TLSM’s All-Time NBA Fantasy Draft: Round 1


The Last Dance reached its thrilling conclusion on Sunday, bringing the conversation surrounding NBA legends and all-time greats to its peak.

The TLSM staff has dissected and debated the merits of basketball icons with the same vigor as millions of fans around the world. Finally, nine of our writers decided to battle it out in the hypothetical war rooms. Enter TLSM’s first-ever All-Time NBA Fantasy Draft.

The guidelines are simple: nine analysts set out to create a ten-man roster of the best NBA players ever. In a snake draft, the mock-general managers could take any player they wanted, and, although the rosters have some loose order, positions do not matter. Peak performance is prioritized over career-long achievement; this means Derrick Rose, Bill Walton and many others have stronger cases to be drafted. However, NBA bodies of work are all that matters. International legends such as Oscar Schmidt, Drazen Petrovic and Arvydas Sabonis might see their stock fall.

OTHER ROUND RESULTS: Click here for Rounds 2-3 | Click here for Rounds 4-5

Once the rosters are formed, they will compete in a simulated season on NBA 2K20. Below are the results from the first round, with explanations and thoughts from each writer on their selections.

Pick 1 – Team Hodgson: Michael Jordan

With the first overall pick in the TLSM all-time draft, I am going with the GOAT — Michael Jordan. The Hall-of-Famer is a 14x All-Star, 5x MVP, 11x All-NBA, 10x scoring champ, 9x All-Defensive team member, and best of all, he is 6-0 in the NBA Finals. Jordan is one of the greatest scorers of all time so he’ll draw a lot of attention on the offensive end, which opens up the court. Jordan is also one of the best defenders the game has ever seen. On and off the court he elevates every player by pushing them to get their absolute best. Every great team also needs a closer, so why not get the best closer ever? Jordan is going to give my team 110 percent on both ends of the floor and he will simply not let us lose.

Pick 2 – Team Hines: LeBron James

After Jordan goes first, I’ll grab LeBron James with the second pick. In what came down to LeBron and Kobe, LeBron gets the nod. His unfinished resume and game speaks for itself. At worst, he is a top-three all-time player who provides unmatched elite versatility, size and skill. Perfect way to start my team and set the tone.

Pick 3 – Team Fuller: Magic Johnson

Jordan and LeBron were the easy first two picks. At third, I found myself in a tough spot with a tier of six or seven capable all-time greats. Magic’s unparalleled combination of versatility, craftiness and playmaking made the most sense for me. He can switch onto almost any matchup and play strong defense while facilitating and scoring at high levels offensively. The range of bigs at the top means I do not have to grab a Kareem (my third best player ever), Russell, Wilt or Shaq yet. Magic Johnson is perhaps the most flexible lineup addition in NBA history.

Pick 4 – Team Turner: Kobe Bryant

I wanted to set the tone as early as possible.  There’s no better tone-setter to me than the late, great Kobe Bryant.  A player who’s going to attack every single other star and challenge everyone else on his team to be just that much better.  A truly dynamic two-way player, Kobe Bryant was a scoring machine, a hard-nosed defender and a bona fide leader. He’s got five rings bookending the 2000’s decade and is a 15x All-NBA, 18x All-Star, 12x All-Defense member, as well as an MVP (in addition to two Gold Medals). As THE building block of a team, you cannot do much better than Kobe Bean Bryant.

Pick 5 – Team Brooks: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

The 4th player on my board, Kareem was an easy pick here. The leading scorer in NBA history is also a great rebounder and intelligent help side defender. His patented sky-hook will be an asset against opponents who I expect to have very strong interior defenders. Easy shots are going to be impossible to come by, so Kareem’s ability to get his best shot whenever he wants is a great asset.

Pick 6 – Team Caldwell: Shaquille O’Neal

I selected Shaq for a variety of reasons. For one, he’s my favorite player ever. I have a poster of him on my wall. He’s a larger-than-life personality in a larger-than-average body. But that’s not helping my team win games. I chose Shaq first because he’s the most dominant player to ever play the game. His combination of size, athleticism, and strength made him a nightmare for opponents. I believe only two players could slow him down: Hakeem Olajuwon and Wilt Chamberlain. I also chose Shaq because I feel what he brings to my team isn’t something I can get from any other player, and it works out beautifully with who I want as my next pick.

Pick 7 – Team Johnson: Larry Bird

Went Larry Bird first because of his shot-creating ability. Every spring and summer we watch these perimeter guys who can create shots for themselves and others. Bird was one of the best creators of his era — he made life for his teammates easy. Another philosophy of my team is offensive flexibility, and Bird provides that. He can slide up or down positions to fit the lineup on the floor, and he can do a lot of things on the floor as far as shooting, passing, etc. Bird is a ball-handler that can take pressure off of my point guard as well. Also, he’s first ballot Hall of Fame trash-talker.

Pick 8 – Team Zola: Hakeem Olajuwon

Center is probably the most top-heavy position in NBA history, so going into this draft I wanted to make sure I had someone who could compete with some of the best big guys. Hakeem is perhaps the most skilled offensive center of all time, and his defensive resume speaks for itself. He stymied a young Shaq in the ‘94 finals, and is likely one of the few players who would have a fighting chance against Kareem’s skyhook. As the only player in NBA history to win an MVP, DPOY, and Finals MVP in the same year, Hakeem is the perfect choice to lead this team to victory.

Pick 9 – Team Abreu: Tim Duncan

In his prime (1998-2006), the Big Fundamental was a top-three player in the league as well as a two-time NBA MVP. The power forward/center could do it all on both ends of the court. As the cornerstone of one of the best franchises of this generation, a defensive savant and post technician, Duncan catapulted the San Antonio Spurs into the late 90s and early 2000s. As well, Duncan is widely known as one of the best teammates in history. His leadership on and off the court was inspiring, as he brought the best out of everyone he played with.

OTHER ROUND RESULTS: Click here for Rounds 2-3 | Click here for Rounds 4-5

Agree or disagree with the picks? Comment your thoughts below.

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About Ethan Fuller

Hailing from Portsmouth, NH, Ethan is a journalism student at Boston University and writes about the Celtics for TLSM. His chief basketball teams are the Celtics and Minnesota Timberwolves. Ethan is also a still-growing ultimate frisbee player.

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