There are few games that have seen the commercial success of NBA Jam. In its prime, there was an NBA Jam machine in just about every arcade in America. Shaquille O’Neal was one of many NBA players who traveled with his personal machine, but us mere mortals were forced to beg our parents for quarters to play.
In a technological breakthrough of Gutenbergian proportions, NBA Jam’s arcade success enabled the game to be marketed for almost every console ever made. This allowed kids across the globe to challenge their friends for a friendly, or not so friendly, game of Jam. And thank God for that. Why would I want to struggle to play basketball in the blistering heat, when I could break backboards in air conditioning? Answer that, scientists.
Since NBA Jam is a hyper-competitive game, the best team has been debated incessantly. Try playing as the Bulls, and you’ll get verbally abused for picking an unfair squad. While arguing over which team is best fine and dandy, I have a different goal in mind. I intend to assemble an unstoppable team of NBA Jam superstars, the likes of which has never been seen. For once and for all, I intend to decide who has the know how and elbow grease to declare themselves an official member of the Unofficial NBA Jam All-Star Team. While the game only has two players per squad (three if you’re playing Tournament Edition) picking a roster from point guard to center is a lot more fun for me. My most humble apologies to President Clinton and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air himself, Will Smith, who did not make the cut.
POINT GUARD — JOHN STOCKTON, UTAH JAZZ
John Stockton played on the Utah Jazz, and only the Utah Jazz (I’m looking at you, LeBron) from 1984-2003. He had an amazing NBA career. Stockton was a 10 time NBA All-Star, Gold medal winner at the Barcelona and Atlanta Olympics, and 2 time First Team All-NBA selection. The NBA’s all time assist and steals leader was a first round draft pick out of Gonzaga, inciting a bitter debate amongst Bulldog fans over whether or not he or Adam Morrison was the better player (It’s not Morrison – ED). Stockton played his career alongside Karl Malone, but the two were never able to win an NBA title. Although they did have a great view of someone else’s greatness. Anyone else happy about the Dennis Rodman sighting?
While John’s signature short shorts didn’t translate well to the Super Nintendo, his skills on the court certainly did. Stockton combines with Karl Malone to make the Utah Jazz one of the game’s best teams, and one hell of a buddy cop movie (/Points middle and index finger to eyes, then squarely at Warner Brothers Studios).
His defense, such an underrated part of a good pixelated player, is fantastic. His swiping abilities and speed alone would make him a crucial role player. HOWEVAH, his ability to shoot from beyond the three point line is what makes him the best point guard in the game. The only fault in Stockton’s game is that he doesn’t dunk. You think that in a game called NBA Jam, everyone would be able to throw down a BOOMSHAKALAKA here and there.
SHOOTING GUARD — CLYDE DREXLER, PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
Speaking of BOOMSHAKALAKA, Clyde Drexler also had an amazing NBA career. So amazing, that he was named to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004. Clyde the Glide was selected to 10 All-Star teams, was an All-NBA First Team in 1992, and was named to the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time team. Clyde won an NBA Title in 1995 after partnering up with Phi Slamma Jamma brother Hakeem Olajuwon on the Houston Rockets. Watch, as Clyde wears his Phi Slamma Jamma letters with pride in the ’88 and ’89 dunk contests. Now, contemplate how Nate Robinson thinks he can slam harder than old school dunkers like Clyde. /Looks wistfully into scotch glass, thinking about the good ol’ days. Nate Robinson is a dick.
Clyde’s got NBA Jam skills. He’s fast, can shoot, plays solid defense, and dunks like nobody’s business. Too bad his partner in crime is Terry Porter. Do you have any idea who Terry Porter is? Neither do I. Nevertheless, Clyde is still deserving as a member of the Unofficial All-Star team. Even if he wasn’t, he could make the team because of his nickname alone.
SMALL FORWARD — SCOTTIE PIPPEN, CHICAGO BULLS
While Scottie Pippen has always been known as Michael Jordan’s #2 (hehe, number two), he played some great basketball throughout his career. Scottie was a three time All-NBA First Team Selection, a seven time NBA All-Star, and eight time NBA All-Defense First Team selection. Pippen was drafted out of Central Arkansas with the fifth overall pick in the 1987 NBA Draft by the Seattle Supersonics. He was then subsequently traded to the Chicago Bulls for Olden Polynice in one of the most hilarious NBA Draft Day trades of all time. Pippen was arguably one of the greatest defenders of all time, and went on to win six NBA titles with Chicago, while Olden Polynice still remains the only player in league history with the last name Polynice.
While NBA Jam developers were unable to have Michael Jordan’s pixelated likeness in the game due to licensing issues, The Bulls do fine with Pippen and the Rec Spec-wearing Horace Grant. Pippen has all of the NBA Jam intangibles: he’s quick, shoots the 3, plays great defense, and is a dunk artist (AHH-teast). While the Bulls are the best rated team in the game, they have a tendency to choke in the clutch. Care to explain yourself, NBA Jam lead designer Mark Turmell?
Did Scottie Pippen’s ratings in the game really drop when he played certain teams?
It’s true, but only when the Bulls played the Pistons. If there was a close game and anyone on the Bulls took a last second shot, we wrote special code in the game so that they would average out to be bricks. There was the big competition back in the day between the Pistons and the Bulls, and since I was always a big Pistons fan, that was my opportunity to level the playing field. –The Gamer Blog
That’s some pretty hardcore fandom, Mark. Too bad the Pistons are going to be awful in the 2010 version of the game (Charlie Villanueva is destined to be the 2010 version of Brad Lohaus). Still, Scottie may have been the #2 player (there it is again) on the real life Bulls, but, despite programmer tampering, was the #1 player in NBA Jam.
POWER FORWARD — CHARLES BARKLEY, PHOENIX SUNS
What’s there to say that hasn’t already been said about the Round Mound of Rebound? Charles made his name in the basketball world while not being a role model for the Philadelphia 76ers and Phoenix Suns. Charles never did win an NBA title, the closest he got was losing to Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen’s Bulls in the 1993 Finals. Nevertheless, Sir Charles is worthy of his spot in the Hall of Fame. Barkley was the MVP of the 1993 season, an 11 time NBA All-Star, and a 5 time All-NBA First Team selection.
Charles has had his share of difficulties with the law since he retired. He was arrested for DUI on New Year’s Ever 2008. The best part? He had a prostitute riding shotgun, and told police that he was trying to get a blow job from her. Classic Charles. Nothing’s worse than being c*ck blocked by the 5-0. Lucky for us, he was able to keep his job at TNT despite spending a day in jail for his shenanigans. Then we wouldn’t have comedic gold like this.
I’ve referred to Charles as the Round Mound of Rebound, an attribute that’s hard to translate into NBA Jam. That being said, Charles is still one of the most powerful players in the game. Despite being slow as molasses in January, his shoving abilities are second to none, and he can throw down some serious dunks. In NBA Jam, Charles is teamed up with Kevin Johnson, the current mayor of Sacramento. Put together, the two make a talented tandem that’s hard to beat. (Note – Barkley is only in some of the games sold for Super Nintendo due to licensing issues)
CENTER — HAKEEM OLAJUWON, HOUSTON ROCKETS
Few players in the NBA have been as dominant as Hakeem ‘The Dream’ Olajuwon. At 7’0 tall, his shots were impossible to block, and his powerful dunks were matched by few in the history of basketball. The Dream was the MVP of the 1994 NBA Finals, and was able to repeat as an NBA Champion and Finals MVP in 1995, when college teammate Clyde Drexler came to Houston from Portland. Olajuwon won the league MVP award for the regular season in 1994, was a 12 time NBA All-Star, a six time All-NBA First Team selection, and won the Defensive POY in 1993 and 1994. Needless to say, Hakeem is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame.
As the 10 minute highlight reel will suggest, the native Nigerian was an incredible dunker and shot blocker, even by NBA Jam standards. Despite being teamed up with Vernon Maxwell, whose style of play isn’t friendly to NBA Jam, Hakeem was able to be enough of a presence by himself. Hakeem the Dream was able to bully anybody on the court with his huge shoves, backboard shattering dunks, and shot-blocking-that-should-have-been-called-goaltending ability. He wasn’t a very good shooter, but who needs shooting when you can dunk from the three point line?
Patrick Ewing, Center, New York Knicks
David Robinson, Center, San Antonio Spurs
Karl Malone, Power Forward, Utah Jazz
Reggie Miller, Shooting Guard, Indiana Pacers
Shawn Kemp, Power Forward, Seattle Supersonics
Isiah Thomas, Point Guard, Detroit Pistons
Chris Mullin, Small Forward, Golden State Warriors
The Super Nintendo version of NBA Jam has proven to be so timeless that EA has decided to devlop the game for PS3, Xbox 360, and Nintendo Wii. Here’s a trailer for the Wii version, scheduled for an October 5th release.