. Curry is the weakest defender on the roster to this point, but can run the offense when Magic sits, and Durant is a solid, if not quite an elite defender. Durant might be the best pure scorer in basketball and will be a key offensive cog with the ball in his hands.

The last two days of camp are here and we need to fill four more roster spots. Dennis Rodman and Wilt Chamberlain have already gotten bored and gone to Vegas to have some fun. Everyone voted to keep Isiah Thomas off of the team again and he took his ball and went home. Shaq and Barkley won’t stop eating and making fun of each other to impress the coaches and have essentially been benched during scrimmages.

Looking at the first eight players on the roster and one thing is clear, we need a few more big men. Tim Duncan has been quietly dominating practices since camp opened, and Kevin Garnett has been not so quiet but just as good. Duncan may have been the most unassuming superstar ever, winning five championships and two MVPs with the Spurs. He’s a lock to get you 20 points and 10 rebounds night in and night out, and a 15-time All-Defensive selection. The “Big Fundamental” might be a bit boring, but there are no holes in his game. Kevin Garnett is a psycho. A rabid dog let off the leash, he’s probably the most intense competitor the game has seen since Michael Jordan. Hell, he almost took the Timberwolves to a championship before finally winning one with the Celtics. Just watch this stretch during practice with the 2000 Olympic team and you can see why he made the cut.

Garnett was one of the most versatile players of his era, a 6’11” mega-athlete who was skinny but strong enough to battle in the post, had a devastating midrange game, and could handle the ball and shoot a bit from the perimeter. An MVP, DPOY, 15-time All-Star and 12-time All-Defensive selection, Garnett will be the heartbeat of the bench mob.

One player has been dividing coaches and evaluators all camp long, Kobe Bryant. In terms of individual talent, Bryant is one of the best in camp, but he’s had a hard time fitting into the team. At the end of the day his will to win and competitive drive put him over the hump and on the roster. Kobe won five championships and an MVP in his legendary career. Probably the closest thing we got to Michael Jordan, he was also a huge part of the 2008 Redeem Team that won Olympic gold. Kobe will not be the alpha on a team with Michael Jordan, but his leadership and attitude are integral to this team’s success.

The last roster spot was the hardest to pick. There were dozens of Hall of Famers, Champions, All-Stars, and legends that showed out at the top secret camp. However, one last player stepped up and rode his consistent play on both sides of the court onto the roster. The last player selected was the point god himself, Chris Paul. CP3 may not be the best or flashiest player in NBA history, but he’s consistent. Paul is an 11-time All-Star, nine-time All-Defensive selection, and just guided the Phoenix Suns to within two games of his first NBA Championship this season at the age of 36. He’s a pest and will get under the other team’s skin (while possibly rubbing some teammates the wrong way) and is the ultimate floor general at the point. He’s a career 37.1 percent three-point shooter and ranks fifth all time in assists and steals.

Picking the perfect team from a pool of the greatest players ever is no easy task and there are bound to be some huge snubs in the process. Shaq, Wilt Chamberlain, Charles Barkley, Moses Malone, Julius Erving, Scottie Pippen, and Karl Malone could be pretty butthurt by not getting selected over Garnett, Duncan, or Durant. Guards including Oscar Robertson, Isiah Thomas, John Stockton, Jason Kidd, Jerry West, Dwyane Wade, and James Harden would have made fine selections, but ultimately the players selected proved to be the most versatile at their positions.

The Ultimate Dream Team Lineup:

Starters:

Magic Johnson

Michael Jordan

Larry Bird

Bill Russell

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Reserves:

LeBron James

Kevin Durant

Steph Curry

Tim Duncan

Kevin Garnett

Kobe Bryant

Chris Paul

51 combined NBA Championships

32 MVPs

163 All-Star appearances

139 All-NBA selections

78 All-Defensive selections

24 Finals MVPs

Coaching Staff:

Head Coach: Phil Jackson

Assistant: Gregg Popovich

Assistant: Red Auerbach

Assistant: Chuck Daly

Assistant: Steve Kerr

GM: Pat Riley

35 NBA Championships

The Ultimate Dream team has no legitimate foe in the world. France, Germany, Slovenia, Serbia, Australia, and Nigeria could maybe come within 65 points, but have no where near enough depth to compete with the best the United States has to offer. If you pool all international players into one “world” team, they might have a chance to win one out of ten games.

The world roster would look something like this:

Hakeem Olajuwon

Dirk Nowitzki

Steve Nash

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Luka Doncic

Joel Embiid

Dikembe Mutombo

Nikola Jokic

Tony Parker

Manu Ginobili

Pau Gasol and Yao Ming

A very fine team, but no match for 12 of the best players in the history of the sport. Once again the United States of America reigns supreme on the court with the Ultimate Dream Team ready to crush their enemies.

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