The three-time champion with LA is probably right that an all-time Lakers starting five would beat an all-time Bulls starting five. There’s way more history and championship pedigree in the Lakers organization and they’ve thrived over several decades, rather than just the 90s. Where Shaq is wrong is that first of all, no team is beating Michael Jordan by 50, and second, the Bulls’ all-time starting five isn’t Derrick Rose, Jordan, Pippen, Dennis Rodman and Horace Grant.
Here’s my take on the best lineup the Bulls could field in this fantasy matchup. For the purpose of this exercise, I will be choosing players from specific seasons in Chicago rather than looking over the course of their careers.
Point guard: Kirk Hinri…just kidding…Derrick Rose (2010-2011 Season)
Shaq also picked Rose for his list, but he didn’t specify that it was his MVP season that made him worthy of the Bulls’ all-time starting five. Rose was the youngest MVP in league history after averaging 25 points and 7.7 assists at the ripe age of 22. His slick ball handling skills, dynamite speed and perhaps the greatest athleticism for the position in NBA history outside of Russell Westbrook helped Rose finish the season with a 23.5 PER, which is tied for the best PER in franchise history from anyone not named Jordan.
Rose is still only 26 years old, but his best days are likely behind him after three knee surgeries. Nonetheless, MVP Rose will always have a place on this list.
Shooting guard: Michael Jordan (1990-91 Season)
This was a no-brainer, but picking the best MJ year wasn’t easy. I went with the 1990-91 season when Jordan put up a nearly all-time best 31.6 PER while showcasing one of the best playoff performances ever.
Jordan averaged 31.1 points, 8.4 assists, 6.4 rebounds, 2.4 steals and 1.4 blocks while shooting 52.4 percent from the floor in 17 games while leading Chicago to its first NBA championship. His PER of 32.0 was among the best in playoff history. I probably typed too many words on this already. The GOAT was always going to be in this lineup.
Small forward: Scottie Pippen (1993-94 Season)
Pippen might not be a better player than Shaq individually, but he’s deserving of being on this list. Pippen is popularly known as one of the greatest sidekicks in sports, but he was also a tremendous player in his own right. Especially when MJ left to play baseball before the 1993-94 season.
Scottie thrived with the ball in his hands more often, averaging a career-best 22.0 points and 8.7 rebounds to go along with 5.6 assists, 2.9 steals and 0.8 blocks per game while shooting 49.1 percent from the floor (his 23.2 PER was also a career-high). The breakout season of sorts earned Pippen All-Defense and All-NBA First Team honors to go along with All-Star game MVP. He could’ve been something special without Jordan, but even with him for most of his career he was one heck of a player.
Power forward: Joakim Noah (2013-2014 Season)
This might come as a surprise after a season where Noah could barely make a layup, but his 2013-14 season was great enough to place him in the Bulls’ all-time starting five.
Noah finished top five in MVP voting that season after nearly putting up career-highs across the board with 12.6 points, 11.5 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.1 steals per game, earning him Defensive Player of the Year. Noah was deadly on the elbows with his outstanding passing skills and awkward ability of finishing shots in the paint.
He was manically persistent on the defensive end, constantly bothering his opponent and relentlessly fighting on the glass. Noah is exactly what this starting five needs. He could set up MJ, Pippen and Rose on offense or focus on rebounding their misses and playing stout D. A healthy Noah on this squad would be scary.
Center: Artis Gilmore (1977-78 Season)
A-Train is the oldest player on this list, but he’s also 7-foot-2 and dominated the ABA (won MVP as a rookie) before transitioning to the NBA and the Bulls. He averaged 22.9 points, 13.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.2 blocks in a virtuoso season with Chicago in 1977-78. In that season he put up a monster triple-double of 35 points, 15 rebounds and 11 blocks in a game against the Hawks.
A frontcourt of Gilmore and Noah might cramp the floor spacing, but good luck scoring in the paint against those two. Gilmore would provide a steady low-post presence while blocking shots and rebounding at a high rate. This starting five might lack shooting, but who cares when MJ’s on your team.
I’d still take the all-time Lakers starting five over the Bulls any day, but this team is pretty darn good.