Would the Celtics' greatest players beat the Lakers' greatest players? | The Tylt
ESPN’s 30 for 30, “Celtics/Lakers: Best of Enemies,” takes a deep dive into one of sport’s greatest rivalries, and the players that battled within it. But who would win in a game between the greatest athletes of both franchises? Bob Cousy, John Havlicek, Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Bill Russell take the floor for the Celtics. Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Kobe Bryant, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Shaquille O’Neal represent the Lakers. Who do you got? 🏀
Would the Celtics' greatest players beat the Lakers' greatest players?
To say this team has championship pedigree would be a severe understatement. This roster shares 31 championships between five players. These athletes know what it takes to win.
Bob Cousy pioneered the point guard position, leading the league in assists eight times. In his 13 years in Boston, Cousy was named to 13 All-Star teams, winning MVP in two of them. He was also named NBA MVP of the 1956-57 season.
Magic might have the size, but he would have a hard time covering Cousy with the moves that got him labeled “the Houdini of the Hardwood.” Cousy was ahead of his time, and would’ve had no trouble against Magic.
John Havlicek was one of the greatest two-way guards in NBA history. The eight-time NBA champion, averaged 20.8 points per game, and was also named to eight NBA All-Defensive teams. Jerry West is a great scorer, but he would have a hard time getting any space against Hondo.
There’s nothing more you can say about Larry Bird. Even the current generation of NBA fans can’t deny his greatness, whether it be his incredible shooting, unmatched court vision or relentless competitiveness. Not to mention he was one of the greatest trash talkers in NBA history. Kobe Bryant may be maniacal with preparation, but there is nothing he can do against the talent that prime Larry Legend had.
You see all those fancy moves big men do now? A lot of them came straight from Kevin McHale. Once he got you on the block, McHale would hit you with a never-ending arsenal of post moves that gave the less-athletic University of Minnesota forward an almost unfair advantage.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was a good defender, but Kevin McHale would make people look so silly that players unlucky enough to defend him in the post referred to it as the "Torture Chamber."
Does Shaquille O’Neal have 11 championships? No? Advantage Russell.
Bill Russell didn’t need to be big to dominate you on defense. His off-the-charts basketball I.Q. earned him five MVP awards, and made him one of the most feared defenders in the league. O’Neal may be physically superior, but Russell got the best of the physically dominant Wilt Chamberlain for his entire career.
He would have no trouble figuring out O’Neal.
Lakers stars get a lot of grief for being dramatic like all the actors in Hollywood, but these stars have a toughness that gets overshadowed by their spectacular play. Boston takes pride in their blue-collar stars, but Los Angeles has both flash and substance—the best of both worlds.
Bob Cousy might have pioneered the point guard position, but no one took it to the level Magic Johnson did. Able to see the floor better than any point guard before him at 6'9", Johnson wowed crowds with dazzling passes and broke hearts with clutch baskets.
Cousy doesn’t have the size to deal with a threat like Johnson, who would pick him apart on the post—and from the perimeter.
Before Kobe Bryant, another incredible shooting guard tore up the league—Jerry West.
Jerry West was named to an All-Star team his entire 14-year career. His ability to score was amazing; so much so, his five NBA All-Defensive team appearances go largely unnoticed. Havlicek and West would have an epic two-way battle, but West’s natural scoring ability would win out in the end.
The Black Mamba’s competitive streak is as legendary as his clutch shooting, so this matchup with Larry Bird would be incredible. Bryant is another player who’s scoring ability blinds people to his defensive prowess. His 12 NBA All-Defensive selections are only behind Tim Duncan for most ever. Kobe Bryant may not be the shooter Bird is, but his athletic advantage would him the edge on offense and defense.
Bird wouldn’t know what to do with him.
Yes, Kareem played center, but his skills were so versatile, he could’ve easily played power forward. Aside from his signature sky hook, Abdul-Jabbar had a consistent jump shot from around 15-feet. He could also run like a deer on the break, and finish with power over the defense.
Kevin McHale and Abdul-Jabbar battled many times during the '80s. While McHale does have great post moves, Abdul Jabbar’s 11 NBA All-Defensive team selections would neutralize any advantage.
The Big Diesel, Shaqtus, Superman. Not only was Shaquille O’Neal an all-time player, he had all-time nicknames as well.
O’Neal might have been the most physically dominating player ever. Referees had to change the way they called the game because he was so unstoppable in the post with his drop steps and spin moves. Bill Russell was great defensive player, but he never had to deal with anyone as big, strong and skilled as O’Neal.