Cohen: Comparing All-Time NBA All-Star Years

By Josh Cohen
February 18, 2011


LOS ANGELES -- Sometimes the most animated and impassioned debates involving the NBA are ones that can never be proven or validated.

For instance, it’s generally unfeasible to definitively conclude who between Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Bill Russell or any of the other all-time greats is the absolute best player in league history.

Sure, you can analyze statistical data all you want and size players up based on the number of championship rings they possess, but unless there is some sort of mystifying mathematical and scientific formula to offer us a factual determination, evaluating who is the greatest player ever will always be opinion and subject to debate.

The same can be said for who the best single-season team in NBA history is. Yes, the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls own the record for most wins in a regular season (72) and the 2000-01 L.A. Lakers managed to lose just once during the postseason en route to a back-to-back championship.

But, let’s face reality; nobody knows what would happen if Jordan & Scottie’s Bulls clashed with Shaq & Kobe’s Lakers or if Bird & McHale’s Celtics squared off against Duncan & Robinson’s Spurs.

The beauty, nonetheless, of these arguments (and let’s be honest with ourselves, we all in some ways think we have a justifiable reason why Player X or Team X was better than Player Y or Team Y), is that it results in a generally constructive and exciting back-and-forth tussle.


Josh Cohen
Just like I tend to do in between Orlando Magic games, I started analyzing. This week, I began dissecting all-time All-Star teams and tried to imagine what would transpire if particular All-Star years clashed with other All-Star years.

For example, how would a team consisting of the 1996 version of Jordan, Pippen, Shaq, Grant Hill, Penny Hardaway, Charles Barkley, Shawn Kemp, Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and Jason Kidd (starters in 1996 All-Star Game) fair against the 2011 version of Dwight Howard, Amar’e Stoudemire, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and Tim Duncan (starters in 2011 All-Star Game)?

If we somehow incorporated each player’s abilities at the time they were an All-Star into a video game with appropriate data and simulated a fantastical game, perhaps we can gain some knowledge about which team would have an advantage.

Since there are not many people outside of the gaming industry with the technological intelligence to produce such a concept, there is only one way to handle this: Let the people vote.

I randomly selected a few years, slotted in the top seven All-Star Game starters from both the East and West from that season and matched them up with All-Stars from a different year.

This is just a sample of a few different matchups, but feel free to create your own by reviewing All-Star rosters from the past.

YEAR
PG
SG
C
PF
SF
R
R
1996 Penny Hardaway Michael Jordan Hakeem Olajuwon Shawn Kemp Scottie Pippen Shaquille O'Neal Grant Hill
2011 Derrick Rose Kobe Bryant Dwight Howard Kevin Durant LeBron James Dwyane Wade Carmelo Anthony


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YEAR
PG
SG
C
PF
SF
R
R
1985 Magic Johnson Michael Jordan Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Larry Bird Julius Erving Moses Malone Isiah Thomas
2001 Allen Iverson Kobe Bryant Shaquille O'Neal Tim Duncan Vince Carter Tracy McGrady Chris Webber


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YEAR
PG
SG
C
PF
SF
R
R
1965 Jerry West Oscar Robertson Wilt Chamberlain Elgin Baylor Sam Jones Bill Russell Jerry Lucas
2004 Allen Iverson Kobe Bryant Yao Ming Tim Duncan Tracy McGrady Ray Allen Jason Kidd


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