Everyone has a number that they want to wear while playing. It usually has sentimental value, or for historic purposes, the number is a legend in its own right. When looking back in the history of the NBA, two numbers are associated with greatness. That includes No. 23 and No. 34.
Making a starting lineup with these numbers is realistic. The talent each group would make is superteam-worthy. In an alternative universe where we could make a team just of players wearing these jerseys, it would look a little like this. In this exhibition, who would win?
Team No. 23: LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Jimmy Butler, Draymond Green, Anthony Davis
Team No. 34: Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal
Point Guard: LeBron James vs. Paul Pierce
In this makeup, LeBron would be forced to play as the team’s point guard. Given that he led the league in assists last year, it wouldn’t be asking too much from him. He is capable of being the prime ball-handler and creating shots for the other members of this team. We saw with the Lakers last year what offense can be generated from the likes of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope with LeBron handling the ball. Who knows what could be generated from the likes of this surrounding cast.
As for Team No. 34, another small forward would be asked to run the point in Paul Pierce. During his playing days in Boston, there were plenty of times that Pierce had to bring the ball up. There were eight seasons that Pierce averaged at least 4.0 assists per game, including a career-high 5.1. Both players would provide it all in scoring, rebounding, and passing.
Shooting Guard: Michael Jordan vs. Ray Allen
What else is there to say about Michael Jordan? He is a six-time Finals MVP that led the league in scoring ten times. Not to mention, he was a nine-time First-Team All-Defensive player. It doesn’t get too much better than this at the shooting guard position.
This matchup would have a Jordan vs. Reggie Miller feeling. The two battled against each other during the 1990s, as well as in the playoffs. Before Allen, Miller was considered the greatest outside shooter of all time. Allen holds that mark as the all-time leader in three-point field goals. While Jordan is a great scorer, Allen has the shot that could go shot for shot with Jordan.
Small Forward: Jimmy Butler vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo
With LeBron handling the point, Butler can play his natural position of small forward. With all the offensive weapons on the team, it would allow Butler to focus primarily on defense on either Pierce or Allen. Butler is a team player, so he could handle the dirty work such as rebounding and defense for Team No. 23.
On the other side, with the two post players listed on the team, it allows Giannis to move up to small forward. Since Giannis can run the floor, as well as shoot occasionally from outside, making this move to go “small” would not hamper Team No. 34 at all. Not to mention, you would have the two-time MVP be able to make more moves to the basket.
Power Forward: Draymond Green vs. Hakeem Olajuwon
Green would have to be the team’s defensive specialist when facing up against the great Hakeem Olajuwon. It would be a task that Green would eagerly enjoy. The 2017 Defensive Player of the Year is used to guarding the opposition’s big. Every team has an enforcer. Jordan had Rodman, while LeBron had Chris Andersen. Green would be the ultimate “glue guy” for this team.
As for Team No. 34, Olajuwon is one of the two twin towers on this team. Olajuwon would be a tough matchup for Green regardless. The two-time NBA Finals MVP owns a career average of 21.8 points and 11.1 rebounds compared to Green’s 8.8 points and 6.9 rebounds.
Center: Anthony Davis vs. Shaquille O’Neal
This would be a defensive highlight reel. Davis is a former runner-up Defensive Player of the Year, while Shaq is one of the biggest human beings to ever play the game. Along with their defensive abilities, the offense inside would be equally fun to watch. While Shaq owns the size advantage, Davis is a more versatile and quicker player.
Davis has developed an outside shot in the modern era, but would still be forced to help inside. Shaq made a career of finishing under the rim. Stopping the three-time Finals MVP would provide a real challenge for Team No. 23.
Team No. 23 Advantages
The clear advantage is that the greatest and second-greatest players of all time are on the same team. With LeBron and Jordan playing on the same team, it’s hard to think that the two would ever lose. We saw how great LeBron and Davis played together in Los Angeles when healthy. The combination of LeBron and Jordan would have a “Showtime Lakers” feel to it.
Team No. 34 Advantages
The combination of Giannis, Olajuwon, and Shaq would pose a real physical challenge for Team No. 23 to counter. That is a combined five NBA Finals MVPs worth of resume that was built underneath the basket. Rebounding would be a challenge for Team No. 23 with these three on the court at the same time.
Who Would Win?
While Team No. 34 would have three players with close to 15 rebounds by the end of this game, you can’t go against a combined 10 NBA Finals MVPs in Jordan and LeBron. These are the two greatest players to ever play the game of basketball. They can carry just about any supporting cast around them to a victory and would do just that in this matchup as well.
Outside of LeBron and MJ, the defensive stature of this team would make it impossible for Team No. 34 to score. Jordan secured ninth First-Team All-Defensive selections, Green won a Defensive Player of the Year and has made the All-Defensive Team five times, while Butler adds another five himself. Davis is a former runner-up in the DPOY voting. Altogether, that is close to three DPOY candidates on the team.
Despite having two premier defensive players in Giannis and Olajuwon, it would not be enough to stop Team No. 23. The offensive production that comes from this unit is just too good. Not to mention, Team No. 34 would struggle with outside scoring outside five feet from the basket given that both Giannis and Olajuwon are their two best offensive players.
In the end, Team No. 23 would defeat Team No. 34 by over 20 points. The score would be around 105-82. Both Jordan and LeBron would score a combined 75 points. Green would finish with a triple-double and would lock down Giannis on the defensive end. Olajuwon would score 40 points to lead all scorers, but it would be once again Jordan having the last laugh on his former draft classmate. is
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