This is my Ball Is 4 Lyf All-Star team, a starting 5 made out of my favourite players to play each position. This a not list of the greatest simply my favourites and there’s no MJ and no LeBron cos i’m a fucking basketball hipster.

PG – Gary Payton (1990 – 2007)

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2006 NBA Champion, 9x All-Star, NBA Defensive Player of the Year (1996), 2x All-NBA First Team, 5x All-NBA Second Team, 2x All-NBA Third Team, 9x All-NBA Defensive First Team, Basketball Hall of Fame (2013).

Nicknamed ‘The Glove’ Gary Payton was best remembered for his outstanding defensive capabilities. However, this reputation as a defensive stopper does a massive disservice to Payton’s generational talent. Yes Gary ‘the Glove’ was one of the greatest defensive players in the history of the league, he is the only point guard to win Defensive Player of the Year, but Payton was so much more. During the peak of his career with the Seattle Supersonics, from the mid 90s through till the early 2000s, Payton regularly averaged 20+ PPG as well as close to 10 assists. When you consider Payton was almost always taking the hardest perimeter defensive assignment whilst producing that kind of offensive output, you realise what a special player Payton was.

But the reason Payton makes my team is his rivalry with Michael Jordan, nobody defended Jordan better in the finals than The Glove. In 1996 Payton held MJ to his lowest finals output, Jordan averaged a mere 27 PPG, and it was the only finals in which Jordan averaged under 30 a game. It doesn’t seem like much but Payton is the only man who ever came close to winning an individual match up with Jordan at his peak. In era that included some of great Point Guards, John Stockton, Jason Kidd and Steve Nash, it is easy to forget just how incredible Payton was, he is certainly the equal of them all and he will run the point for Ball is 4 Lyf All-Stars.

SG – Reggie Miller (1987 – 2005)

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5x All-Star, 3x All-NBA Third Team, 50-40-90 Club, Indiana Pacers all time leading scorer,  Basketball Hall of Fame (2012).

There may have been better Shooting Guards to play in the NBA but no Ball is 4 Lyf team would be complete without Reggie Miller, the first name you think of when you think of Pacers basketball, my favourite ever NBA player. The being said Miller was no slouch, his gangly and awkward, yet lethal shooting motion made the Indiana Pacers contenders for well over a decade. In an era that valued the 3 point shot much less than we do now Miller was the most deadly long range marksman, he retired as the all time leader in 3 pointers made and the kind of extra long, ridiculously beyond the arc shots that Miller made can be seen as precursor to the kind of thing Steph Curry and Damian Lillard are doing now. Reggie could create offence without needing the ball his movement around the perimeter, curling round screens to find pockets of space gave opposing defenders absolute nightmares as they chased Miller across the floor. 

Miller became iconic for his rivalry with the New York Knicks and in particular with famous Knicks fan Spike Lee. The image of Miller miming choke at Lee at the Garden, as his Pacer’s were engaged in another titanic playoff battle with Lee’s beloved Knicks, is one of the greatest images in NBA history.

Reggie’s prodigious skill on the floor was perhaps only matched by his infamous ability as a trash talker, if you can make MJ loose it like this then you have to be pretty great. Miller’s sister Cheryl, also a member of the basketball hall of Fame, describes how Reggie was a uniquely irritating individual. “He would just talk, non stop talk, always, never shut up”. This video describing the rivalry between the Miller siblings shows where Miller learnt to talk trash. Imagine a backcourt containing Payton and Miller, two of the greatest trash talkers ever. Opponents of the Ball is 4 Lyf All-Stars gonna be so mad they won’t be able to focus. For that and for his wonderfully weird shooting stroke Reggie Miller will suit up at 2 guard for the BI4LA$.

SF – Dominique Wilkins (1982 – 1999)

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Atlanta, GA — Hawks vs. Pistons – Game 1 of 1991 season. Hawks Dominique Wilkins drives the ball against the Pistons Mark Aguairre in the first half. November 2, 1991. (Nick Arroyo / AJC staff)

9x All-Star, 1x All-NBA First Team, 4x All-NBA Second Team, 2x All-NBA Third Team, 1986 NBA Scoring Champion, 2x NBA Slam Dunk Contest Champion, Basketball Hall of Fame (2006).

The primary function of any basketball team is to entertain and throughout his 17 year career in both the US and Greece Wilkins certainly did that. One of the early kings of the dunk ‘Nique was one of pioneers that elevated the slam-dunk to an art form. His dazzling array of pump fake and windmill dunks lit up the league throughout the ‘80s and contributed greatly to the NBA re-establishing itself as the popular league it is today. As a result Wilkins is best remembered for his dunks, in particular the legendary show down with Michael Jordan in the 1988 Dunk Contest, won by Jordan, although Wilkins bested Jordan in ’85. However, Wilkins was also a polished scorer averaging nearly 25 PPG for his career who, with a versatile offensive game combined with ridiculous athleticism terrorised the league for most of the ‘80s. When combined with Payton’s physical defence and Miller’s shooting range Wilkins’ scoring ability would make the perimeter players on The Ball is 4 Lyf All-Stars a terrifying and entertaining prospect.

PF – Tim Duncan (1997 – 2016)

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5x NBA Champion, 3x Finals MVP, 2x NBA MVP, 15x All-Star, 10x All-NBA First Team, 3x All-NBA Second Team, 2x All-NBA Third Team, 8x All-Defensive First Team, 7x All-Defensive Second Team, San Antonio Spurs all time leading scorer.

With all that attitude, angst and flair beyond the arc the BI4LA$ will need a level head in the middle, and who better than Tim Duncan. The Big Fundamental has anchored the most consistently successful franchise in the history of American Sports. The Spurs have won and won and won for entirety of Duncan’s two decades in the league and Timmy is a huge part of that. Duncan is not flash, Duncan is not arrogant, Duncan does not demand the ball. What Duncan does is play defence, smooch in those bank shots, sacrifice for the team and define an entire era of NBA play. Tim Duncan’s name is synonymous with success over the past 20 years and he is the greatest power forward to ever play the game, arguably the greatest big man. When Duncan walked off the floor after his final NBA game with a single finger raised in the air, no pomp, no emotional press conference announcing it, just a simple acknowledgement that he was done. Thanks very much. It was the most Tim Duncan thing ever, the antithesis of the bloated season long farewell tour that Kobe Bryant embarked upon. Tim Duncan is the glue that holds the BI4LA$ together. 

C – Hakeem Olajuwon (1984 – 2002)

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2x NBA Champion, 2x NBA Finals MVP, 1994 MVP, 2x Defensive Player of the Year, 12x All-Star, 6x All-NBA First Team, 3x All-NBA Second Team, 3x All-NBA Third Team, 5x All-Defensive First Team, 4x All-Defensive Second Team, NBA all-time blocks leader, Houston Rockets all-time leading scorer, Basketball Hall of Fame (2008).

For me the greatest all around center to ever play the game Hakeem ‘The Dream’ Olajuwon will anchor the BI4LA$, providing steely rim protection and truly un-defendable post moves. The Dream Shake is one of greatest moves from any big man in the history of the game, it tied big guys with less nimble feet than Hakeem in knots and gave them nightmares, non more so than 1992 Defensive player of the year Davis Robinson. Olajuwon arrived at college in Houston in 1981 as no more than a lanky Nigerian with a penchant for swatting basketballs out of the lane and in to the tenth row. By the time he retired from the NBA he was one of most technically skilled big men, to whom players such  as LeBron James have gone to improve there own post game. Much like Duncan Olajuwon was a consummate team mate who valued the success of the team over personal glory, when he won the league MVP in 1994 he invited all his teammates up on the podium with him to share in the moment. A class act on and off the court The Dream completes the Ball is 4 Lyf All-Stars.

Those guys might not have the 3 point shooting that we love so much in today’s NBA but I think they’d be pretty hard to beat. With The Glove locking on to your best perimeter player, Reggie and ‘Nique hounding shooters across the floor, and forget about driving into the lane with Tim and Hakeem stalking the restricted area. The BI4LA$ would be hard to score on for sure, not bad offensively either.