My father and I were arguing the other day about who we would pick for our all-time starting fives. We agree on the 2 and 3 positions (Jordan and Bird, probably our two favourite players ever) but couldn’t come to an agreement regarding the 1,4 & 5 spots. I’d take Stockton at the point, with Duncan at power forward and Olajuwon at centre. He’d take Magic at point, Barkley at power forward and Bill Russell at centre. If all players were in their peak, I would cut off my left leg to see that match-up. Anyway, this discussion brought us to a similar one, in which we were discussing who we would select if our lives depended on the outcome of a game and we needed players who would put everything they had in to every single play to ensure a victory. Players who would cut out their own mothers hearts to win.
After a few days of deliberation and deep thought, I have come up with my All-Time Guts & Glory Team.
- Isiah Thomas
- Michael Jordan
- Larry Bird
- Charles Barkley
- Bill Russell
Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Bill Russell need no explanation as it is common knowledge (for basketball fans at least) that they were the most competitive players at their positions, who won at the highest level and put their heart and soul in to every possession. They are the kind of guys who would prefer a colonoscopy to losing a game, even if that game was tiddlywinks. There is no-one in the history of the game who you could reasonably argue as players who would give more of themselves to win. I’m happy entrusting my life to these guys.
Isiah Thomas and Charles Barkley probably need some justification, as they were most likely not front of mind in most fan’s minds.
Isiah was such a gutsy guy who wanted to win so badly he even risked his career for it. Check this video out for proof. He would cry in defeat due to the pain he felt and would cry after big victories (like the Finals) due to ecstasy. I have never seen a point guard play with as much passion as Isiah. He wanted to win and would do anything to do it. Seriously, anyone his size crazy enough to throw a punch at 6’10, 240 pound bruiser Rick Mahorn can be entrusted with my life.
Charles Barkley was such a beast back in his day that he once dunked on Godzilla before walking off in to the sunset. Listed at 6’6 but probably closer to 6’4, he was a chubby power forward, shorter than most guards, but still managed to become one of only four players in NBA history to compile 20,000 points, 10,000 rebounds and 4,000 assists. The others were Wilt, Russell and Karl Malone, all much taller than Charles. Rebounds are all about hustle and desire, and even though Sir Charles was ridiculously under-sized, he averaged 11.6 rpg over the course of his career by out-hustling everyone. Charles wanted the ball more than anyone because he wanted to win more than anyone. This is the kind of guy I want to round out my Guts & Glory Team.
These aren’t necessarily the best players to ever play the game, nor the best possible starting five. These are guys who, at their respective positions, wanted to win more than anyone else and were willing to do whatever it took to do it. I want guys who will cheat (the first 10 seconds of this clip) to win if that’s what it takes. All the players on my list have hearts bigger than Phar Lap and were compulsively driven to win at everything they did. If I needed to win a game of basketball to save my life, these are the guys I’d call without hesitation.
If you can come up with a five who have more heart than mine, or you think I’ve made a mistake in one of my selections, please list them in the comments section below.