I’ve followed the NBA for close to two decades. My earliest memories of the league are of Vince Carter skying high as a young Toronto Raptors sensation and Kevin Garnett revolutionising the way 7-footers could play.
I’m not a fan of an NBA team but a big fan of the league as a whole and individual players. This is my all-time starting five;
POINT GUARD – LeBron James (Cleveland, Miami, LA Lakers)
In my view, LeBron James is the best basketball to have ever played. He will never surpass Michael Jordan in most peoples eyes but as a pure basketball player I believe he’s the best we’ve seen.
James entered as an 18-year-old with more hype than anyone ever and he surpassed that hype. He’s spent considerable time playing point guard, small forward and power forward offensively and he has – and still can – defend all five positions thanks to his freakish combination of size, speed and strength.
This season, James is playing as a 6-foot-8 point guard on the best team in the western conference, leading the league in assists whilst still scoring more than 25 per night.
He adds almost eight boards for good measure.
James is hands-down the best athlete that has ever played in the NBA – whether you think he’s better than MJ, well you can make up your own mind.
SHOOTING GUARD – Vince Carter (Toronto, New Jersey)
VC is probably the one player who drew me to the NBA. His aerial exploits in Toronto were the first video highlights I saw online as a kid and some of the photos of him about to dunk were mind-blowing. I was thinking to myself, I have to see this guy play because these photos look fake.
Carter is the best in-game slam dunker in history. His Olympics jam over 218cm Frenchman Fred Weis is simply stunning.
In the NBA, Vinsanity dunked over anyone and everyone.
He also played the overall game incredibly well. In his third season, he scored 27 points per game then averaged 27 per again as a New Jersey Net five years later.
Carter never won a championship and he was always a rung below Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade but many of VC’s best moments will be remembered and replayed forever!
SMALL FORWARD – Tracy McGrady (Toronto, Orlando, Houston)
Like LeBron, T-Mac was a versatile basketball player with incredible abilities to do many things on a basketball court.
Beginning his career in Toronto, McGrady was hardly a household name but Orlando saw stardom in the 6-foot-8 swingman and signed him to a large deal.
In his debut season with the Magic, T-Mac averaged 27 and 7 boards before leading the NBA in scoring in 2003 and 2004.
Injuries riddled McGrady but many of his NBA foes name him as the most talented opponent they’ve had to defend and oppose.
Four times McGrady averaged 30+ in the playoffs but playoff success eluded him.
I had the amazing opportunity to play at Mount Zion Christian Academy in North Carolina, the school where McGrady played high school before jumping immediately to the NBA.
POWER FORWARD – Kevin Garnett (Minnesota, Boston)
Garnett stuffed stat sheets like few others could in his era. Sure, Giannis, Westbrook and LeBron put up staggering numbers now and they seem like the norm but KG was Mr. Everything before those boys had touched a basketball.
During his MVP season he was good for 24 points, 14 rebounds, 5 dimes, 2.2 blocks and a steal-and-a-half per game whilst shooting at 50% from the field and 80% from the stripe.
Garnett averaged at least 20 & 10 for nine consecutive seasons in Minnesota before moving to Boston and winning a ring.
KG played with an attitude and ferocity seen rarely these days and he is still very entertaining on TNT in Area 21.
CENTRE – Tim Duncan (San Antonio)
It took me a while to come around to the mastery of Tim Duncan. When I was a teenager, access to NBA games was scarce and often, the Spurs would be the team featured on the weekly game. That annoyed me no end because San Antonio played a slow, methodical style and Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker were all business, no thrills.
Once I grew up and pursued my own basketball career, I understood the grace and brilliance of the San Antonio squad, led by TD.
He was more of a power forward earlier in his career before moving to centre and using his length and supreme footwork to continually drop 20 and 10.
Duncan won every award under the sun and continues to give to the game as an assistant coach with the Spurs.