Everywhere I turn is more political arguing, so I’m continuing my recent trend of avoiding politics in my columns.
In fact, I’ve tried to be rather controversy-free the past few weeks.
This week, I thought I’d bring up something potentially controversial, but in sports instead of politics.
A Facebook friend posted some photos the other day. The top photos were some of the best players in the history of the Los Angeles Lakers. The bottom row had photos of some of the best Chicago Bulls in history.
The question was raised as to which team would come out on top in a battle for the ages.
As a longtime Tar Heel fan, my heart wants to say M.J. and the Bulls in a seven-game series, but I just don’t think it would happen.
Sure, Jordan was the ultimate competitor and my choice as GOAT (greatest of all time), but the Lakers have just had too many stars spend time in their uniforms.
As a basic ground rule, I’m not counting guys who played one or two years for the teams while most of their careers were elsewhere. That means you, Karl Malone, Gary Payton and Steve Nash. At least three years played is my rule.
The Bulls can trot out some amazing talent — Derrick Rose at the point, Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Toni Kukoc as wings. In the paint would be Dennis Rodman, Horace Grant, Charles Oakley, Artis Gilmore. Throw in Steve Kerr, Jerry Sloan, Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng and Bob “Butterbean” Love.
They would be even better if Elton Brand and Ben Wallace had played a third season and been eligible.
But then come the Lakers with a starting lineup of Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Elgin Baylor, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal.
Then the bench has Wilt Chamberlain, James Worthy, Jerry West, Gail Goodrich, George Mikan, Jamaal Wilkes, Byron Scott, Pao Gasol, Lamar Odom, Vlade Divac, Eddie Jones and Ron Artest.
How good a team is it when eight players were among the NBA’s top-50 list that came out in 1996 (which didn’t include Kobe)? With Kobe as a starter, that means four of the greatest players in league history come off the pine.
While Chicago boasts an incredible starting five, the Bulls just can’t match the depth that the Lakers have.
When Derrick Rose comes out, who is the backup point guard? Kirk Heinrich or Steve Kerr?
When Magic comes out, The Logo takes over at point.
When M.J. and Kobe take a breather, it’s Sloan (a respectable 16- to 18-point scorer) against Goodrich with six 20-point seasons.
Sure, Wilt was 32 when he started in Los Angeles and wasn’t quite the dominant force he had been, but he was still pretty good. And that’s your backup to Shaq and Kareem.
The only squad that could ever beat the Lakers would be the Dream Team; but then which one would have Magic? In an NBA 2K videogame, you’d have Magic guarding himself.
It’s true that the Boston Celtics have the most NBA championships. But let’s face it — almost all of those were so far back in the day that few of us were even born when they started winning.
Beginning in 1956-57, the Celtics reached the Finals in 12 of 13 seasons and won 11 titles. The only year they didn’t make the Finals was 1967, the year after Red Auerbach retired and Bill Russell took over as coach.
Back then the teams just ran up the floor and hoisted a shot. Just watch ESPN Classic. These guys didn’t know a whole lot about offensive strategies. Heck, Russell once had 50 rebounds in a single game. Whole teams might not have that many rebounds in a game now.
In Game Seven of the Finals this year, the Cavaliers had a sizable lead on the boards, but only managed 48 as a team. Golden State had just 39, so that should tell you something about the haste at which teams jacked up shots in the 1950s.
So while it’s difficult to gauge just how well those guys would fare against some of the greatest players of the past 40 years, the Celtics still have an impressive lineup, PG Bob Cousy, SG John Havlicek, SF Larry Bird, PF Kevin McHale, C Bill Russell.
The bench has some big studs in Robert Parish, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Dennis Johnson, Rajon Rondo, Jo Jo White, Dave Cowens, Antoine Walker and Reggie Lewis (who was really emerging before his untimely death).
Sure, old-timers have said that Bill Russell got the championships over Wilt Chamberlain, but even Wilt the Stilt was never the outrageous physical specimen that Shaq was when he joined the Lakers. I can’t see Russell holding his own.
And though I never saw Cousy play live, I can’t imagine someone 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds guarding either Magic or Kobe. And despite all the accolades, let’s remember that Cousy never shot even 40 percent in a season. Back before there was a three-point line, he still only shot 37.5 percent for a career. Might have to bench him for Rondo.
So there you go, let the sports arguing begin.
Jeff is the associate editor and can be reached at 415-4692.