Almost every player has gone on the record to declare that their championship squad is better than any other team. For Robert Horry, his 2001 Los Angeles Lakers, which went on a three-peat run in the early 2000s, was the best team in basketball.
It's hard to blame Horry for thinking this way. After all, this team had a young emerging star in Kobe Bryant, a dominant Shaquille O'Neal in his prime, alongside integral role players who were stars in their roles. But is this squad really better than the greatest regular-season team of all time?
For Horry, it's a yes!
According to the 7-time champion, the 2001 Lakers would defeat the 2017 Golden State Warriors that featured Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. Why? Because Horry believes O'Neal's dominant presence alone would swing the series.
If the 2001 Lakers and 2017 Warriors did theoretically match up, that would be a battle of the arguably greatest offense of all-time against the most dominant duo in NBA history. Not to mention that head coach Phil Jackson would go up against his beloved former point guard Steve Kerr.
If you judged the numbers, the 2001 Lakers had the second-best offensive rating (108.4) in the league during their time, thanks to their iconic triangle offense. On the defensive side, they were surprisingly mediocre with a 104.8 rating, which ranked 21st in the NBA. But, as it has always been in Lakers' history, two great superstars carried the 2001 Lakers to a championship alongside integral role players like Horry.
On the other end, the Warriors' motion offense and defensive dominance were at their peak in 2017 when they led the league in offensive rating (115.6) and were second best in defensive rating (104.0). To say that this team was unbeatable was an understatement. Headlined by four All-Stars, the Warriors were the kings of the NBA for a reason. The only thing that could stop them was injuries.
How much of a difference would Shaq make?
To go back to Horry's point, O'Neal would be the biggest weapon of the 2001 Lakers if they were to match up against the 2017 Warriors. If you think about it, that makes sense, given that the Warriors' small-ball lineup doesn't feature a dominant force inside the paint. O'Neal would surely make his presence felt and, according to Horry, get everyone in foul trouble.
But what Horry probably may not have thought about is the fact that the Warriors could easily play Shaq into a drop coverage, manipulate the Lakers' 21st ranked defense, and get their shooters open or inside the paint — what they always did best.
Remember, this Warriors team toyed with every defense that came their way as Durant and Curry got the best looks they've probably seen in their lives. But also, there was no defense to stop O'Neal's physical presence and Bryant's lethal scoring.
At the end of the day, nobody knows which team will beat the other. We only have stats and film to prove our hypothetical arguments, but it's hard to blame Horry for thinking that the best dynasty he won a championship with reigns supreme over anyone else's.