by Ben Osborne

This is picked up from SLAM 133, which you better have picked up by now, as it’s even fresher in print…

The mission: take all the players drafted in the SLAM era (’94-’09) and pick the best starting unit. There’s any number of “dream teams” we could build, but, gun to head, we’re rocking with these guys.

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Kobe Bryant, ’96

The Air Apparent

We know, we know, there will never be another Mike. But you have to admit, Kobe has done a pretty good impression, and if he picks up rings five and six in the next few years, there are some folks in L.A. who will be ready to argue with anyone who wants it. From the acrobatics to the fundamentals, the strong will to the work ethic, Kobe simply has what it takes.

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Kevin Garnett, ’95

Da (Former) Kid

A SLAM favorite since his senior at Farragut in the Chi, the Big Ticket entered the League with a skinny frame and a wide smile. A trail blazer for the run of preps-to-pros stars who entered the NBA from ’96-05, KG got worn down a bit by some frustrating years in Minnesota, but when he won it all with Boston in ’08, the smile was back in a big way.

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LeBron James, ’03

The Chosen One

With SLAM’s considerable help LeBron entered the NBA as the most-hyped amateur player in basketball history. And somehow, he outplayed the hype, becoming just the third player ever (after Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson) to average 20-5-5 in his first season. The individual accomplishments have continued to astound. All the King needs now is a ring.

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Tim Duncan, ’97

The Big Fundamental

Forget what you heard: SLAM cares plenty about winning. Given that, how could we not love Tim Duncan, one of the greatest winners ever, an efficient, reliable and—when called upon—dominant big man for the Spurs who has won four rings and amassed dizzying statistics along the way? As he once showed one our cover, TD is cold as ice.

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Allen Iverson, ’96

Answering Machine

Can a guy who looks small for an MLB shortstop lead an NBA team in scoring? Lead the League in scoring? Lead a team to the Finals? Yes, yes and yes. AI’s Philly career alone should confer legendary status, but we’re guessing that with some up-and-down years in Denver and Detroit raising a whole new question (is he done?), AI’s gonna give everyone one more answer.

Photo credits: Kobe: Andy Hayt; KG: Dale Tait; LeBron: Rocky Widner; Duncan: Tim DeFrisco; AI: Nathaniel S. Butler; ALL NBAE/GETTY IMAGES