Stephen Curry was just named Sports Illustrated's 2022 Sportsperson of the Year, and during his conversation with SI he was asked to put together his all-time starting lineup. There was one stipulation: Curry had to include himself, which isn't really a stretch as it is getting harder and harder to make a case for anyone else as the greatest point guard ever.
"I'm at PG, I'm going with Magic [Johnson], we'll play hybrid guards," Curry told SI. "You got [Michael] Jordan, you got Dirk [Nowitzki] spacing the floor, shooting the ball, and you got the big man, the Diesel [Shaquille O'Neal], holding it down. So, that's a solid lineup I think."
Curry threw together this dream starting five on the fly, so let's not put a ton into this, but it is notable that he left LeBron James off. Trivial as this is, I can't imagine LeBron doesn't take it as a slight. Curry and LeBron are the faces of this post-Jordan era. Nobody else is in competition with either, and there's a strong case to be made that LeBron is the greatest player ever.
Curry's lineup does fit pretty well, which is the only way you could even begin to justify Nowitzki over James for the spacing alone, but even in that case I don't know how you can take Dirk over Larry Bird or Kevin Durant, who was another slight as a former teammate of Curry. If you want a traditional center, I would take Tim Duncan (don't start with the "he was a power forward!" semantics), but Shaq surely deserves this kind of recognition.
The one you just can't justify is Magic Johnson over LeBron, who is basically a bigger, stronger, faster, more athletic, better scoring, better-shooting and better-defending version of Magic. There is only one thing on a basketball court that Magic Johnson arguably did better than James, and that's passing, and LeBron is an all-time passer himself. Anyone who would take Magic over LeBron is living in a nostalgic dreamland.
A Curry-Jordan backcourt with LeBron as a point forward is pretty irrefutably the best perimeter trio you could ever form. From there, you can debate the fourth and fifth players. But leaving LeBron off any all-time starting five, even one listed off the top of your head, is impossible to justify.