Between the February 23rd trade deadline, and this weekend’s NBA All-Star festivities, it’s hard to argue against this being the best time of the year for hoops fans. The NBA is giving you a little bit of everything — a never-ending flow of baseless trade rumors to argue with your friends over, a bunch of silly-yet-unimportant basketball related competitions between the best basketball players on the planet, and a meaningless All-Star Game we will all watch just to see how Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook coexist following all of their recent drama. Basketball is the best.
In the spirit of tradition, we thought it’d be a fun idea to put together some sort of All-Star weekend related simulation in NBA 2K17. Lord knows we’ve done plenty of these, and for the most part, something usually happens. Ride the hot hand, right? Shoot your shot, right?
But if the real-life NBA All-Star game is mostly boring outside of the occasional beef (we’re praying something happens between Durant and Westbrook reminiscent of the infamous Michael Jordan – Isiah Thomas freeze out in ’85), how could we give an All-Star related simulation some kind of new hook? How could we manufacture our own kind of drama? This is no small task.
What if we took the best basketball players of the ‘90s and pitted them up against the best basketball players of today? Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James? Shaquille O’Neal vs. DeMarcus Cousins? Klay Thompson vs. Reggie Miller? Kevin Durant vs. Scottie Pippen? Russell Westbrook vs. Gary Payton? Karl Malone vs. Anthony Davis? Yeah, that’ll do it. We’re here for that.
Let’s address the big elephant in the room right off the bat. The rosters. Someone is bound to have a beef with our selected 13 best NBA players of 2017 and the 13 best NBA players of the ‘90s. Who died and made UPROXX the judge of basketball talent, you ask? No one, that’s who.
I determined each roster by a pretty simple and unscientific formula. For the 2017 team, I took the 10 All-Star starters voted in by YOU, the fan, so blame yourself for that one. For the three roster spots remaining, I selected the most culturally relevant NBA players out of the 2017 All-Star reserves. Sure, that is subjective, but we are in the pageview business, so DeMarcus Cousins, Russell Westbrook, and Klay Thompson get the nod here. To the rest of the 2017 All-Star team, I’m sorry. Find yourself in the middle of more drama, and you could make the squad next year.
- PG Russell Westbrook
- PG James Harden
- PG Kyrie Irving
- SG Jimmy Butler
- SG DeMar DeRozen
- SG Klay Thompson
- SF LeBron James
- SF Kawhi Leonard
- SF Kevin Durant
- SF Giannis Antetokounmpo
- PF Anthony Davis
- C DeMarcus Cousins
For team ‘90s, I based the roster off poll results the NBA ran trying to determine their own All-90s squad, so you literally can’t blame me.
- PG John Stockton
- SG Michael Jordan
- SG Reggie Miller
- SF Scottie Pippen
- SF Dominique Wilkins
- SF Grant Hill
- PF Karl Malone
- PF Dennis Rodman
- PF Charles Barkley
- C Hakeem Olajuwon
- C Shaquille O’Neal
- C David Robinson
The smaller elephant in the room is the fact that the 2017 team is stuck in Cleveland Cavaliers jerseys, while the All-’90s squad is stuck in Chicago Bulls jerseys. I’ve done an excellent job shifting the blame of anything that could go wrong here over to other people so I will take this opportunity to do that again. NBA 2K17 doesn’t allow you to edit All-Star rosters, so I had to put all of these wonderful basketball players on a current NBA team for any of this to work. It just made too much sense to have ‘Team 2017’ captained by LeBron James on the Cleveland Cavaliers, and ‘Team ‘90s’ captained by Michael Jordan on the Chicago Bulls.
Okay, now that we’ve got all that minutiae out of the way, let’s get to the simulation. How do the best NBA players of 2017 stack up against the best NBA players of the ‘90s? You’re about to find out.
Pardon the NBA cliche, but professional basketball has gotten considerably smaller since the 1990s. I had to do some starting lineup fudging for ‘Team 2017’ and toss DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis in with the starters, because if I know anything about NBA 2K17, it’s that big men dominate the paint, and if I stuck Davis and, say, Kawhi Leonard out there against Shaq and Karl Malone, it would not have gone well for the 2017ers.
It turns out Shaq was still pretty damn unstoppable. Back-to-back And 1’s.
While ‘Team ’90s’ utilized their strength inside, ‘Team 2017’ showed some of their patented length, athleticism, and versatility when Kevin Durant picked up John Stockton on a switch and blocked his shot leading to a fast break dunk and a ‘Team ’90s’ timeout.
The ‘All-90s’ carried a healthy 37-22 lead into the second quarter essentially doing what every NBA pundit would predict an accumulation of ’90s basketball talent would do to a team made up of 2017’s best ballers — pounding the paint.
The ability to bring Hakeem Olajuwon off the bench to replace Shaquille O’Neal, particularly against a team that is going to struggle with size, is criminally unfair.
Let’s take a moment to check in on how James Harden is doing defending Michael Jordan.
The ‘All-90s’ strolled into halftime with a comfortable 68-47 lead, and I thought this thing was over. Thought. But like the NBA in 2017, no lead is safe.
The second half got off to a pretty tame start, all things considered. The ‘All-90s’ were cruising right along with the same kind of beat-em-up offense that got them to this point until the end of the third quarter when ‘Team 2017’ started to find their range. Three-point barrage incoming.
The 2017 All-Stars took what was a 21-point deficit at the half and turned it into a salvageable 89-72 ‘All-90s’ lead heading into the 4th.
James Harden happened.
Anthony Davis followed up James Harden’s incredible run with a tough bucket inside, and just like that, 107-104 – the 2017 All-Stars brought themselves all the way back to within 3. Kind of incredible, in a fake video game simulation kind of way.
Unfortunately for ‘Team 2017’, Michael Jordan swiftly shut the door on their comeback. That was as close as they would ever get to pulling off the miraculous upset.
Final Score: All-90s 117, Team 2017 110
I have to give NBA 2K17 some serious props here for how accurately they portrayed the pros and cons of each era. Just take a look at that shot chart. It’s a simplistic way of viewing said-eras, sure, but having the 2017 All-Stars do a significant amount of their damage from the perimeter while the ‘All-90s’ dominated in the paint and the glass really fits the where the NBA has gone over the past decade.
The truth is, the 2017 NBA All-Stars were at a severe disadvantage. An entire decade vs. one season of All-Stars is not what I would consider a fair fight, but ‘Team 2017’ held their own. If we opened this up to the entire 2000’s where LeBron James and company could be joined by the likes of Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan, we might have had a different result.