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Day 38: Best & Worst of NBA Jam’s New Roster

September 15, 2010

It is all together fair and accurate for me to claim that a good portion of my digital childhood was spent around the elbow of NBA Jam’s 3-point line: the “Hot Spot” where you end up with the best chance of hitting the trey.

The game itself was influential in wonderful ways outside of its outward appearance as a mere sports game.  I’d go so far to consider it the first great co-op video game in history.  It calculated how open a man was before letting you know how likely you were to make a shot as a percentage.  It introduced a new generation to the Beastie Boys, Bob Dole and George Clinton from Parliament Funkadelic…as playable unlockable ballers.  It featured the generation of pro basketball players many still consider the strongest roster in league history even while replacing Michael Jordan with Horace Grant’s goggles.

When Electronic Arts went forward with plans to remake and update the game, visions of untapped potential dances in the daydreams of nostalgists.  The modern player was excited by the ramification of the maddening free agent carousel this off-season.  Developers attempted to sweeten the deal by adding select “legends” to each team.  Of course, not all teams were lucky enough to make such illustrious additions to the roster and had to settle for their current mascot.

When the list was released on Kotaku yesterday, there were some remarkable combinations and glaring omissions missing from the final selection.  Keep in mind that when you play the game, you select two of your team’s players to participate in a round.

Best overall roster – Boston Celtics

Not only do you get to choose from the Big Four of Garnett, Pierce, Rondo and Allen, you also have the option of going with Larry Bird and Kevin McHale.  Five current or potential HOFers to choose from.

Worst overall roster – Toronto Raptors

Burdened by a smaller selection involving only three active players (DeMar DeRozan, Jarrett Jack and Andrea Bargnani) and their mascot…”The Raptor”.  When you play through the traditional ladder mode, these guys will probably be the first team you play.

Team with best current players and worst legends – Miami Heat

This isn’t even a matter of true contrast.  The Heat just inked the NWO this summer. 

Their legends?  Glen Rice and Rony Seikaly.  Rice was a solid player but hardly a “legend” outside of the franchise office.  Seikaly deserves legendary status for shacking up with SI Swimsuit cover model Elsa Benitez, but that’s about all.  You’ll never play as either Rice or Seikaly.

Team with worst current players and best legends – TIE, Philadelphia 76ers and Detroit Pistons

The Sixers give you the choice of Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand, Evan Turner…before dropping DR. J on you.  You’ve also got the chance to go with Allen Iverson…and this part irks me for a reason I’ll get into later.  Detroit throws you back with the Bad Boys of Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer alongside Rip Hamilton, Rodney Stuckey, Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon.

Best legend: Magic Johnson

A ton of you will go with the Lakers just to go for likely the best combo in the game: Kobe & Magic.  Worthy’s in there for the Lakers as well, but that combo of 24 & 32 is hands down the top duo to put together.

Worst legend: Bryant “Big Country” Reeves

Some teams that have recently moved lost their franchise history, which is why many of the old Seattle Supersonics are either omitted from the game (Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp) or placed on another where they featured less prominently (Detlef Schrempf with Indiana) rather than be attached to Oklahoma City.  The other teams that kept the team name, logo and like were allowed to co-opt the old town’s stars such as New Orleans did with Charlotte’s Larry Johnson.  When the Grizz moved from Vancouver to Memphis, they gained nothing and left nothing…except the legend of the big pasty doof.

Worst legend omissions – I’m not going to fault NBA Jam for not including Michael Jordan.  He wasn’t in the original and EA doesn’t have his license since he hasn’t been a member of the player’s association for almost 20 years.  Other players who were in the original, or who would have made a terrific addition, are inexcusable.

1) Charles Barkley.  What makes this frustrating is that you could have placed him with a couple of teams ahead of other choices (Philadelphia or Phoenix, who boasts Dan Majerle and Kevin Johnson).

2) Shaquille O’Neal.  You WOULDN’T pick the Monster?  I understand he’s the odd-man out on a loaded Celtics roster but there wouldn’t be a place for Young Beast Crewcut Kazaam “Shaq-Fu Era” Shaq as an Orlando Magic legend?  I’ll say this though: players of the original will appreciate the reliable duo of Nick Anderson and Scott Skiles.

3) Reggie Miller.  As much as I hated the dude as a Knicks fan, if you went with Reggie and caught fire it was Game Over.  Absolutely NO excuse for the omission; Detlef Schrempf is a greater Indiana "LEGEND” than Miller?!  Ferchrissakes, RIK SMITS was a greater Pacers legend than Detlef.

4) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.  One of the biggest beefs hoops historians will have with the selections is that they do not go beyond the late 80s-early 90s generation of NBA alumni.  It’d have been fascinating to throw in guys like Bill Russell, Oscar Robertson or Pete Maravich into a project like this.  Abdul-Jabbar’s the one that stands out since he could have been placed on any number of rosters.  Aside from replacing James Worthy on the Lakers roster, you could also have entered him in with the Milwaukee Bucks, where he was a three-time league MVP and an NBA Finals MVP.  Same goes for Wilt Chamberlain and a spot as a Warriors legend ahead of Tim Hardaway.

Go check out the full roster on Kotaku; any other significant names missing?

DR

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One Comment
  1. Brendan permalink
    September 15, 2010 12:19 AM

    Skiles is a Jam legend. Deadly.

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