Debates for which NBA team is the greatest of all time is often a long and winding road that leads to nowhere because there’s no way to pin two teams that played in different eras against each other outside of NBA 2K. For example, we’ll never know if the Showtime era Lakers would beat the 2017-18 Golden State Warriors because time travel doesn’t exist, and if it does, it would probably be used for something more important.
A more fun conversation to have is which players — both past and present — would elevate those historic teams, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of all people engaged in that conversation with a fan on Monday. During a Twitter Q&A, Kareem was asked which current player he would have wanted to play with — and on which of his former teams — and he picked LeBron James to play with the Lakers.
great question! Without a doubt Lebron, and The Lakers would be the right team. https://t.co/zPswoocxbU— Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (@kaj33) March 24, 2020
Kareem could have picked gone in another direction and picked Michael Jordan, but James’ size, offensive versatility and playmaking ability makes him a perfect fit in Paul Westhead’s offensive system, which was adopted and evolved by Pat Riley.
The natural follow-up question, then, is: Who would James replace in the starting lineup? That all depends on which team we’re talking about.
If we’re talking about the early years of the Showtime Lakers with Jamaal Wilkes, James would likely replace Jim Chones or Kurt Rambis. However, if we’re talking about the Showtime Lakers with “Big Game” James Worthy, the answer has to be Rambis or A.C. Green. As popular as Rambis and Green were during their time in Los Angeles, there’s no doubt that Riley would have replaced either one of them if James was an option.
I mean, could you imagine a fastbreak led by Magic with LeBron and Worthy running down the wings, Byron Scott trailing, and Kareem filling the lane? Who’s stopping that? The answer is no one.
Unfortunately, like all of these hypothetical scenarios, we’ll never see James and the Showtime Lakers go head-to-head with Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics, but it’s fun to think about, especially now that we know Kareem has thought about it too.