Top 5s and the Chicago Bulls

Jun 17, 2013 by

I’m certain the vast majority of professional athletes, whose playing days are well behind them, still crave the spotlight.   Many walk away from the game that paid them handsomely in a graceful manner, only to be heard from again during their Hall of Fame inauguration or when they die.  Lately, it seems many former NBA players and coaches need to spout off to the media about a pointless topic just to confirm their existence to the sports world.  Sports media is lazy, willing to print anything to fill space on websites, so we fans should not be surprised with the latest trend for retirees –  Dopey “greatest of all time” lists in their respective sport.

In the last year or so we have heard everyone from Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson to most recently Karl Malone tell anyone who gives a shit their list of rounding out their all-time best starting five.   It usually comes off a bit petty hearing from them about this stuff.

That being said, I’m sucker for a best-of list so I tend to read them all.  Below you will find my greatest NBA starting five (yawn):

PG:  Magic Johnson

SG:  Michael Jordan

C:  Bill Russell

SF: LeBron James

PF:  Tim Duncan

I wish we would receive more interesting lists from these former greats, for instance….

My “What if” All-Time Starting Five:

G:  Lloyd Daniels

G:  Earl “The Goat” Manigault

C:  Chris Washburn

F:  Len Bias

F:  Hank Gathers

Or something along the lines such as…..

My All-Time Greatest Narcotic and Alcohol User Team: (By position)

G:  John Lucas

G:  Michael Ray Richardson

C:  Roy Tarpley

F: Richard Dumas

F: Shawn Kemp

I find these lists rarely debatable, especially naming the best of the best that ever laced them up in the NBA.  It just comes off as a dull read.  I assume by adding a bit of controversy and leaving off the obvious can pique some interest.  For instance, the dumb list from Karl Malone made quite a splash. 

Anyway, putting together my greatest NBA players at each position list got me thinking about something else professional hoops related. 

As I watch the NBA finals between the Heat and Spurs,  I can’t help but think I am watching two teams who would have had some difficulty representing their conferences if they played in the 90’s.  I don’t usually contribute to conversations comparing players across different eras; it’s too emotional of a debate and often lacks, because it can’t, any logic.  However, any basketball fan watching the NBA over the last 30 years or so, can point to a few characteristics of a championship team, then make an argument if those particular traits can transcend an era.  This in turn, makes for a decent debate.

The makeup of both teams playing in this year’s finals would have trouble advancing past any of the MJ led Bulls squads and the back to back championship Rockets team.   Those past teams had deeper benches and more talented started fives which would result in serious match up issues for our two finalists this year.  I would even argue both the 2013 Spurs and Heat would struggle in a seven game series against some of the teams that came up short against the Bulls, such as the 90-91 Lakers or the Gary Payton led Sonics.  I know neither of them would have been successful against the most talented team that the Bulls faced during their Championship run – the ’93 Phoenix Suns.  

Secretary of State Dennis Rodman used an ESPN column as a forum to shit on LeBron James and proclaim his Bulls teams would destroy the Heat.  I took offense to those comments.  Not because I thought he was incorrect with his assessments but it always irked me that no one knocked off those Bulls teams, hell, no team even pushed them to the brink of a 7th game during each of their six finals appearances.  Why would Lebron’s Heat be any different?

So in sticking with the topic of lists, I thought I would create a team to challenge those Bulls teams, most notably the ’96-’97 Bulls outfit. 

The team listed below, in my opinion, would have a very good chance of providing the upset that I had so very much wished for in six of those NBA season of the 90’s.

As I always do, I had to subject myself to a few guidelines to follow just to add a little thought and add a degree of difficulty. 

My 9 man rotation to upset the 1996 – 1997 Chicago Bulls…..

The Rules:

  • Players selected for my hypothetical team had to play half of their career games during the decade of the 90’s.
  • Only one player on the team can come from this list.
  • No two players from the same team in the same year.
  • Outside of the player chosen from the list in bullet point number two; Only two other players can be chosen with more than five all-star appearances each throughout their career.   No other player can have more than one selection to an all-star game, however; only four players total on the team can have an all-star appearance.  Make sense?
  • Bench players must have played a great deal of each of their seasons in the NBA as a reserve.  Games played vs. game started must be under or at 50%. 
  • No Bulls players are allowed.

The Team:

PG:  Gary Payton

SG:  Joe Dumars 

C:    Hakeem Olajuwon

SF:  Glen Rice

PF:  PJ Brown

Bench:  Aaron Mckie, Dana Barros, Greg Foster, and Stacey Augman

Coach: Rudy Tomjanovich

To pull off the upset, or to even be highly competitive, the team must have a few core characteristics the Bulls never truly faced in playoff opponents.  Mentally tough defensive-minded players, a scoring center, someone who can neutralize Jordan offensively, provide a real issue on who Pippen should guard, and a few bruisers who can rebound and knock certain Bulls players on their ass when driving the lane.   There also needs to be a player who can knock down an open three in late game pressure situations, hence Glenn Rice.

I believe my fake team is representative of those characteristics, but we’ll never know, which takes me back to the beginning of this piece – these lists are kind of dopey and meaningless, and I’ll never regain the fame I used to have by publishing them, but they’re still a lot of fun.

Can you put a team together, following my rules, that could beat the 90’s Bulls?

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  1. The 50 Greatest Players in National Basketball Association History (also referred to as NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team or NBA’s Top 50) were chosen in 1996 to honor the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the National Basketball Association (NBA). These fifty players were selected through a vote by a panel of media members, former players and coaches, and current and former general managers. In addition, the top ten head coaches and top ten single-season teams in NBA history were selected by media members as part of the celebration.

  2. Zac Newell


    I haven’t developed a bench yet, but here is a starting five that I believe could hang with Jordan, Pippen, Rodman, and the rest of the 96-97 crew…

    PG – THE Penny Hardaway (Steve Kurr couldn’t stay on the same court as him)
    SG – Doug Christie (One of the greatest defensive SG’s of all time)
    SF – Grant Hill (Would match Pippen at 6’8 and was a more skilled player overall)
    PF – Walt Williams (Paired with Olajuwan is going to create some issues down low)
    C – Hakeem Olajuwan (The Answer for beating the Bulls)

    This team would obviously have some height on the Bulls and with Lenny Wilkins coaching, I think they could take down them down. My man made the most with every team he coached.

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