Every year the NBA awards an All Defensive team. At Hardwood Houdini, we’ve taken it a step further to determine the best defensive team of All-Time. It’s hard to narrow it down to five players, to say the least, so expect up-coming 2nd and 3rd All time defensive teams to follow this piece. That said, here’s my First team:
G- Gary Payton
I have trouble ranking anyone higher as a guard defender than a guy who was nicknamed “The Glove,” a guy who could frustrate all offensive players, be it Michael Jordan, or any other shooting guard of his era. Payton averaged over two steals a game for seven consecutvie seasons with the Seattle Supersonics and along with Shawn Kemp, led the Supersonics to the Finals in 1995-96, where they were dispatched by Michael Jordan’s Bulls. Still, despite not winning a ring until hsi final year in the NBA playing an off the bench role with the Miami Heat, Payton was the best defender at the point guard in NBA history. Payton ranks #45 on my all time player list.
G- Michael Jordan
MJ was not only the best player ever, but also one of the best defenders ever. He’s not on this all defensive team because of his overall greatness, but truly because of his defensive greatness. Is there anyone today that can cover Kobe Bryant? No, not really. But MJ could have. MJ had the defensive footwork and talent to keep even Kobe in check. MJ’s rank on my all time list of players? Yeah, it’s just what you guessed.
F- Scottie Pippen
Pippen was, in my opinion, the best on ball defender of all time. He was nearly impossible for defenders to get by and could cover PGs, SGs, and SFs. Gifted with extremely long arms and an ability to move his hands quickly, Pippen played passing lanes and frustrated offensive players on a nightly basis, as he made the ball die in whomever’s hands it fell into. Pippen ranks #20 on my all time list of players.
F- Dennis Rodman
Pippen may have been the best on-ball defender of all time, but Rodman may be the greatest forward defender of all time. Rodman was able to cover every guy he ever faced in his career and was deceptively strong when it came to bodying up with the bigger guys in the post. His tightly wrapped muscular frame, not to mention his great defensive rebounding abilities, made him one of the few players who could change a game on the defensive end. Rodman ranks #34 on my all time list of NBA players.
C- Bill Russell
Russell was the best defensive center in NBA history by a good margin. He led the Celtics to 11 championships in 13 years, and ranked high on all of our All-Time lists we just completed here at Hardwood Houdini, going as high as second on two of the three lists (my own included). He blocked a ridiculous number of shots, but we have no idea how many, as blocks were not counted then. Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, he was the only player of his era capable of keeping Wilt Chamberlain in check. That means he could have covered any of today’s centers with acumen and grace. Russell is the 2nd greatest player ever by my personal reckoning.