All-Time 12 Man Roster

If you could put together the greatest team of players in their prime from any era to play one season together who would you choose?  In this hypothetical, it is about the “right” 12 players to add to your roster, not necessarily the best players or most talented players.  Factors like egos, attitudes, personalities, roles, and complimentary skill sets are important to consider.  So, if you could choose any 12 players for your team, who would make your squad and why?  Here’s how I answer that question:

Starting 5:

Magic and BirdPoint Guard: Magic Johnson

The ultimate point guard, he was the king of setting up teammates in a position to be successful and with major scorers around him, his table-setting abilities (as evidenced by his all-time leading Assists Per Game average), would be key.  He can rebound and defend multiple positions, allowing me to play multiple lineups with smaller guards as necessary.  He has won at every level as the best player on the floor and will continue to lead on this team. 

Shooting Guard: Michael Jordan

The ultimate two-way weapon—an elite scorer on one end and one of the great perimeter defenders on the other.  He is the legend among legends and the ultimate alpha-dog.  Even on this squad, he is the first offensive option.  His 30.1 career scoring average in the hand-check era is unrivaled in the annals of scoring lore.  Having the luxury of having his defensive skills at my disposal to eliminate the opponent’s best player is a huge bonus.

Small Forward: Larry Bird

Bird showed he has good chemistry with Magic and Michael on the Dream Team and getting him in his prime along with his clutch shooting and all-around team play make him the perfect fit to stretch the floor for MJ and prevent double teams.  Bird is also a player who can contribute in so many ways without dominating the ball.  His intangibles give him the starting spot over Lebron. 

Power Forward: Kevin Garnett

A little bit of a shocker here, but remember this is about the right players not necessarily the best players.  KG gets the nod here over Malone and Barkley because this team already has enough elite scorers and both of those players need touches.  KG is the greatest defending Power Forward and has a nice jumpshot out to 20 feet, making him a stretch 4 when needed to give MJ and Magic room to attack the rim.  His intensity on Defense make this an elite defensive team.

KareemCenter: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Kareem spent much of his career surrounded by great players and still managed to dominate offensively and defensively.  Having unselfish teammates make this mild-mannered giant and his unstoppable “sky hook” a perfect compliment to the pieces around him.  Pairing him with KG on the defensive side make this a daunting defensive frontline.  Is it possible for the all-time leading scorer to be underrated?  If it’s possible, Kareem is underrated.  Not by me, he’s starting at Center on this team.


lebronjames236th Man: Lebron James

Lebron’s ability to handle the ball, facilitate, and defend multiple positions make him an ideal 6th Man, able to back up Magic, MJ, or Bird.  His do-it-all skill set compliments other great players and Lebron has shown that he thrives with great talent around him.  With so much support LBJ could forget about carrying all of the weight and could just do what he does best, relax and just play.   

Point Guard: John Stockton

On a team with so many weapons, Stockton, a point guard who always looks to pass-first, is the ideal back-up point guard.  His 3 point shooting ability will force defenses to be honest and his quick hands and nose for the ball will start many fast breaks to get all of this talent running the floor.  There is a reason everyone loved playing with “Basketball John” in All-Star Games—he didn’t care if he ever shot the ball!

Bill RussellCenter: Bill Russell

A winner and a team player, this nasty defender and devastating rebounder will protect the paint and trigger many fastbreaks with outlets to Magic and Stock.  There’s a reason the drill is called “Celtic Fastbreak.”  Russell, like so many on this team would care much more about doing what the team needed to do to win than about personal stats.  If you want to win, put winners on your team.  Russell is in my rotation for sure.

Combo Guard: Steph Curry

I know, I know, it seems a little pre-mature to put Steph Curry on a team like this, but my argument is that I need to use at least one roster spot for a specialized shooter and no player in the history of basketball has shot such a high percentage at such a high volume.  Curry is the greatest shooter in the game today and maybe ever.  I want him on my team.  Try cheating to double team with Steph Curry in the corner spotting up!  He is also a high character guy, who I want in my locker room. 

Scottie PippenSmall Forward: Scottie Pippen

Scottie is an ideal complimentary player.  He proved it as MJ’s sidekick for 6 championship runs.  His ability to contribute offensively with rarely having a play called for him and his ability as a lock-down defender on positions 1 thru 4 make him an invaluable addition to my team.  Calling on Pipp if and when an opposing player starts heating up, gives me a huge defensive ace in the hole who won’t dominate the ball on the other end of the floor.

Center: David Robinson

The Admiral edges out “Wilt the Stilt” and “The Diesel” because of fit.  Neither of those larger-than-life personalities would be able to accept a bench role.  Robinson also edges out Hakeem because he showed he could play effectively in a complimentary role on the Dream Team and also with the Spurs and a young Tim Duncan.  Robinson’s lack of ego and willingness to sacrifice for the betterment of the team makes him the choice for my 3rd Center.  People forget that Robinson is the only man in NBA history with an MVP, DPOY, Scoring Title, Rebounding Title, Blocks Title, and a Quadruple-Double.  He also owns a 71-point game. 

Power Forward: Dirk Nowitzki

The greatest shooting Power Forward of All-Time edges out Duncan, Malone, and Barkley for this spot purely based on his shooting ability.  When you have dominant post-scorers (Kareem, Robinson, and MJ) you need floor spacers to give them room to operate.  I also want to see a Dirk one-legged fade from time-to-time. Dirk’s only competition as greatest shooter over 6’9” is playing ahead of him (Bird).  Having Bird, Curry, and Dirk on the floor at the same time would be a nightmare for opposing defenses. 

There’s my 12-man roster: 

Player Position    HT         WT      Strengths and Role
Magic Johnson Point Guard 6’9”


Facilitating the Offense, Running the Fast Break, All-Around play
Michael Jordan Shooting Guard 6’6″


Scoring and perimeter defense, drawing double teams, Intangibles
Larry Bird Small Forward 6’9″


Clutch Shooting, 3 Point Shooting, Rebounding, Passing
Kevin Garnett Power Forward 6’11″


Interior Defense, Rebounding, Jump Shooting
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center 7’2”


Post scoring, Rim Protection, Rebounding
Lebron James Small Forward 6’8″


All-Around play, Facilitating, Defense
Bill Russell Center 6’10″


Defense, Rim Protection, Rebounding, Leadership
Steph Curry Combo Guard 6’3″


Outside Shooting, Free Throw Shooting
Dirk Nowitzki Power Forward 7’0″


Outside Shooting, Post Scoring, Floor Spacing
Scottie Pippen Small Forward 6’8″


Perimeter Defense, Facilitating, Playing without the Ball
John Stockton Point Guard 6’1″


Passing, Steals, Outside Shooting
David Robinson Center 7’1″


Rim Protection, Defense, Low Post Scoring

Try to come up with a better 12-man squad. I feel pretty good about my team. All are winners and all possess the intangibles and work ethic required to compete with any team assembled in make-believe land.  Please share your team in the comment below.

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