The Top Three All-Time NBA Starting Lineups (1988 to the present)

Making lists and ranking all-time teams and players is the foundation of sports debate.  There is no wrong or right when making rankings but there is the good, the bad and the ugly.  In the spirit of list making and ranking all-time players I present my top three all-time NBA Starting Lineups of players that played past 1988.  Why the 1988 cut-off?  I chose this year as an arbitrary cut-off date because this is as far back as I have memories of watching certain players and teams play live on TV.  Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell, Wilt the Stilt, etc. have amazing stats and I am told had amazing careers, but the grainy choppy video footage of these guys just does not give me enough insight to properly rank them against players of my generation and so I am going to avoid doing that altogether. 

I think that anyone would be hard pressed to describe any of these line-ups as ugly, but where they sit on the spectrum of good or bad may be up for debate.  I do believe, however, that the top line-up is hard to argue with.  Before I get into the lineups themselves it is important to note that I did not give any special attention to specific positions so there are some lineups that may lack a conventional “power forward” or have two “shooting guards”.  I don’t have the players broken down by point guard, shooting guard, small forward, etc. The truth is the best players in the history of the NBA were able to play more than one position and so the lineups are simply a collection of five players that when combined together create very formidable starting lineups.  

The Bronze Standard All-NBA Starting 5

1. Isaiah Thomas

2. Reggie Miller

3. Scottie Pippen

4. Charles Barkley

5.  Shaquille O’Neil

What I like about this lineup:  Isaiah, one of the most disliked but still one of the best all-time point guards is the distributor, Reggie Miller provides the clutch 3-point shooting, Sir Charles and Shaq provided the scoring in the paint and Pippen does all the little things including lock-down defense and timely scoring and rebounding. 

The Silver Standard All-NBA Starting 5

1. John Stockton

2. Clyde Drexler

3. Kobe Bryant

4. Karl Malone

5. Tim Duncan

What I like about this lineup:  This lineup has the unstoppable pick and roll action between Stockton and Malone teamed up with Kobe’s ability to score at will.  Drexler provides additional wing scoring and slashing to the basket with Duncan the anchor in the middle providing scoring, blocks and rebounds. 

The Gold Standard All-NBA Starting 5

1. Magic Johnson

2. Michael Jordan

3. Larry Bird

4. LeBron James

5. Hakeem Olajuwon

What I love about this lineup:  This lineup in a word is unstoppable.  You have the two of the best distributors of all-time in Magic and LeBron, the best overall scorer and player of all-time in Jordan, the hustle and clutch long distance shooting of Bird and the magical foot-work, scoring and blocks coming from Hakeem the Dream in the paint.  Jordan and LeBron also provide lock down perimeter defense and LeBron can defend every position on the floor.  This starting five is unbeatable and is the gold standard of starting lineups. 


Posted by Hatch





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