Skip to main content

There have been nearly 5,000 different NBA players who have suited up for at least one game since the league was first formed in 1946 and we’ve obviously seen incredible talent at each and every position. So what we’ve decided to do here today is take the best of the best at each position to create an all-time starting five. Some choices were easier than others and it was extremely difficult to put players such as Kobe Bryant and Larry Bird on the bench (yes, we’ve got backups as well). Even 11-time champion Bill Russell couldn’t crack the starting five.

So who did? Let’s take a look.

Center: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

There have obviously been a ton of great centers over the last seven-plus decades and while a case could be made for the likes of Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and numerous others, we’re rolling with the league’s all-time leading scorer, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who played a total of 20 seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers.

  • 24.6 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 2.6 blocks, 0.9 steals
  • Six-time NBA champion
  • Two-time NBA Finals MVP
  • Six-time NBA MVP
  • 19-time All-Star
  • 15-time All-NBA selection (10 First Team, five Second Team)
  • 11-time All-Defensive selection (five First Team, six Second Team)
  • 1969-1970 Rookie of the Year
  • Two-time scoring champion
  • One-time rebounds leader
  • Four-time blocks leader

Backup: Bill Russell

Power forward: Tim Duncan

Tim Duncan was everything that a basketball player should be. He played his entire 19-year career with one franchise, the San Antonio Spurs, and embodied excellence with his fundamental play and incredible leadership.

  • 19.0 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.2 blocks, 0.7 steals
  • Five-time NBA champion
  • Three-time NBA Finals MVP
  • Two-time NBA MVP
  • 15-time All-Star
  • One-time All-Star Game MVP
  • 15-time All-NBA selection (10 First Team, three Second Team, two Third Team)
  • 15-time All-Defensive selection (eight First Team, seven Second Team)
  • 1997-1998 Rookie of the Year

Backup: Karl Malone

Small forward: LeBron James

Some might not actually classify LeBron James as a small forward given how much he handles the basketball but that’s the position at which he’s been listed the most throughout his career and there was no way we were going to leave him out of this starting lineup. We’re guessing a lot of people won’t be happy with his inclusion but he deserves to be here.

  • 27.0 points, 7.4 assists, 7.4 rebounds, 1.6 steals, 0.7 blocks
  • Four-time NBA champion
  • Four-time NBA Finals MVP
  • Four-time NBA MVP
  • 17-time All-Star
  • Three-time All-Star Game MVP
  • 16-time All-NBA selection (13 First Team, two Second Team, one Third Team)
  • Six-time All-Defensive selection (five First Team, one Second Team)
  • 2003-2004 Rookie of the Year
  • One-time scoring champion
  • One-time assists leader

Backup: Larry Bird

Shooting guard: Michael Jordan

Ummm…it’s Michael Jordan. Do we really need to say anything else?

  • 30.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 2.3 steals, 0.8 blocks
  • Six-time NBA champion
  • Six-time NBA Finals MVP
  • Five-time NBA MVP
  • 14-time All-Star
  • Three-time All-Star Game MVP
  • 11-time All-NBA selection (10 First Team, one Second Team)
  • Nine-time All-Defensive selection (all First Team)
  • One-time Defensive Player of the Year
  • 1984-1985 Rookie of the Year
  • 10-time scoring champion
  • Three-time steals leader

Backup: Kobe Bryant

Point guard: Magic Johnson


Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Once Tore Into Wilt Chamberlain in an Open Letter

With his unparalleled vision, incredible versatility, and overall leadership, Magic Johnson easily takes the starting point guard spot on this fantasy team.

  • 19.5 points, 11.2 assists, 7.2 rebounds, 1.9 steals, 0.4 blocks
  • Five-time NBA champion
  • Three-time NBA Finals MVP
  • Three-time NBA MVP
  • 12-time All-Star
  • Two-time All-Star Game MVP
  • 10-time All-NBA selection (nine First Team, one Second Team)
  • Four-time assists leader
  • Two-time steals leader

Backup: Oscar Robertson

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference