As Kobe Bryant wrote a Kobe Bryant-type letter to the game of basketball – effectively his way of letting us know he was retiring – it sent the nostalgic basketball fans into a frenzy.
Whenever a sporting great decides they can no longer compete at the highest level, a rankings system is almost a given.
Kobe is the most Michael Jordan-like player I have ever seen.
His jump shot, low-post game, swagger and determination and will to win all replicated Jordan more than we have ever seen.
Yes, LeBron, Wilt and Bill Russell all have claims on being the nearest to Jordan’s greatness but in terms of similarities, Kobe is it.
So, as I too, become a prisoner of the moment, I want to share with you my all-time NBA starting five.
They aren’t necessarily the best players and most winningest players to have ever performed but they captured my imagination and made me want to watch them over and over.
POINT GUARD: Tracy McGrady (Toronto / Orlando / Houston) Career Statistics: 19.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.2 steals in 938 games.
Firstly, I will concede McGrady only ran the point on the very rare occasion but his playmaking abilities and ball handling meant he certainly could have done so successfully.
A premier scorer with supreme versatility, only injuries could slow T-Mac during his prime years.
He had his battles in the playoffs and despite his teams not progressing to the Finals, his playoff efforts were remarkable.
He was a repeat scoring champion in Orlando and after a trade to Houston, big things were expected and predicted.
He teamed with Yao Ming but neither could remain healthy enough to push the Rockets towards a title run.
Entering the league from Mt. Zion Academy in North Carolina, 6-8″ McGrady could block shots, rebound, drop dimes, defend multiple positions and adequately play any offensive position from point guard to power forward.
SHOOTING GUARD: Vince Carter (Toronto / New Jersey / Orlando) Career Statistics: 19.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.1 steals across 1,214* games.
Carter’s farewell tour has been length and has included many stops but he more than made his name outside of the USA.
Carter was drafted to the Raptors in Toronto and made an immediate and sensational impact.
The best dunker in history (in my opinion), Carter was a nightly play of the night waiting to happen, despite the Raptors being largely irrelevant in his early years.
On the day of a Raptors playoff game against Allen Iverson’s 76ers, Carter attended his graduation ceremony at North Carolina before flying in late and playing in the crucial game.
The result – 50 points. VC went nuts, drilling three’s from everywhere.
Carter’s most dominant performances came when he was the main man in Canada but his most productive years came when he joined Jason Kidd in New Jersey.
The Kidd-to-Carter alley-oop was a sight to behold as the man they called ‘Air Canada’ owned the SportsCenter highlights for a decade.
Rightly so, Carter owns likely the most stunning in-game dunk ever witnessed as he completely launched over 7-2″ French big man Fred Weis in the Sydney Olympics.
SMALL FORWARD: LeBron James (Cleveland / Miami) Career Statistics: 27.3 points, 7.1 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 1.7 steals in 911* games.
No player has ever entered professional sport with more hype the LeBron.
And despite all that, James has exceeded expectations by a million miles.
His all-around game is arguably unmatched by anyone who has played the game.
A 6-8″ forward with supreme size, speed and strength that is only matched by his basketball intelligence and willingness to share the ball.
LeBron has often been criticised for not taking game-winning shots but his nature is to always make the correct play – something no one can begrudge.
A two-time NBA champion, four-time league MVP with countless All-Star appearances, James continues to rocket up the all-time standings in just about every statistical category.
Now 30 and with an extreme amount of wear on his body, James should continue to play at an elite level for 3-5 years before ‘Father Time’ begins knocking on his door.
POWER FORWARD: Kevin Garnett (Minnesota / Boston / Brooklyn) Career Statistics: 18.2 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.4 blocks in 1,424* games.
Like McGrady – and many others – KG entered the NBA straight from high school.
A freakishly skinny kid, Garnett evolved into one of the greatest power forwards to ever take a basketball court.
His years in Minnesota were stuff of legend even though the Wolves never achieved much as a team.
Garnett put that team in his back for close to a decade, averaging better than 20 points and 10 boards in nine straight seasons.
Following his historical run with Minnesota, Garnett teamed up with fellow future Hall of Famers, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, to win a title in Boston and etch their collective names in history.
When you scour KG’s career numbers, you realise exactly the beast you are dealing with.
Always a 20+ point scorer, the NBA’s best rebounder four straight years and capable of dishing out half a dozen assists per game as he did in 2002, Garnett could impact the game in every conceivable way.
Despite being on the physical decline for at least five seasons, ‘The Big Ticket’ still has career averages of 1.3 steals and 1.4 blocks.
Garnett’s future seemingly lay in ownership with his beloved Wolves once he finally hangs up the sneakers.
CENTRE: Andrew Bogut (Milwaukee / Golden State) Career Statistics: 10.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.7 blocks in 574* games.
Andrew Bogut’s rise to prominence is responsible for many of today’s young NBA fans.
Yes, the youngster love Patty, Delly and soon, Simmons but Bogut paved the way after a long stint of little-to-no Aussie presence within the world’s premier competition.
Bogut dominated college hoops at Utah University before the Bucks swooped with the No.1 overall pick in the 2005 draft.
His development was swift and at his healthy best, Bogut was a double-double lock and a defensive force as good as any in the NBA.
A sickening elbow, wrist, arm injury derailed much of his offensive prowess and nowadays, Bogut slots into the all-conguering Warriors squad as an anchor to the defence and a veteran leader.
Back to the Bucks days, the 7-0″ centre was scoring close to 16 points per night and has averaged ten boards or more in four different seasons.
The Dandenong junior was the NBA’s very best shot blocker in 2010-11, swatting 2.6 shots per contest.
Like fellow Aussie centre Luc Longley, Bogut now has a championship ring and looks set to make a run at a couple more as he teams up with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and the loaded Golden State crew.