We Asked ChatGPT to Design the Ideal NBA Player and Picked Apart the Results
Everyone has their preferred pick when it comes to NBA greatness. Michael Jordan is a popular choice; if you’re a younger fan, you might hand the crown to LeBron James. You could also make the case for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, or a handful of other players, depending on your preference.
But those are all singular, albeit incredibly talented, men. What if we could combine multiple NBA stars together in order to form the ideal athlete?
Since ChatGPT tried to create the worst possible NBA player, we flipped the script and challenged it to build the ultimate basketball player by picking and choosing the best skills from around the Association. And while the results still weren’t perfect — we’ll pick things apart shortly — the AI did a solid job this time around.
Let’s break it all down.
ChatGPT took the talents from some elite names in an effort to build the perfect NBA player
Part of what separates an elite NBA talent from a good player is their diversity of skills; a role player can knock down three-pointers, but a true star can drain a three, beat someone off the dribble, and play lockdown defense.
In that vein, Sportscasting asked ChatGPT to “design an ideal NBA player with the skills from other players.” While there are multiple ways to accomplish that task — we’ll look to unpack those later in the post — this is the response we received.
- Height: 7’0″ (to provide a dominant presence in the paint)
- Agility: Kyrie Irving (excellent ball-handling and quickness)
- Shooting: Stephen Curry (deadly three-point shooting and range)
- Basketball IQ: LeBron James (great decision-making and court vision)
- Defense: Kawhi Leonard (lockdown perimeter defense and steals)
- Post Moves: Hakeem Olajuwon (unstoppable footwork and scoring ability in the post)
- Athleticism: Giannis Antetokounmpo (freakish athleticism, speed, and jumping ability)
- Rebounding: Dennis Rodman (tenacity and knack for grabbing rebounds)
- Leadership: Tim Duncan (calm and composed leadership style)
- Mental Toughness: Kobe Bryant (unwavering determination and killer instinct)
With this combination of skills, our ideal NBA player would be an unstoppable force on the court. They would possess incredible shooting, handling, passing, and defensive skills. They would dominate in the paint with exceptional footwork and post moves while being agile enough to drive past defenders. Additionally, their athleticism and rebounding abilities would make them a force on both ends of the court. Their leadership and mental toughness would inspire their teammates and allow them to excel in high-pressure situations.
Note: This combination is subjective and based on personal opinion. There are many great players with different skills, and the ideal player may vary depending on individual preferences.ChatGPT
Sounds like a pretty good player, right? Well, let’s see if we can make things even better.
The height seems reasonable, but we can tweak things a bit in either direction
When you think of a basketball player, height is probably the first thing that comes to mind. And an athlete standing at seven feet tall would certainly be well-equipped to thrive within the NBA paint.
Beyond the fact that ChatGPT loses points for not typing the height to a specific player — we asked for this ultimate star to be composed from elements of other NBA talents — there’s also room to manipulate the number.
On one hand, being slightly shorter could provide a bit more balance between interior presence and mobility; the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kevin Durant, for example, stand just under the seven-foot plateau. On the other, why not make this hypothetical athlete stand 10 feet tall, provided he can move like a point guard?
If we’re already divorced from reality, why not go all out and make a truly unstoppable talent?
Kyrie Irving may be quick, but agility implies more than pure speed
When you read the AI’s description of Kyrie Irving, there’s nothing inaccurate. Ball-handling and quickness, however, aren’t synonymous with agility. I would assert that this category s more about the ability to dance past defenders and generally move around the court with a mixture of speed, grace, and maneuverability.
With that in mind, I’d put forward two candidates for this category. The first is Derrick Rose. While injuries were obviously a major issue during his playing career, we’re already well beyond the bounds of reality here; for our purposes, we can assume that we’re taking his best-case agility.
Or, if a healthy Rose is too unrealistic for you, we could go with Russell Westbrook. The guard may have become a bit of a joke after arriving in Hollywood, but his ability to beat a defender is unparalleled. Remember, we’re just taking that part of his game; the other baggage will remain untouched.
ChatGPT nails it: You can’t beat Steph Curry’s shooting
Could you make that since we’re building the perfect player, you should just select the highest three-point percentage and call it a day? Sure, but Steph Curry’s skillset is impossible to ignore. Not only does the guard have the ability to convert from virtually anywhere on the court, but he drains more than 42% of his triples, with everyone in the building knowing exactly what he wants to do.
Add Curry’s role in redefining basketball and proving that long-range shooting was an essential skill, and it’s hard to nominate anyone else in this category.
LeBron James is a solid choice for basketball IQ, but some other players are in the conversation
From afar, it can be tough to fully know someone’s basketball IQ. While we can see the decisions that someone makes, it’s impossible to trace the full thought process; what may have seemed like a simple choice could have involved a great deal of mental calculus.
With that disclaimer out of the way, though, LeBron James does seem like a good choice. Take, for example, Eric Spolstra’s quote about battling King James during the 2020 NBA Finals.
“In the Finals, he was making adjustments to our adjustments to the adjustments,” the coach explained in February 2021. “And not making an adjustment to the adjustment I thought about making an adjustment, but I bluffed the adjustment, and he knew I was making a bluff.”
Talk about playing multi-dimensional chess on the court.
Beyond King James, though, there are some other acceptable candidates. Chris Paul has shone as both a point guard and a leader, rarely putting a foot wrong. Tim Duncan mastered the fundamentals and seemed like he was playing a game that moved at a slow, thoughtful pace. And while there’s a lot to love about Nikola Jokic’s game, it’s impossible to overlook the choices he makes with the ball in his hands. Is passing synonymous with basketball IQ? Not 100%, but it’s fair to argue that picking out the right way to get the ball to a teammate illustrates a strong grasp on the finer aspects of the game.
Kawhi Leonard perfectly suits the modern idea of defense
Over the years, the NBA has seen some elite defenders. Bill Russell, for example, was famous for blocking shots without swatting the ball out of bounds. Both Ben Wallace and Dikembe Mutombo claimed four Defensive Player of the Year titles.
All of those men, however, were traditional big men. And, if we’re building the perfect player, we need someone who can do more than patrol the paint.
Enter Kawhi Leonard.
While the forward isn’t the tallest man — he stands at 6-foot-7 — his incredible 7-foot-3 wingspan allows him to affect shots with incredible ease. That reach, combined with some massive hands, also makes Leonard a menace in passing lanes and on the perimeter. If you need a stop on one single possession, five Kawhis would probably get the job done.
Respectfully, you probably couldn’t say the same about a group of five Ben Wallaces.
The Sky Hook vs. the Dream Shake is an all-time debate
In life, there are plenty of binary choices. Do you prefer sweet or savory? Do you want chocolate or vanilla ice cream? Will you add hot peppers or sweet peppers to your sandwich? Well, in a roundabout way, the same can be said for elite NBA post moves. Are you team Dream Shake or team Sky Hook?
Those in favor of the former will argue Dream Shake was a perfect move, combining foot speed, basketball IQ, and overall athleticism into a single package. While Hakeem Olajuwon possessed plenty of size and strength, that wasn’t a key part of his signature skill. It was more about drawing the defender in and manipulating them to create an opening.
The Dream Shake also gets points for versatility. Olajuwon could go right, spin left, or step back for a jump shot. There wasn’t a single move to defend as much as an entire package of related options.
On the other side of the argument, however, we have Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s sky hook. While the move may seem simple — it’s essentially just a hook shot — it was both unstoppable (if done correctly) and incredibly successful.
“I used it to become the leading scorer in the history of the NBA,” Abdul-Jabbar once told J.A. Adande in an old ESPN story. “There has to be something about it that works.”
Since the AI suggested that the category was “post moves,” though, I give the edge to Kareem. If we’re talking about a singular move to score a basket in crunch time, I’m going with him and his signature Sky Hook. Is the Dream Shake elite? Of course, but as mentioned above, I view that as more of a bundle of related moves than a singular way of scoring.
Do you prefer one dominant move or versatility? That’s a personal call.
Athleticism is biased toward the modern era, but Giannis Antetokounmpo is certainly a good choice
While we’ve run into this issue in other sections, athleticism is really affected by era. These days, NBA players are free to corral a rebound and run down the floor. Previous players didn’t have that permission; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, for example, could have gone coast-to-coast, but he was instructed to pass the ball to his point guard.
So, with the caveat that some of those older athletes were playing with a bit of a hand break on, who’s the NBA’s top athlete? LeBron James deserves to be in the conversation due to his physical gifts and durability. Wilt Chamberlain also deserves a shout, although it can be tricky to separate fact from fiction when it comes to his athletic exploits. It’s also worth remembering guys like Nate Robinson and Spud Webb, who could hang with the big boys despite being quite short, at least by NBA standards. Dunking is even more impressive when you’re less than six feet tall.
With all of that being said, though, it’s tough to overlook Giannis Antetokounmpo and his, well, freaky athleticism. If we set aside shooting (which I’d argue is more of a learned skill than something tied to athletic ability), there’s nothing that the Bucks star can’t do. Whether you need him to deputize at point guard or drop into the post, Giannis can do it all. Add his height (7-foot-0) into the mix, and you’ve got someone who possesses all the physical tools you could dream of.
Dennis Rodman was a student of rebounding, but that’s not enough to outduel some all-time legends
While it’s easy to think of Dennis Rodman as a colorful character who had the good fortune to land on some legendary teams, that’s not fair to the forward. The Worm a held a metaphorical master’s degree in rebounding and knew how to read the spin of the ball so he could clean up the glass. That skill allowed him to average 13.1 rebounds per game across his career; his best single-season average was an eye-popping 18.7 boards.
That’s truly an elite performance, but Rodman has the misfortune of stacking up against Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell. The former man averaged 22.9 rebounds per outing across his career; the latter stood tall with 22.5 boards per game.
Could you argue that Rodman actually showed superior rebounding skill by posting massive numbers with a (comparatively) smaller stature? Sure, but ultimately it’s tough to argue with nearly 10 more boards per game.
Tim Duncan was one of basketball’s best quiet leaders
When you hear leadership in a sporting context, it’s easy to think of a captain clapping his hands, shouting instructions, and doing whatever it takes to rally his team. Tim Duncan, however, wasn’t that sort of guy.
While he undeniably gave plenty of instructions over the years, the Big Fundamental was a more humble leader. Take, for example, a story recounted by Michael C. Wright on NBA.com write-up honoring Duncan’s enshrinement into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
As a rookie, Lonnie Walker IV threw up during a workout; he was out of shape and trying to recover from a torn meniscus. Duncan, who had already retired, witnessed the scene. He didn’t shout; he didn’t ignore it. Instead, he cleaned up the mess and then got Walker back on the court.
Tim Duncan doesn’t just talk a big game. He also walks the walk.
And while there aren’t vomit-related stories on his resume (at least as far as we know), you could also include Bill Russell in the conversation. The Celtics legend famously led his team to 11 NBA titles as a player; if you judge leadership by end product, it’s tough to argue with those rings.
Alternatively, you could put Michael Jordan in this conversation. I would argue, however, that some of his motivational tactics go against the principles of good leadership. Everyone, however, responds to different stimuli, though, so maybe insults help you reach your full potential.
We can look earlier than Kobe Bryant for mental toughness
It goes without saying that Kobe Bryant was incredibly tough. The late legend, after all, was famous for his Mamba Mentality and willed himself to some incredible heights over the years. At the same time, though, we can push things a bit earlier in the timeline.
With all due respect to Kobe, he modeled a good deal of his mentality after Michael Jordan; by that logic, MJ should get the nod for mental strength. And, of course, His Airness backed it up by winning six championships and every individual award imaginable. Who knows what his resume would have been if he didn’t take things personally?
On a more serious note, you could also argue that every old-school athlete who faced the challenges of racism deserves the nod for mental toughness. Let’s return to Bill Russell, who we’ve discussed elsewhere in this piece, as an example.
In an essay he penned for SLAM Magazine, Russell remembered the names he was called; he recalled how Celtics fans responded to a poll asking how the team could increase attendance with a suggestion to “have fewer Black guys on the team.” The center had difficulty buying a house in Massachusetts, and when he did, it was broken into and painted with racist graffiti.
And remember, this is one of the game’s stars we’re talking about. Imagine the challenges that were faced by a relatively anonymous bench player.
And, on that somber note, we’ve reached the end of the list. While this was a fun and light-hearted exercise, it can also provide an important reminder. As ChatGPT noted at the end of its assessment, everyone in the NBA is talented; each player has their own unique story and skillset.
So while there are better and worse players within that spectrum, don’t get blinded by tribalism and lose the forest through the trees. As you may have noticed, just about all of these categories had multiple candidates. That’s because the NBA is chock full of world-class talents.
Make sure to enjoy them while you can.