HOOP DREAMS:<br />
Which NBA Star Would You Build Your Team Around?

Prior to a recent Miami Heat vs. Oklahoma City Thunder game, ESPN’s Tim Legler conducted a mock draft between the two franchises. Legler took the five best players from each team, which resulted in Kevin Durant being the number one pick. While it’s very difficult to argue the NBA analyst’s selection, it does leave room for a large debate. Here at EBONY, we’ve taken six of the NBA’s marquee players to raise the question, “Which current NBA Star would you build your franchise around?” Have a little fun and weigh-in!

LeBron James, SF Miami Heat

Career Averages: 27.6 ppg 7.2 reb 6.9 ast 1.7 stl .8 blk

Two-Time NBA MVP, Five-Time All NBA First Team, Three-Time All NBA Defensive First Team, Two-Time NBA All Star MVP, 2003-2004 NBA Rookie of the Year, Eight-Time NBA All-Star

Since entering the league in 2003, LeBron James has arguably been the biggest star that the NBA has seen since Michael Jordan. James entered the league directly from high school after being drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers as the number one overall pick. The 18-year-old phenom was immediately deemed the team’s leader, and eventually led a very surprising franchise to the NBA Finals in 2007 versus the San Antonio Spurs. Despite the Cavs falling short in the series, James’ abilities seemed to be reaching the next level. While no one can argue what the Akron native can do on the court, his ability to close out games has been widely criticized.

After spending the 2010-2011 season with the Miami Heat, James led the second seeded franchise to a finals re-match versus the Dallas Mavericks. The Heat entered the series as the heavy favorites with a huge amount of momentum. King James made tremendous strides in becoming a closer after shouldering the load and carrying his team passed the top seeded Chicago Bulls in a hard fought 4-1 Eastern Conference Finals win. However, as soon as the naysayers were quieted, LeBron completely faded at the most crucial time for the Heat. After averaging 24, 28 and 26 points per game in the three previous playoff series, James’s scoring average fell to 17.8 ppg in the NBA Finals.

While the two-time league MVP has had his shortcomings throughout his NBA career, his talent is undeniable. At 6’8 250lbs, the former scoring champ has the ability to do virtually anything on the basketball court. He can dominate on both offense and defense, while simultaneously making his teammates better. The star forward will always be heavily scrutinized until he proves that he can become a consistent closer, which will leave him virtually unstoppable. However at 27 and in the prime of his career, will James ever develop the killer instinct that has eluded him for 8 seasons?

Kobe Bryant, SG Los Angeles Lakers

Career Averages: 25.4 ppg 5.3 reb 4.7 ast 1.5 stl .5 blk

2008 NBA MVP, Two-Time NBA Finals MVP, Nine-Time All NBA First Team, Nine-Time All NBA Defensive First Team, Four-Time NBA All-Star MVP, Twelve-Time NBA All-Star

At 33 years of age, Kobe Bryant is showing no signs of slowing down at all. The Lakers star is currently leading the NBA in scoring with a 28.1 ppg average and has his team sitting in the number three seed in the Western Conference. Known as “The Black Mamba,” Kobe has become the heir apparent to Michael Jordan. Similar to Mike, Kobe was seen as just a scorer that didn’t make his teammates better and wasn’t strong enough on defense. Bryant went on to be named to the NBA’s All Defensive Team in nine of his 15 professional seasons. In addition to becoming one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, the Philadelphia native has amassed five NBA titles with two Finals MVP trophies to his credit.

Despite the Mamba’s accolades, he’ll be turning 34 in August and is nearing retirement. After being drafted 13th overall out of Lower Merion High School in 1996, Kobe has endured 15 grueling NBA seasons, which include 208 playoff games. Although he’s accumulated an excessive amount of mileage on his body, Bryant still embodies everything you want in a franchise player. He has successfully responded each time he was faced with adversity throughout his career. With so much experience under his belt, the NBA’s scoring leader has built a Hall of Fame resume thus far. However, at nearly 1,500 career games, would you build your franchise around the soon-to-be 34 year old shooting guard, today?

Kevin Durant, SF Oklahoma City Thunder

Career Averages: 26.2 ppg 6.6 reb 2.8 ast 1.2 stl 1 blk

Two-Time All NBA First Team, 2008 NBA Rookie of the Year, 2010 All-Star MVP, Two-Time NBA All-Star

Kevin Durant is one of the NBA’s brightest young stars in the league today. The defending scoring champ has his Oklahoma City Thunder team in a battle with the Spurs for the number one seed