By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.
It’s a scenario right out of “Space Jam”: A group of hoops-loving aliens has invaded planet Earth with plans to take control over our populace. The intergalactic goons then issue a sporting challenge: Earth must assemble a team of 13 basketball players and challenge them to a game. It’s winner take all, with the fate of the world at stake! For this one game, every player will be magically restored to the very height of his playing ability. Even deceased players may be brought back for this one monumental matchup.
So, who would you choose to be on Team Earth?
Here’s our roster. Keep in mind, our team isn’t necessarily comprised of the game’s most talented players. We need a group that will function as a complete team and offer a variety of skill sets. Above all, we want a team full of winners. After all, in this instance, losing isn’t an option.
Here’s our Dynamic Baker’s Dozen:
F – LARRY BIRD: “Larry Legend” can shoot, pass and rebound. He’s also the ultimate scrapper who will make all the hustle plays on both ends of the floor. He could be a defensive liability at times, but his basketball IQ would more than make up it.
F – LEBRON JAMES: Critics say he’s not a clutch go-to player, but how many other players have led three different NBA teams to league championships? That’s pretty clutch. With his unique blend of size, speed, athleticism and court vision, James can dominate a game without even scoring.
C – WILT CHAMBERLAIN: The most dominant player in the history of the game, and maybe the most physically imposing. He can be counted on to score inside the paint with his arsenal of dunks and finger rolls. Chamberlain isn’t just a scorer, however. Remember, he once led the NBA in assists.
G – MICHAEL JORDAN: Of course. MJ can do it all, but his greatest assets are his fierce competitiveness and ability to come through when it matters most. Widely regarded as the greatest player in the history of basketball. He’ll be our co-captain, along with our next selection.
G – MAGIC JOHNSON: Every great team needs a leader and distributor, and Magic excels in both categories. Just imagine the kind of ball movement we’d see with Magic, LeBron and Bird on the floor together.
OFF THE BENCH:
F – KEVIN DURANT: Every successful team needs a top-flight shooter, and KD is one of the all-time best. At 6-11, he can shoot over most defenders, and his range extends just inside of 30 feet. His ability to score all over the court will be invaluable on this squad.
F – TIM DUNCAN: “The Big Fundamental” will be counted on to provide interior defense and rebounding. His role has never been glamorous, but Duncan has always been a quiet leader and winner.
F – SCOTTIE PIPPEN: The ultimate complementary player. Pippen’s wiry frame and length makes him a lockdown defender. He can score, but he won’t have to on this team. His primary role here would be to disrupt the opponents’ offense.
C – KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR: The towering 7’2” master of the “Sky Hook,” the most unstoppable weapon in NBA history.
C – SHAQUILLE O’NEAL: The ultimate physical force. After this game, Shaq might give himself a new nickname: “Alien Squasher.” Like Wilt, however, Shaq would be a liability if the game is close enough to come down to free throws.
G – KOBE BRYANT: As close as a Michael Jordan clone as you’ll find, especially when it comes to competitiveness. Imagine Kobe, MJ and LeBron on the court at the same time. (At this point, we’re starting to feel sorry for the aliens.)
G – ISIAH THOMAS: “The Baby-Faced Assassin.” Led the Detroit Pistons to two NBA titles. Probably the greatest “small” player in history – yes, even over Allen Iverson. He shoots, passes and leads – and he’s tough as hell.
G – STEPH CURRY: Like his former teammate Durant, Curry is on this team because of his shooting ability. He is also a creative distributor. Sure, he’s not a great defender, but if you get past him, good luck trying to score over the likes of Shaq, Wilt and Duncan.
One more note: Our 13 players on Team Earth have a combined 53 NBA championships on their resumes.
Good luck, invaders.