Alphabet League
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

One of the more complete outfits in the NBA All Alphabet League, the P Team are stacked.

Literally every player is lightning fast for their position, without giving up much of anything in the way of size or strength. This side contains elite scoring, play making, shooting and defense. They’re a sure bet to go far in the All Alphabet League.

Point Guard – Chris Paul

Alongside leaving Elgin Baylor out of the B Team, the point guard position on the P Team has been the hardest cut so far in the Alphabet League. The Glove or the Point God? With my sincerest apologies to the great Gary Payton, you cannot go past Chris Paul for this slot.

CP3 has experienced a renaissance in his first season in Oklahoma City, becoming an All-Star for the first time since the 2016 campaign – his 10th All-Star berth overall – at age 34. He’s led a team that was supposed to be a prime candidate to tank to the 5th best record in the West at the shutdown. That’s simply a continuation of the influence Paul has had over his teams since entering the league in 2005.

An 8 time All NBA nomination, Paul might be the best two way point guard ever to play. Offensively, he’s earned the Point God moniker, leading the league in assists in 4 occasions, proving to be an ideal mix between setting up his teammates and taking over the game, averaging 18.5 points and 9.5 assists for his career, whilst shooting an even 37% from beyond the arc.

The beauty of Paul’s game is that he isn’t the single best player at any singular skill (except perhaps, shithousery). Instead, he’s outstanding at practically everything: he’s an excellent 3 point shooter, an assassin from mid range, an elite play maker, has wonderful handles etc. He simply has no weakness offensively.

Defensively, he has but one failing: he’s tiny. That hasn’t stopped him from being named to 9 All-Defense teams. It’s actively helped him lead the league in steals on no less that 6 occasions. His robust frame, elite footwork, wonderful hands, uncanny anticipation and snarling attitude have opposing point guards in fits trying to bring the ball up against Paul, even in his career twilight.

Shooting Guard – Drazen Petrovic

One of the more tragic tales in NBA history, Drazen Petrovic mans the off guard position in the P team. The Croatian was cut down in his prime, killed in a car accident in 1993 at the age of 28.

At the time, Petrovic had come into his own as a true star of the game. He didn’t arrive in the NBA until he was 25, after dominating the European leagues. Despite his clear talent and renown on the other side of the Atlantic, Petrovic struggled to get court time on a loaded Portland roster, backing up fellow Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler. A sophomore season trade to New Jersey was the break he needed, tripling both his minutes and his scoring average, although he still played from the bench.

In his 3rd season, Drazen exploded as a starter, putting up 20.6 points – on 44.4% shooting from deep – 3.1 assists and 1.3 steals. He improved again in what would prove to be his final season in 1993: 22.3 points, 3.5 assists and 1.3 steals with 44.9% shooting from beyond the arc. He earned his lone All NBA award that season.

Given his ascendancy, it’s well within reason that Petrovic could have finished his NBA career with a handful of All NBA and All Star appearances to his name. Though therein lies another conundrum: at the time of hes death Petrovic was believed to be on the verge of quitting the American game and returning to Europe on the back of a contract standoff with the Nets. Why an emerging team with Kenny Anderson, Jayson Williams and Derrick Coleman would risk losing their leading scorer is anyone’s guess, though GM Willis Reed didn’t have the greatest track record as a GM.

Petrovic’s most well known gift was his effortless jumper, that he launched from anywhere, against any defense. He was just as efficient off the bounce as the catch, which was rare for a shooter in that era. He was also an underrated play maker, with a flair for the dramatic where a simple play would do. He was an entertainer; all fist pumps and screams of jubilation on the court.

It’s appropriate that he started his all too brief NBA journey in Portland. Petrovic was a true trailblazer for European basketballers. He paved the way for players like Vlade Divac, Toni Kukoc, Dino Radja and Sarunas Marciulionis and others who didn’t attend US colleges. Without Petrovic, it’s likely we never get to experience the Dirk Nowitzki’s and Manu Ginobili’s of the world.

His time in the NBA was brief. Those of us who were lucky enough to see him play remain grateful.

Small Forward – Scottie Pippen

The ultimate complimentary star is the linchpin of this P Team. Pippen’s stint as Michael Jordan’s over qualified sidekick cemented his place in NBA folklore. It’s a shame that Pippen often gets lost amongst the tidal wave that is MJ. Despite how he believes he was depicted in the The Last Dance, Pippen was a genuine superstar of the game in his own right.

After being out and out stolen in a draft day trade by the late Jerry Krause, Pippen quickly cemented himself as a two way force, consistently scoring in the mid to high teens from his 2nd season onwards, as well as combining with Jordan to wreak havoc upon the opposition at the defensive end. Pippen was a nightmare at that end of the court. He was big enough and strong enough to play against every power wing and most 4’s, whilst quick and agile enough to stay with guards. He famously swung the 1991 finals when switched on to Magic Johnson.

So many defensive aces make their name as a basketballing free safety, jumping passing lanes and recording highlight reel weak side blocks. Pippen certainly had that, but he was also a wonderful on ball defender, able to stay in front of anyone. He was also an intelligent post defender, perhaps the best ever at ‘pulling the chair’ before sneaking around his opponent to steal the entry pass.

Pippen had his trials and tribulations over the years, most notably his refusal to check into a playoff game in 1994, in which Kukoc famously hit the game winner. That undermined a career year individually, when Pip finished 3rd in the MVP voting.

An incredible athlete, Pippen earned 10 All Defense selections, to go along with 7 All NBA’s, 7 All Star appearances (criminally low), he led the league in steals once and, as you may or may not know, was a 6 time NBA champion.  

Power Forward – Bob Pettit

Arguably the greatest Hawk of all time, Bob Pettit never actually suited up for Atlanta, instead spending the his rookie year as a Milwaukee Hawk with the club based in St Louis for the rest of his 11 year NBA career. And what a career it was:

  • 2x NBA MVP
  • 1958 NBA Champion
  • 11x All NBA
  • 11x All Star
  • 2x scoring champion
  • 1956 rebounding champion

Big Blue is one of the greatest to play the game. A career line of 26.4 points, 16.2 (3rd all time) boards and 3 assists show how dominant Pettit was in his era. Being All NBA and an All-Star each and every year of your career is an astounding feat. It’s amazing to consider that Pettit initially ‘struggled’ – his words – to adapt to the league. A collegiate centre at LSU, Pettit’s slender 200 lb frame didn’t allow him to play as a centre in the rough and tumble of 50’s basketball. Legendary coach Red Holzman moved Pettit to the 4 – a position he’d never played – and the rest is history.

Even stepping down a position, Pettit was still quicker than most 4’s, and his fast first step and dead eye mid range jumper made up for the fact that he was an ordinary ball handler; a quick one or two dribble move was all Pettit needed to get his jumper away. An excellent leaper, Pettit was too quick and athletic to keep off the boards. He also had a nose for the ball, often finding himself in the right place at the right time through sheer anticipation.

The Celtics famously acquired Bill Russell from the Hawks before he’d played a game for the team. Whilst the haul they received supplemented Pettit enough to secure the 1958 title, it’s tantalising to think of what an all time offensive big could have achieved alongside the greatest defensive big man of them all.

Centre – Robert Parish

The Chief rounds out the P Team. The big man was renowned for his longevity, playing 4 years of college ball before making his professional debut with Golden State in 1977, and playing all the way through to 1997, where he won his 4th NBA title as a member of the Chicago Bulls. Durability aside, Parish was an outstanding basketballer, playing in 9 All Star games and winning a pair of All NBA awards in addition to his 4 titles.

Parish spent the bulk of his career with the Boston Celtics, coming over from the Warriors in one of the most notoriously lopsided trades in history. He was acquired along with the pick that became fellow Hall of Famer Kevin McHale for Joe-Barry Carroll. It’s fair to say that Boston were happy with their lot, after that transaction.

The Chief, so named because his stoic nature reminded teammates of the character from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, was as no frills as a star could be. He consistently posted mid to high teems in scoring, dragged down about 10 rebounds, and blocked a pair of shots, all while setting hard screens and banging against much thicker bodies. Parish was famously listed a 7 feet and half an inch, but was a relatively thin 230 pounds. Coming up against the likes of Ewing, Gilmore, Abdul-Jabbar and Malone for 35 minutes a night put a strain on his body. Parish was an early adopter of a vegetarian diet, yoga and martial arts to increase his flexibility, which he credits with being able to play for so long against such big bodies.

Instead of brute strength like most of the 7 feet dreadnoughts of the era, Parish played with speed and agility. He consistently finished those dynamic Celtic’s fast breaks of the 80’s, leaving his opponent in the dust. That, combined with the feathery touch of his rainbow jumper, made Parish a tough match up for centres that were used to battling in the trenches.