Former Chicago Bulls guard BJ Armstrong joined Heatcheck regulars Ovie Soko and Mo Mooncey as they completed their all-time NBA starting fives.
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The guys were tasked with each picking a center to wrap up their respective quintets, Soko favouring the NBA’s all-time leader in points scored and six-time NBA champion Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
“You’ve got a shot that was absolutely unguardable at seven-foot-two,” he said. “The versatility, the strength, the athleticism, being able to hook with the left and the right.
“You’re talking about deep twos with the left and the right, as soon as he extended he’s shooting over the top of any defender.
“When you have a player like that in the middle that’s going to demand a double team in a lot of situations I think that automatically puts you in trouble.
“I really don’t know if there’s any way you can legitimately compete with these guys.”
Heatcheck: Ovie’s all-time starting five
- Point guard: Magic Johnson
- Shooting guard: Michael Jordan
- Power forward: Kevin Durant
- Small forward: LeBron James
- Center: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
The league’s all-time leader in blocks and two-time NBA champion Hakeem Olajuwon was the man to make Mooncey’s team.
Olajuwon, the No 1 overall Draft pick in 1984, is one of just four NBA players to record a quadruple-double and is the only player ever to win the NBA MVP, Defensive Player of the Year and Finals MVP in the same season.
“I’m picking a player who is the NBA’s all-time leader in blocked shots,” said Mooncey. “We’re talking about an elite calibre defender.
“You’re talking about transition, a guy who’s won rebounding titles, where are you getting your transition buckets from? The guy I’m putting at five has had the best footwork of any big man. Hakeem Olajuwon.
“What people forget about is Kareem won when he had great teammates. In Milwaukee, he had Oscar Robertson, in LA he had Magic Johnson. Can you name the best three teammates that Hakeem Olajuwon ever had?”
Heatcheck: Mo’s all-time starting five
- Point guard: LeBron James
- Shooting guard: Michael Jordan
- Power forward: Kevin Garnett
- Small forward: Larry Bird
- Center: Hakeem Olajuwon
Soko responded by citing Olajuwon’s own appreciation for Abdul-Jabbar’s dominance on the court.
“Hakeem said himself ‘I miss seeing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar out there on the court, but I don’t miss playing against him’,” he added.
“You know why? Because when he put that seven-foot-two arm up from anywhere on the floor and he raised that one-leg and dropped it like this, you know what that means? That’s two. Every single time.”
It was time for the final verdict from three-time Bulls champion Armstrong, who had made Abdul-Jabbar his center in his all-time five the previous week.
“Bigs have to be evaluated a little differently because they have to get the ball from a guard,” said Armstrong. “When you said about Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson, it’s very hard for a big to be a big without playing with a great guard.
“Whether it’s Kareem playing with Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson or Shaquille O’Neal with Penny Hardaway, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwayne. He’s always figured out a way to play with a great guard.
“Both of these are great teams because they’re obviously great players. I think we really have to take into consideration the era and then make the debate on which rules they are playing by.”
Having seen Abdul-Jabbar and his skyhook torment NBA opponents for years, Armstrong found himself unable to choose against Soko’s five.
“This is tough,” he said. “I can’t bet against Kareem, I really can’t because Kareem has a shot and a move that is just unstoppable.
“Athletically, I don’t care what era you’re playing in, young Kareem was just moving and doing things that you can’t debate.
“Hakeem Olajuwon, I saw the dream shake personally, there was nothing you could do. But Kareem, he had a shot that was unstoppable.”