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What four guys would Jordan choose for a pickup game? Pippen, Magic, Worthy, Olajuwon

Nov 13, 2013, 8:29 PM EDT

Fairly safe to say Michael Jordan in his prime could have selected me, Seth Rogen, Sammy Hagar and Dave Navarro and we would win virtually every game and stay on the court.

But when the folks at NBA 2K asked him (as they promote the 2K14 Next Gen features) he went a different direction. The four he picks to hold the court: Scottie Pippen, Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Hakeem Olajuwon. That group is pretty good, too.

Remember that Pippen, Magic and MJ were part of the Dream Team in Barcelona that won the gold. I totally get the Olajuwon pick too — he can post guys up and run the floor, defend, basically do everything well. He is arguably the most well-rounded big of all time.

Worthy? That’s a North Carolina nod. Remember they were teammates in college who won the 1982 national title together.

  1. danielgmz - Nov 13, 2013 at 8:45 PM

    Bird instead of Worthy and I have no complains.

  2. antistratfordian - Nov 13, 2013 at 8:57 PM

    Can’t argue with that. Unless you want to talk about a hall of fame twin tower lineup exploiting their lack of size. But the twin towers would probably get ran off the floor.

    I don’t think the Worthy pick is entirely about North Carolina. Big Game James would fit right in with those guys stylistically and could hold his own against anybody – that’s why he’s in the hally hall hall.

    • sportsfan18 - Nov 14, 2013 at 3:09 AM

      Worthy was a hell of a player, but it had to be about Carolina blue. I mean there’s this guy named Larry Bird otherwise.

      • antistratfordian - Nov 14, 2013 at 3:54 AM

        Of course that had something to do with it, but he’s not listing his top players at every position – it’s the team he’d want to run with in a pick up game.

        But it’s not like he threw in Sam Perkins or Kenny Smith. Worthy is worthy.

        And why is Worthy getting singled out for a Bird exchange? Why not Pippen? Everyone on that team won a Finals MVP except Scottie. Everyone on that team won either a “Final Four Most Outstanding Player” or “College Player of the Year” award except Scottie.

    • davidly - Nov 14, 2013 at 9:37 AM

      Absolutely correct re. Worthy. Another thing is that he complemented Magic so well, so Jordan may have considered chemistry in his choice. Those two duos combined with just about any classic big would be formidable at both ends of the floor. But these guys would just run everybody out of the gym.

  3. hildezero - Nov 13, 2013 at 9:23 PM

    Maybe MJ is just referring to (in his own opinion) the best players in league’s history at those positions. But why not Steve Nash? I mean, he’s the best PG.

    • dohoangquan35 - Nov 13, 2013 at 10:03 PM

      there are Magic, Stockton, the Big O, Bob Cousy, Jason Kidd, Payton, Isiah… for Jordan. I love Nash, but he isn’t the best. Just talk about defense, Chris Paul and Kidd did dropped plus 40 points on him.

  4. boobcok - Nov 13, 2013 at 9:38 PM

    I’ve always said that Jordan would be great at putting together a team! He forgot to mention Kwame Brown and Adam Morrison.

  5. bballhistorian - Nov 13, 2013 at 9:51 PM

    Great choice. Pippen and MJ worked well together for 6 rings. Magic and worth worked together for 4 rings. And Hakeem as the most underrated player (maybe in history).

    • bballhistorian - Nov 13, 2013 at 9:53 PM


  6. boobcok - Nov 13, 2013 at 9:56 PM

    How is Hakeem underrated? He’s the all time leader in blocked shots, a two time finals MVP, a first ballot hall of famer, the only player in the history of the game to win the MVP, Defensive Player Of The Year, and Finals MVP in the same season, and Bill Simmons ranks the guy in the top 10 in NBA history.

    • antistratfordian - Nov 13, 2013 at 10:25 PM

      Because despite all of the things you mentioned Hakeem is regularly listed outside of the top 10 – and that includes BIll Simmons who has Olajuwan at #11 in his “The Book of Basketball” (page 547).

      • boobcok - Nov 13, 2013 at 10:34 PM

        My bad on the 11. I have the book too and guess I should’ve read that instead of going from memory. I stand corrected. Still, it’s hard to have a first ballot hall of famer be underrated. I think of guys like Rodman who was never asked to be on an olympic team, wasn’t selected to the top 50, routinely passed over as an All-Star, didn’t make the first ballot HOF,all while he was actively crushing rebounding records and guarding the best player on the floor every damn night at 6’7″.

        Beyond that, I’ve never met anyone who knows of Hakeem that doesn’t know that he was a total dominant bad-ass of unrivaled proportions. Those two years MJ was on vacation, I’ve never seen another center work with that combination of speed and athleticism.

      • antistratfordian - Nov 14, 2013 at 4:20 PM

        Right. It’s that imaginary line separating the “top 10” from everyone else. You’re either part of that exclusive club or you’re a tier below – and to the public the drop to the next level is a big one. So if a player is routinely left out of that exclusive group his supporters are going to feel like he’s been slighted (even though there isn’t much difference between 10 and 11).

        You know the human tendency to do this is why psychological pricing exists – why we perceive $1.99 to be more like spending $1.00 instead of $2.00. Crossing that 1 cent line completely changes our perception of the situation.

    • antistratfordian - Nov 13, 2013 at 10:29 PM

      And Elliot “Mr. Stats” Kalb has Olajuwan at #16 in his “Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Basketball?” (page 159).

      Et cetera.

    • kb2408 - Nov 14, 2013 at 12:58 AM

      I really loved Dream but like Shaq, Dream had a 3 or 4 year run when he was simply dominant. Centers like KAJ and Wilt “seemed” to dominant longer. I think a center that is often overlooked is Moses Malone. Probably wasn’t the best defensive center but there weren’t many better in the post and on the boards.

      • thebigcaptain2011 - Nov 14, 2013 at 11:03 AM

        I knew it was the case before even checking, but upon looking at Hakeem’s career stats for verification, he had much more than a 3 or 4 year run. Unlike Shaq, Hakeem was always engaged on defense, was a great passer and had more than two post moves. Hakeem never showed up 50lbs overweight, leading to a teammate calling him out over it. Nevermind shooting range. If the NBA called charging fouls during Shaq’s career like they do now, he wouldn’t have been nearly as dominant. He couldn’t shoot 8 feet from the basket.
        Hakeem led his team to the NBA Finals in both the 80’s and 90’s, and he was the best player on his team every season up until his last year in Houston and that one year in Toronto that I want to pretend didn’t happen. Hakeem’s all around skills and knowledge blows those other guys out of the water. Why do you think virtually every star NBA player has paid for his lessons? All Shaq is good for nowadays is Gold Bond commercials and making the NBA on TNT broadcasts worse.

        Kareem played with another top-10 player pretty much his whole career (Oscar then Magic) and didn’t run back down to the other end of the floor on defense a third of the time. Wilt, whom I am a big fan of, played against maybe three other centers who could compete with him on any level (the foremost being Mr. Russell). Wilt’s free throw percentage was also poor. To say Wilt’s all around game is better is suspect at best.
        I say all of that to say this: Hakeem is the best all around center in NBA history.

      • sasquash20 - Nov 14, 2013 at 5:03 PM

        Wilt over any center that ever lived. Love the dream and he is top 5 big of all time, but he never played against a center even close to Wilt. Give me MJ, Wilt, Magic, Russell, and Lebron. You wouldn’t score a point in the paint and you would never get a rebound

    • pcsurfer - Nov 14, 2013 at 6:28 PM

      He also got a couple quadruple-doubles and he helped defeat a Shaq-led Magic team in a Finals.

  7. jjpt4540 - Nov 13, 2013 at 9:59 PM

    Surprised Bird wasn’t on his list to stretch the floor.

  8. money2long - Nov 13, 2013 at 10:15 PM

    steph curry , point guard
    jordan, 2 guard
    lebron, sf
    ben wallace , pf
    shaq, center

    who likes this mix ?

    • mytthor - Nov 14, 2013 at 7:27 PM

      Steph Curry, talk to me in 10 years.
      Jordan and LeBron, no problems there.
      Ben Wallace? If you’re going to go the all-D and rebounding, no offense route, gotta go Rodman.
      Tough picking Shaq over Hakeem when Hakeem owned Shaq when they met.

  9. rickyspanish - Nov 13, 2013 at 10:46 PM


    I was going to say the same thing. Every big man that wants get better in the post calls Hakeem.

  10. misterdreamer119 - Nov 14, 2013 at 12:05 AM

    I loved watching Hakeem the Dream. Why is Bird not on his team? Cuzz the Celtics kicked the Bulls asses until they all got old.

  11. kb2408 - Nov 14, 2013 at 12:50 AM

    That’s one heck of a 5 man squad. I’d like to see it go up against Kobe, Bird, LeBron, Duncan and Kareem. Bron Bron would play point and guard Magic, Kobe/MJ, Bird/Pip, Timmie/Big Game James and KAJ/Dream. Best 4 out of 7. Don’t know who would win but it would go all 7!

    • 00maltliquor - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:54 AM

      That would be siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiick!!!! But we’ll NEVER know.

      • flyrocket31 - Nov 14, 2013 at 9:03 AM

        create the teams up on 2K and simulate a 7 game series!

    • pbristol2013 - Nov 14, 2013 at 4:21 PM

      sorry, as much as im all in with Bron being a freak of nature, MJ is the deciding factor for era match ups. Here’s why, let’s say all the matches (one-on-one) have give and takes on both sides. when the ball is in MJ hands for the final point you’re basically HOPING misses. as best said by Barkley, MJ possessed the perfect skillsets and size with an unmatched killer instinct (for defensive too); he’s too gifted for Kobe (even in Kobe’s prime) to stop him; whereas MJ COULD stop Kobe defensively. Kobe didnt start caring about defense until his later years when he knew his legacy was going to be compared to MJ, and still other star players had very litte trouble defending Kobe (see Paul Pierce). The entirely league when they played MJ hoped he stayed up all night included as a LA fan. Final point – out of all the studs, there’s only one undefeated finals player…MJ

      Also, I wish people stop giving Timmie a break; dude is legitmate center and should be ranked and compared against that role. He get’s off playing the PF role (coaches decision) and laid claim to be the GOAT for PFs, but stop it…he’s is and was a talented scorer/defender, but his coach slid him into the PF role because he wasnt the strongest or nastiest competitor and his size advantage over other PF made it easier for him. Go back and look at the centers during his prime; until this euro step back and shoot three’s the league had a nasty, strong, i’ll bang your body bunch that timmie wasnt equip mentally or physically to handle. Additionally, dude is now basically being saved for the post season; tell me when another star player past or present had this type of spa treatment. He’s just a DH. Replace Timmie with Karl Malone and then you have something and btw – I never like the KM – just speaking true bball.

  12. weaselpuppy - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:54 AM

    Worthy out…no chance he plays PF….

    Karl Malone in. Bird before Worthy too if you are gonna play a SF at PF…McHale too, and Barkley. Worthy massively overrated.

  13. 00maltliquor - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:59 AM

    Jordan picked a beyond solid squad that would work well with each other. You got a LARGE, pass happy PG setting the table every time down willingly, allowing everyone to eat, a do-it-all C, and his college and NBA buddies that have been proven he can win with and are good enough to get theirs but will take a back seat for when Jordan needs to do Jordan things. Perfect squad for MJ. It’s not about best in positions, just who he knows he would work well with.

  14. davidtmp - Nov 14, 2013 at 10:15 AM

    That team would bring Showtime a new meaning! Magic throwing it up to MJ on the break? Worthy could grab the boards and start the break, Hakeem would be an enforcer inside, and Pip could guard the other teams best scorer.

  15. felisberto - Nov 14, 2013 at 11:23 AM

    He forgot Jeremy Lin.

  16. sasquash20 - Nov 14, 2013 at 5:07 PM

    If its play ground game AI would have to be in it. But only if its a street game

  17. pcsurfer - Nov 14, 2013 at 6:23 PM

    James Worthy’s line in a Game 7 NBA Finals against one of the toughest defensive teams, the 1988 Pistons. There is a reason he was called Big Game James.

    36pts, 16reb, 10ast, 15-22

    Not many guys can show up like that in a huge, high pressure Game 7. Him being hurt had a big effect on the 1991 Finals against the Bulls too.

    • trollaikman8 - Nov 15, 2013 at 4:36 PM

      Thanks for that reminder. Dude was a quiet assassin.

  18. beaverdam21 - Nov 14, 2013 at 6:40 PM

    I know we all enjoy discussing who’s best etc but the question was to Jordan – who would he pick? He picked these men, and that is the answer to the question, period.

  19. tcclark - Nov 14, 2013 at 7:53 PM

    From a pure basketball stand point I would have gone with Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird, Tim Duncan, and Wilt, but chemistry is very important in basketball and Jordan picked the guys he would want to play with.

    Either way his team is going to win. I mean I once saw him win a game against Mugsy Bogues, Larry Johnson, Charles Barkley, Shawn Bradley, and Patrick Ewing while playing with a team that featured two rabbits, a duck, and a Tasmanian Devil. I mean the second tallest player on his team was Bill Murray.

  20. kcwilkins1210 - Nov 16, 2013 at 3:04 PM

    Dr. J
    K. Love

    Magic could not guard small guards, so why not go with the best small PG ever in Stockton. The best facilitator on offense and not afraid to do the dirty work on defense.

    Kobe matched up against Jordan is a wash. They are basically the same player. Jordan is the smarter player, but in a pickup game they both would have their way.

    Dr. J is probably the best pickup player EVER. He is a NY playground legend and in a freestyle pickup game virtually unstoppable.

    Kevin Love is about to become the best power forward in the league today. He can bang down low, he can shoot the 3, and is a beast on the boards. In a pickup game he is there to spread the floor and keep the paint open for slashers like Kobe and Dr. J.

    Russell is arguably the best defensive big man ever. He has the quickness and smarts to keep up with Hakeem. If you can guard Wilt you can guard anyone!

  21. waltcoogan - Feb 10, 2014 at 9:32 AM

    Worthy wasn’t just a North Carolina nod. Indeed, many people these days possess little idea how great a player he happened to be. He was arguably the best fastbreak runner and finisher in the game, his post-up game and footwork proved jaw-dropping, he could shoot from outside, he could run off down-screens, and he was incredibly efficient. His performance in Game Seven of the 1988 NBA Finals says it all: 36 points, 16 rebounds, 10 assists, 2 steals, 15-22 from the field.

    Worthy was one of the best forwards to play the game. A “North Carolina nod,” for instance, would have been Sam Perkins.

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