Not everyone can have the same history as the Boston Celtics or Chicago Bulls. But still, that’s not stopping us from ranking the 15 all-time Eastern Conference starting lineups. From Michael Jordan all the way down to Kemba Walker — yes, Kemba Walker — here are the top players at every position for every East franchise.
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Center: Bill Russell â€“ Bill Russell is the ultimate champion. He was the main reason behind Boston’s historic successes in the ’60s. He is a true talent, and without him, the NBA would not be the same organization it is today. He was one of the toughest and most intelligent players the league has seen. Bill Russell paved the way for future centers to make names for themselves.
Power Forward: Kevin McHale â€“ Dubbed one of the most skilled post players in league history, Kevin McHale was the greatest power forward in Boston Celtics history. His versatility as a started or sixth man was key in Boston’s success in the 1980s. His arsenal of post moves was something to marvel at, but his level of efficiency really catches the eye; he shot .554 percent from the field for his career. The three-time champion complemented Larry Bird quite nicely.
Small Forward: Larry Bird â€“ Larry Bird was one of the best pure basketball talents the NBA has ever seen. Bird was a fierce competitor and the focal point for his three championship teams. Bird could pass, handle the ball, shoot, defend and rebound with little to no problems. The three-time champion has an abundance of accolades; one of his most impressive feats is his three straight MVP awards. His career was cut short due to a back injury, but he is still among the league legends.
Shooting Guard: Sam Jones â€“ Sam Jones began his career as a backup. He soon became the starter for the Celtics and the train kept rolling. He was a great scorer for a defensive-minded Celtics team anchored by Bill Russell. Jones averaged 17.7 points per game on .456 percent shooting. He ended his career with ten NBA titles.
Point Guard: Bob Cousy â€“ Bob Cousy was the pioneer of the “pure point guard.” Cousy joined the Celtics when the team was in its beginning stages. Cousy brought a new level of style to the game; his attention-grasping handles and passes made fans leave Celtics games in utter amazement. He was an important part of Boston’s first six NBA championships, and he currently holds the franchises record in assists with 6,945.
Center: Billy Paultz â€“ Paultz was a great ABA center, as he was an All-Star three times in his five-year tenure with the Nets. He was a key contributor to their first championship in 1974. He is still the second-leading rebounder in franchise history and the seventh-leading rebounder in ABA history. His 15-year career was longer than most basketball big men experience and he tallied 13,099 points, 8,959 rebounds and 1,457 blocks.
Power Forward: Buck Williams â€“ Buck Williams was the premier player for the Nets in the 1980s. From 1981 to 1989, Williams was voted to three All-Star games while posting numbers of 16.4 points and 11.9 rebounds; he also shot .550 percent from the field. He remains the Nets’ all-time leader in points and rebounds with 10,440 and 7,576 respectively.
Small Forward: Julius Erving â€“ The Doctor… words cannot describe how mesmerizing Julius Erving was. His ability to soar through air with a majestic feel kept fans wanting more. Erving lived above the rim; the swingman could get to the basket when and how he wanted whenever he wanted. His three seasons with the Nets saw him take home three MVP awards, and two ABA championships. He scored more than 7,000 points during his tenure with the Nets. He would go on to play in the NBA, where he would win another MVP and championship.
Shooting Guard: Vince Carter â€“ Carter played the prime of his career with the Nets from 2004-2009. He was one of the best scorers in the league every season. Carter was able to average better than 20 points per game for ten straight years and he left the Nets as the second-leading scorer in franchise history with 8,834 points. He is currently a 20K scorer and finishing up his career with the Dallas Mavericks.
Point Guard: Jason Kidd â€“ Kidd is now retired from the game of basketball. He left behind a legacy filled with great plays and an NBA championship. He was the driving force behind the Nets’ most successful years. He carried them to back-to-back Finals appearances and set the Nets’ all-time records in assists (4,620), steals (950) and three-point baskets (813). He averaged 14.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 9.1 assists per game and was a ten-time All-Star and is on his way to the Hall of Fame.
New York Knicks
Center: Patrick Ewing â€“ When the Knicks are a topic of conversation, the first player that comes to mind is Patrick Ewing. Not only is he the best center in Knicks’ history, he is one of the best centers in NBA history. There were not many two-way forces like Patrick Ewing. His talent on both ends was something to marvel at. The 1989-1990 season was outstanding. He posted numbers of 28.6 points, 10.9 rebounds and 4.0 blocks per game. He was never able to win an NBA championship, but his career leaves his name among the league’s legends.
Power Forward: Dave DeBusschere â€“ DeBusschere was a defensive monster. He was usually tasked with defending the opposition’s best player every night. He finished his career with six consecutive All-Defensive First Team selections. His most memorable defensive stand was the 1970 NBA Finals. Willis Reed was not at full health, and DeBusschere had to defend Wilt Chamberlain. He did his job; the Knicks won the game, and their first of two NBA championships.
Small Forward: Bernard King â€“ Bernard King anchored the team in the mid-1980s. He scored at will from the middle of the floor and the post. He averaged 26.5 points while shooting .543 percent from the field over 206 games with the Knicks. King was considered one of the best scorers in NBA history, and if it was not for injury he would have been able to add on to his 19,655 scoring total.
Shooting Guard: Earl Monroe â€“ “The Pearl” is not talked about enough. Monroe started at shooting guard for the Knicks in the ’70s. His wizard-like moves with the ball allowed him to penetrate opposing defense at will. He used a fantastic midrange game and combined it with a rare post-game to devastate opposing shooting guards. He was a member of the most recent Knicks title team in 1973. Monroe finished his career with 17,545 points scored.
Point Guard: Walt Frazier â€“ The Knicks do not win two titles in the ’70s without Walt Frazier. He was the epitome of a great point guard. His court vision and shooting ability made him too much for defenses to handle. Frazier’s skills went beyond offense; his quick hands and feet made him a terror on defense. If the rare occasion of him getting beat ever occurred, he had Dave DeBusschere waiting at the rim. Frazier averaged 19.3 points during his tenure with the Knicks.