Is 1996 best draft class ever?

Nash and Kobe's class has more rings than Jordan's '84 class, but is it better?

Updated: October 11, 2012, 1:20 PM ET
By Chris Palmer | ESPN the Magazine
Kobe Bryant & Steve NashGetty ImagesKobe Bryant and Steve Nash's 1996 draft class owns the most championship rings of any draft.

The Los Angeles Lakers' size and length will be a key factor and a significant advantage in their quest for a 17th NBA championship. After all, having big, talented bodies up front has been a formula that's served them well.

But another equally important weapon in their arsenal that few teams can match is experience and intelligence. The backcourt of Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant has a combined 32 years of NBA experience (2,313 games) and arguably has the highest basketball IQ of any guard duo in the league. That experience should serve them well late into the playoffs as they face younger, more athletic teams.

Both Bryant and Nash represent a bit of an odd trend that figures to shape the race to the 2013 title. Several members of the 1996 draft class -- heading into their 17th NBA seasons -- are expected to play significant roles and breathe life into several title contenders. Along with Bryant and Nash in L.A., Ray Allen, the league's all-time leading 3-point shooter, solidifies a Miami Heat bench that was less than reliable last season. Plus, the New York Knicks brought in former Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Camby to beef up their front line.

With remarkable longevity, the '96 draft class continues to have a major impact on the NBA. But where does it rank historically? With Bryant, Nash, Allen, Camby and a host of other highly decorated players who have already retired, is the '96 draft class the best ever?

Chris Palmer

ESPN the Magazine