What if you could combine any two NBA players from any era?
That’s a question I’ve been pondering ever since I saw a Facebook post asking which of the following duos you would want to merge into one hybrid monster: Bird/Magic, Westbrook/Durant, MJ/Kobe, or Curry/Draymond.
Those are some uninspired suggestions to say the least (MJ + Kobe = plain redundant, for example) so I’ve made some of my own. I also asked around so there will be a few that were created by friends and/or coworkers.
It’s the type of question you can think about for hours and the sky doesn’t even begin to scrape the definition of a limit here. You can literally combine any two NBA athletes you want. Do you want to combine Reggie Miller and Hakeem Olajuwon and create a freak of nature with a historically great post game AND perimeter game?
How the fuck do you stop Reggie Olajuwon? Impossible!
Or what about Popeye Cassell (Popeye Jones + Sam Cassell), infamous for freaking out defenders and fans with his deranged eyes bulging out of his alien-esque head?
See how inherently fun this thought experiment is? Having said that, it’s a lot more fun to think of combinations that actually help each player in the equation. So yeah, it would be great to create Reggie Olajuwon, but that’s almost like cheating. It’s fun to think about, but let’s try to be a little reasonable here, okay guys?
Without further ado, let’s start with the original inspiration for this whole shebang.
ALLEN ALLEN = Allen Iverson + Ray Allen
The Answer was known for being a tenacious ball handling slasher who consistently penetrated into the paint for difficult layups and floaters which were made even more difficult by his height (officially 6 feet, but more like 5’11”).
He was legendary for breaking ankles and crossing his defender in spectacular fashion. At one point he did the same to MJ himself and in the footage you can hear Phil Jackson call out “Michael” when Iverson gets the ball. Didn’t matter. Although MJ didn’t completely break down, he did technically get crossed and Iverson knocked down the midrange jumper.
Although he’s also known for his infamous rant about practices, he was a fierce competitor who took one of the worst post-merger teams ever all the way to the NBA Finals where he faced a Lakers team featuring Shaq and Kobe at their physical peaks. That Lakers team was undefeated in the playoffs until Iverson took Game 1 pretty much by himself. The 76ers were swept after that point, but it was an impressive feat nonetheless.
As an athlete he was pound-for-pound one of the purest in history. He could have played any sport and succeeded at the professional level. There’s no question.
He was not a good shooter. His ability to finish in the paint didn’t stretch out to the perimeter and his career field goal percentage was mediocre for a shooting guard playing in the modern era (FG%: 42.5, 3PT%: 31.3, FT%: 78.0).
Despite his success given his small stature, it was ultimately detrimental as his teammates had to cover for his shortness, to be blunt. While he averaged over two steals per game in his prime – almost three during his MVP season – he was a liability on defense in the long run. I mean, he wasn’t awful, but he wasn’t locking people down either. Which is okay.
His over-reliance on his natural ability brought his career to a screeching halt immediately after averaging 26.4 PPG for Denver in the 2008-09 season. While his alleged hatred towards practice was overrated, it’s also true he was infamous for partying like fucking crazy right before a game… and then going out and dropping forty on the opposing team.
Even though he led a terrible team all the way to the NBA Finals, it’s debatable whether you could actually win a championship with him as the best player. A low-efficiency, high-usage, turnover-prone player who wasn’t even six feet tall? Yikes!
Ray Ray’s Pros
Undoubtedly the best shooter in basketball history unless Steph Curry dominates for at least five more years. Although he was never part of the elusive 50-40-90 club, his career percentages are impressive nonetheless (FG%: 45.2, 3PT%: 40.0, FT%: 89.4). Not only was he a historically great shooter, but his stroke was beautiful. It’s probably the most gorgeous jumper ever.
He was incredibly consistent, part of which he attributed to his “mild” OCD. On game days, he would arrive a reported THREE hours early for shooting practice – usually his second of the day, by the way – and it’s well-documented that his consistent training routine is a good portion of what led to his continued efficiency all the way through his last season in 2014 (he’s still a free agent, technically).
In his prime he was no slouch athletically. While he certainly wasn’t on the same level as Iverson, he could dunk with considerably more authority than most of the other shooters we consider historically great.
Finally, he was Jesus Shuttlesworth in He Got Game, an okay Spike Lee flick that featured two noteworthy sequences: Ray Ray in a threesome and his unscripted 1 v 1 game against Denzel Washington, who portrayed Jesus Shuttlesworth’s dad. A number of basketball players have been in movies, from Kareem in Airplane! to a whole bunch in Space Jam, but let the record show Ray Allen was one of the better athlete-actors out there. That counts for something!
Ray Ray’s Cons
Not much, honestly. When the 76ers reached the Finals under Iverson, one of the teams they eliminated were the Bucks. Call this revisionist history or whatever you want to call it, but there’s some rumblings that there was some tomfoolery going on and the Bucks – and Ray Ray – should have been the ones to advance.
Either way, Ray Ray may not have had as flashy of a career as Iverson, but he sure played longer and more efficiently too. He played the right way, really, and although you also couldn’t win a championship with Ray Allen as your best player, you literally could if he was one of your top three guys. Hence, his time in Boston.
He also helped save part of LeBron James’ legacy when he nailed that clutch shot in the NBA Finals a few years ago against the Spurs. It’s the greatest shot in NBA history. It’s his to own, all by himself. And Bosh, because he had the awareness to toss the offensive rebound to Allen, who somehow backpedaled a few feet without looking down until he was simultaneously behind the three-point line AND inbounds and in the same motion caught the pass and fired the ball as Tony Parker charged towards him amidst thousands of hysterical Heat fans.
Just an iconic, legendary, historical moment.
Aside from instantly creating a marketable name in Allen Allen, this hypothetical player would be unstoppable. This is a relationship that undoubtedly benefits Allen Iverson more, so let’s take it from his perspective. Imagine if AI retained all his original abilities, but was suddenly the greatest shooter ever as well.
Now he can preserve his body that much longer, be significantly more efficient, and help space the floor out. Defensively, things would be mostly unchanged, although if we’re taking physical changes into account as well, it’s worth noting Ray Allen is officially listed as 6’5″.
Add in Ray Ray’s legendary work ethic and suddenly you’ve got a player who actually knows what time management and priorities are and is completely focused on bettering himself as a player.
In my opinion, a combination of Allen Iverson and Ray Allen would yield an NBA superstar whose ceiling is making the Hall of Fame as one of the top twenty players ever, if not higher. It’s the perfect combination. If Allen Allen was the best player on your team, there’s a good chance he’d lead it to a title. Is it guaranteed? Not necessarily. But it’s closer than either player got by himself – and Iverson got pretty damn close.
That was a very detailed breakdown of Allen Allen and why that hybrid works so well, but further installments of this series will feature more duos and get to the point a little more concisely. Consider this a very wordy teaser!