Offense wins games, defense wins championships. We’ve all heard the saying, and there is a reason for it. Its held true throughout the history of sports, including basketball. Who can lock an opponent down when it truly matters and the game is on the line? The NBA has seen its fair share of great defensive players, but who are the very best? Each season the NBA compiles and awards an All-NBA Defensive Team. Who would make an all-time team though? A team so great defensively that opponents would rather play defense than offense. Well, here is a group of five who would create a lot of problems for any offensive player.
Point Guard – Gary Payton
His nickname “The Glove” really says it all. He could just take an opposing guard out of the picture for the full 48 minutes. He made nine consecutive Defensive First Teams and averaged more than 2 steals per game in his 17-year career. His size at 6-foot-4 could really bother other point guards, making it difficult for them to get a clean shot off. What was Payton’s best defensive asset though? His mouth. The Oakland born guard could talk trash with the best of them, and found himself in the head of his opposing counterpart quite often.
Shooting Guard – Michael Jordan
Everyone knows Jordan is the best and it’s hard to argue against it. The six NBA championships, more than 32,000 career points, and the countless moments of pure greatness he gave us speaks for itself, but what pushed him to another level was his defense. He took both sides of the floor extremely serious, and could eliminate the other team’s best perimeter player, as evidenced by his nine Defensive First Team selections. His physical attributes, 6-foot-6 with speed and athleticism, coupled with his fierce competitive mentality made it a nightmare for anyone playing the Bulls.
Small Foward – LeBron James
It can easily be argued that Scottie Pippen should hold this spot, but James is a more physically gifted Pippen in my eyes. James has patented the chase down block and left offensive players fearful of a clear path to the rim, knowing he could be lurking behind them. He’s made four Defensive First Teams and surely has several more left before his career is finished. His physical nature takes its toll on players, just ask Paul Pierce. James has consistently averaged around two steals during his career and is yet to reach his basketball prime. As his mental approach to the game progresses, so will his defense too and that is a scary thought for Miami Heat opponents.
Power Forward – Dennis Rodman
Every team needs a little crazy, especially on defense, and Rodman provides plenty of it. Rodman was the ultimate defensive specialist and thrived in his enforcer role. Despite playing undersized at about 6-foot-7, he easily held his own against bigger players and created havoc in the lane. He’s 11th on the all-time career rebounds list, and made seven Defensive First Teams. Rodman once averaged 18.7 rebounds per game for a season. He would be sure to clean up any missed shots that were being forced on the outside by Payton, Jordan, and James.
Center – Bill Russell
With Rodman controlling the glass, Russell would be this team’s shot blocker. The Celtics’ great was so good at blocking shots, he mastered the art of tipping the ball to a teammate so they could gain possession. As mentioned before, defense wins championships and there is no better proof then Russell’s 11 rings. He is second in career rebounds with 21,620. His leadership qualities also deserve mention as he would be the perfect captain to anchor this defensive juggernaut.