For sports fanatics, a lifetime can be spent debating the greatest athletes in history. Due to the world’s increasing obsession with food over the last few years, eaters have come to think of their favorite restaurants in a competitive sense, too.
With so much competition in the fast food industry especially, brands are competing on every level in an attempt to gain supremacy.
If fast food chains were NBA legends, which brands would make the starting lineup?
Based on a list of 27 major fast food chains in the United States and the greatest NBA players of all time, FOODBEAST Managing Editor Reach, Co-founder Elie, and I discussed our ideal fast food starting lineups during The Katchup Podcast.
Without looking at sales figures, or locations, here’s who made our squad.
Taco Bell — Steph Curry, Point Guard
Steph Curry Facebook/@VegasDining (Instagram)
Steph Curry recently became the NBA’s highest paid player ever after signing a $201 million contract. He is considered one of the league’s most talented shooters with the ability to score anywhere on the court. Some may even say he’s the greatest shooter of all time.
Like Curry, Taco Bell isn’t afraid to shoot. And as of late, The Bell has been doing a lot of shooting from long range — and scoring. Having developed cantinas and full-service weddings in Las Vegas, Taco Bell innovation has extended far beyond food.
Still, with current releases like the Naked Chicken Chips and the Naked Chicken Chalupa, it shows Taco Bell isn’t afraid to stand by items that don’t necessarily fit under the traditional Taco Bell umbrella.
Additionally, in 2016, after lowering sodium levels across the menu, it was reported that Taco Bell had become one of America’s healthiest fast food chains. In terms of, “fast food goals,” Taco Bell is leading the way.
Notable accolades: 2x NBA Champion, 2x Regular Season MVP
McDonald’s — Michael Jordan, Shooting Guard
Like it or not, the fast food industry wouldn’t be what it is today without McDonald’s. The same could be said about the game of basketball and Michael Jordan — who many consider to be the greatest basketball player of all time.
Let’s face it, considering its long standing reputation, the iconic golden arches logo and a 62-year history of serving billions of people around the globe, McDonald’s has to be THE role model for all fast food past and present.
Michael Jordan is the McDonald’s of basketball, the player that perfected a style so original, some of the greatest players — LeBron James, Kobe Bryant — have molded their games after him, from the way they wear their uniforms to how they play the game.
Additionally, like McDonald’s golden arches, the Air Jordan “Jumpman” logo, is a simple, yet highly recognizable logo around the world that has served billions of sneaker and fashion fanatics. McDonald’s may even be taking a page out of the Jumpman book now that it’s started bottling its Big Mac, Filet-O-Fish, and McChicken MacPoulet sauces.
Although some may say that the pinnacle of McDonald’s (and Jordan’s) hype has already run its course, both brands are still highly relevant, and have single-handedly become global models for success — characteristics that will probably not fade anytime soon.
Notable accolades: 6x NBA Champion, 5x Regular Season MVP, 6x NBA Finals MVP
Shake Shack — LeBron James, Small Forward
LeBron James Facebook/@ShakeShack (Instagram)
Both versatile favorites, Shake Shack and LeBron James have plenty of similarities. James made his NBA debut in 2003, while Shake Shack was founded in 2004.
Shake Shack’s early hype made it comparable to In-N-Out, as the hype surrounding LBJ made him comparable to Kobe.
Despite a 3-5 record in the NBA Finals, there’s no arguing that LeBron is the best small forward to ever play the game, and his career is far from over. In terms of fast food, Shake Shack is still the new kid on the block, with plenty of time to prove its dominance. In fact, it’s only been on the West Coast for a year — and is already becoming a California favorite.
Touching back on the aspect of versatility, Shake Shack is more than just cheeseburgers and fries — as James is much more than just a small forward. Specializing in hot dogs, chicken, desserts — even serving alcohol — Shake Shake can do it all.
As for LBJ, his high basketball IQ enables him to play any position on the floor, while still maintaining his role as a leader and one of the game’s most influential players.
Ultimately, it makes sense that Shake Shack is the most versatile player in the fast food game.
Notable accolades: 3x NBA Champion, 3x Olympic Gold Medalist, 3x NBA Finals MVP, 4x Regular Season MVP
Chick-Fil-A — Tim Duncan, Power Forward
Despite serving fantastic fried chicken, Chick-Fil-A is a bit boring, yet it is known for being fundamentally sound. The same can be said for long time San Antonio Spurs star Tim Duncan.
Known as “The Big Fundamental,” Tim Duncan was one of the most conservative players on and off the court. Duncan was never in headlines with bad publicity, or spoke out of line when it came to interviews — but perhaps could have done more to improve his brand as a player.
Chick-Fil-A finds itself in the same quandary. Operating under a very conservative business model, if Chick-Fil-A functioned on the 7-day week, perhaps it could shed that conservative reputation and stand out in the crowd a bit more.
Notable accolades: 5x NBA Champion, 3x NBA Finals MVP, 2x Regular Season MVP
Starbucks Coffee — Shaquille O’Neal, Center
Shaquille O’ Neal Facebook/@Phambot
If there is one fast food brand that dominates the competition, it’s Starbucks. No matter where you are, there’s a Starbucks location nearby.
The “Starbucks” name alone has become synonymous with coffee around the world — and that’s not going to change anytime soon.
If there’s one NBA player known for dominating the competition — it’s Shaquille O’Neal. Also known as The Big Aristotle, Shaq Diesel, and The Big Shaqtus, the 7′ 1″ center had enough nicknames for every drink on the Starbuck’s menu.
Shaq was known for his big, bold, in-your-face personality, along with his tendency to change teams — like Starbuck’s locations, Shaq played everywhere.
Notable accolades: 4x NBA Champion, 3x NBA Finals MVP, 12x All-Star, 1x Regular Season MVP
In-N-Out — Kobe Bryant, Shooting Guard (6th man)
In-N-Out has built a gold-plated legacy for itself on the West Coast. Still, regardless of where you live, there are people on the East or West Coast who consider In-N-Out to be the greatest fast food cheeseburger of all time.
Kobe could be the greatest basketball player of all time.
Thanks to his undying loyalty to the West Coast, five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant played 20 seasons wearing Los Angeles Laker purple and gold, and never took his career anywhere else. Another reason the Kobe/In-N-Out analogy works is that In-N-Out has addressed it’s West Coast bias, and will never set up shop on the East Coast, in order to have flawless quality control.
Thank you In-N-Out and Kobe for the California love.
Notable accolades: 5x NBA Champion, 2x Olympic Gold Medalist, 2x NBA Finals MVP, 1x Regular Season MVP
Chipotle — Kevin Durant, Small Forward
When Chipotle first hit the market, everyone was excited to try this seemingly healthy and convenient form of Americanized Mexican food. However, Chipotle quickly became the enemy after their noro-virus outbreak, which it may never recover from.
Kevin Durant became the bad guy once he moved from the Oklahoma City Thunder, choosing the 73-9 Golden State Warriors, causing folks to turn on him in similar fashion to how consumers turned on Chipotle.
Subway — Jason Kidd, Point Guard
Jason Kidd Facebook/FOODBEAST
Subway was the poster child of healthy eating. However, as the businesses aged, its reputation became tarnished with bad publicity.
Subway’s decline started when news that their bread contained a chemical that was found in yoga mats. Things only got worse for the sandwich giant when its long time spokesperson, Jared Fogle, was convicted of sexually assaulting minors.
Subway might never be the same.
Jason Kidd was one of the greatest point guards of all time, whose reputation was later tarnished with allegations of spousal abuse. A few years ago, Kidd was fined for purposely spilling ice on the floor, during a game no less, in an attempt to gain extra time.
Sonic — Dennis Rodman, Power Forward
Dennis Rodman Facebook/@sonicdriveinoftonganoxie
Both Sonic and Dennis Rodman operate on a different level.
Known as, “The Worm,” Rodman’s on-court antics were some of the most vibrant in the game. Usually found sporting multi-colored hair, painted fingernails, piercings, and tattoos, all of which helped the rebound king stand out in every way. Rodman’s fiery personality was encapsulated in his aggressive and freakish talent as a basketball player.
Considering Sonic’s “Drive-In” concept, a robust variety of different multi-colored slushes and its vast array of hot dogs, burgers, and fried chicken, Sonic can easily be considered the Rodman of the fast food industry — never afraid to do things differently.
It’s also no secret Rodman was the life of the party, The Los Angeles Times reported the Huntington Beach Police Department visited Rodman’s Beach house 80 times in the summer of 2004.
Domino’s Pizza — Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Point Guard
Magic Johnson Facebook/FOODBEAST
Probably the best passer the game of basketball has ever seen, Magic Johnson perfected the “no-look” pass along with other one-of-a-kind methods of delivering the ball to his teammates, and is considered to be one of the greatest Lakers to ever sport the purple and gold.
It may not seem obvious, but considering the digital reach of Domino’s Pizza, it also might have perfected the art of dazzling and creative delivery, too. Over the past few years, Domino’s has digitalized their delivery methods, and provided customers with an ease of access to their favorite slice of pie, simply by sending an emoji.
Another game-changing innovation from Domino’s is the Pizza Tracker application. The Pizza Tracker is a platform that allows patrons to watch their order come to life, even allows customers choose a kitchen theme and name their own digital chef. Lately, it seems like Domino’s is a tech company, that just happens to make pizzas.
By increasing it’s digital platform to more than 50 percent of its business, Domino’s uprooted Pizza Hut as America’s favorite pizza company. Until Pizza Hut learns to play with the big boys, it’s stuck in the D-League.
Who do you think should make the squad?