When I was a child, I played the original NBA Jam for years. As a collegian, my roommates and I used to project NBA Jam Tournament Edition onto a wall and have long, trash-talk-fueled battles that we took much too seriously.
So I consider myself something of an expert. And while I have no Wii, I have become very interested in the new incarnation of NBA Jam, which hits stores in about a month. Which players would be picked to represent their teams? And how would a game whose reputation is mostly built on nostalgia update itself for a new generation of consoles?
Today, Marc Stein unveiled the rosters for the East, and I have to say I’m quite disappointed. In many cases, teams have four current players instead of the assumed three, due to what’s described as fan voting that’s too close to call. If you’re going to do fan voting, EA Sports, then at least treat its results with respect instead of creating a competitive imbalance. The same critique goes for the legends and mascots, which often leave teams with a lack of history shorthanded.
Still, it’s early September, and this is all there is to talk about in the NBA world. So look below for my thoughts on the rosters. Just keep in mind that in a game where the goal is to catch on fire as soon as possible, shotblockers (including goaltending, unless EA has bastardized that part of the game, too) and fast guys who can push are the most valuable players in the game. This game is not one with dazzling dunks, but with brute force.
Players: Joe Johnson, Josh Smith and Mike Bibby
Legends: Dominique Wilkins and Spud Webb
Somehow, Mike Bibby made it in ahead of Al Horford, who would have made Atlanta the best team in the game while teaming with Josh Smith. With this lineup, though, they are quite formidable with JJ’s outside shooting and Smith’s defensive abilities. Much will depend on his strength rating.
Players: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen
Legends: Larry Bird and Kevin McHale
Garnett figures to be one of the best players in the game; his reputation will result in overrated strength and shot-blocking stats even though he’s lost a step on the non-virtual court. Rondo figures to be relatively useless with his lack of shooting, although he will probably have a top speed rating. The legends will be formidable as both Bird and McHale figure to have comically high speed and strength ratings. This version of NBA Jam lacks the original’s casually racist preponderance of white players, but you can safely bet that the ones who are involved will all be excellent players.
Players: Gerald Wallace, Stephen Jackson and Tyrus Thomas
Mascot: Rufus Lynx
Stephen Jackson will be decidedly average in most categories, but you can bet that Tyrus Thomas will be one of the most underrated players with decent strength, speed, and blocking stats. Gerald should also be formidable, although they will likely not have enough pure power to be one of the better teams. Still, expect a solid squad. No legends, but Rufus Lynx certainly fits in with the game’s approach to race relations.
Players: Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer
Legends: Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman
The Boozer/Noah combo is potentially one of the best teams in the game, although one of them probably wouldn’t be here if not for EA’s imbalanced rosters. Regardless, that’s a team with enough speed and strength to dominate proceedings once they catch fire. Rose will be incredibly fast and an excellent dunker, and therefore an excellent third component. As for the legends, Rodman will shockingly be better than Pippen, due to the fact that all-purpose swingman usually don’t do one thing well enough to dominate any aspect of competition.
Players: Mo Williams, Antawn Jamison and Anderson Varejao
Legends: Mark Price and Brad Daugherty
As in reality, the Cavs miss LeBron James. Varejao should be a capable enforcer, but neither Jamison nor Williams will provide enough offensive punch to carry the team when not on fire.
Players: Richard Hamilton, Rodney Stuckey, Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon
Legends: Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer
If any team deserves four players, it’s the Pistons, whose total lack of height among their “stars” demands the involvement of someone like Villanueva. He will likely have too-high strength stats to compensate, but it shouldn’t make a difference. Still, this team could do damage if you want to go crazy and just take threes every possession.
Players: Danny Granger, Mike Dunleavy and T.J. Ford
Legend: Detlef Schrempf
Pity Danny Granger, who would be part of one of the best teams in the game if he had a moderately fast big man to team with. Instead, he’ll be left to do everything — including hoist numerous threes — with two weaklings in Dunleavy and Ford. If EA could have acquired the rights to Miller, he and Schrempf would be one of the better legends teams due to Detlef’s shocking greatness in every category in the game. (Note: One of my friends list Schrempf as his favorite player based entirely on NBA Jam. He has never seen him play a real game.)
Players: Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh
Legends: Glen Rice and Rony Seikaly
Forget Wade, LeBron and Bosh is the real power duo here — that’s an insane combo of shot-blocking, strength, and dunking. LeBron is probably going to be the best video game basketball player of all-time here, so much so that EA will probably have to artificially alter his shooting just to make games competitive.
Players: Michael Redd, Andrew Bogut, Brandon Jennings and Corey Maggette
Mascot: Bango The Buck
Don’t ask me why EA felt the need to include Michael Redd or Corey Maggette here — I suppose Redd did well in fan voting, but in that case there’s no need to add Maggette. Bogut will be excellent, if a little slow, and Jennings should be one of the faster players in the game to create a nice squad. I am eternally upset that none of the Todd Day/Lee Mayberry/Brad Lohaus troika is involved as a legend — that was always the funniest trio in the original incarnations of the game.
New Jersey Nets
Players: Devin Harris, Brook Lopez and Courtney Lee
Legends: Kenny Anderson and Drazen Petrovic
Brook Lopez will be too slow for his shot-blocking and strength to make much of a difference, and Courtney Lee isn’t even on the team anymore. With Troy Murphy’s strength and shooting, this would be a good team. Bonus points for exposing Drazen to fans who probably never got to see him play, but the fact of the matter is that Anderson and Derrick Coleman was a superior Jam squad.
New York Knicks
Players: Al Harrington, Danilo Gallinari and Amare Stoudemire
Legends: Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson and John Starks
I have no problem with the current players, although it’s odd that Harrington is involved when it was always clear he wasn’t returning to the team for 2010-11. The inclusion of Larry Johnson is a disaster, though, because he and Alonzo Mourning were one of the best teams in the original version. Saying that NBA Jam LJ is a Knick is the clearest sign that the game’s designers have no idea what they’re doing.
Players: Dwight Howard, Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis
Legends: Nick Anderson and Scott Skiles
Howard will be one of the best players in the game unless EA acts like he’s slow, which he obviously isn’t. Plus, Vince Carter should be overrated based on his reputation, and Rashard Lewis might be strong just because he’s tall. Watch out for this group.
Players: Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand and Evan Turner
Legends: Julius Erving and Allen Iverson
I don’t care about the current squad — those legends will be extremely fun to play with. Erving should be a master finisher, and Iverson will get pushed around but will be a terror on offense. I’m not sure how they’ll get on fire, but it’ll be fun to play with them.
Players: DeMar DeRozan, Jarrett Jack and Andrea Bargnani
Mascot: The Raptor
Almost as depressing as the real Raptors. Perhaps the mascot can help by mimicking the departed Bosh’s abilities.
Players: Yi Jianlian, Andray Blatche, Gilbert Arenas and John Wall
Legend: Manute Bol
A dark horse to be one of the best teams in the game. Yi is tall and should have some strength and blocking ability — the same should go for Blatche. Arenas and Wall will be fast with some shooting, which means that they’ll be able to play various styles. G-Wiz is so goofy looking that it will be fun to see him on the court.
Stein says he’ll unveil the West rosters next Tuesday. I’ll have another post.