A few preliminary notes:
- This is a basketball roster — created by me, with help from my colleague Alan Sepinwall — made up entirely of characters from HBO dramas.
- There are really no rules here, as I’ve included now-dead characters and based all of my decisions on how good I think they might be at basketball. Not how good they might be. How good I think they might be. There’s a difference. (The difference is that I’m an idiot.)
- There are no characters from The Sopranos on the team, which feels weird because The Sopranos is the big defining HBO drama, but like, who are we supposed to put in there? Tony? Too many health problems. Pauly? Absolutely not. All due respect, but absolutely not.
This team will dominate until they all murder each other.
C – Wun-Wun, Game of Thrones
Wun-Wun is/was 20 feet tall. The modern NBA is moving away from big oafy centers, sure, but I still feel like we should make an exception here. He’s just so, so big. The guards could throw the ball all the way up toward his head and he could reach down and dunk it. On every play. And then on defense, I mean, you try driving the lane with a literal giant monster blocking the rim. It’s almost unstoppable. Almost. For clarification, please see this paragraph from the time I ranked Game of Thrones characters based on how good I think they would be at basketball.
Even if he has no discernible basketball skills whatsoever (and man, how great would it be if he did and was out there dribbling a ball between his legs and stuff), he’s still a top ten player just because he’s like 20 feet tall. Can’t teach height! The only reason I don’t have him at number one is because I’m not sure he’d be able to get into every arena. And even if he could, how would he travel on road trips? He’d never fit on a plane. You’d have to pack him up in a truck like a zoo elephant, or have him drive a convertible cross-country with the top down and like 70 percent of his body hanging out. It’s a logistical nightmare.
On the other hand, I mean…
PF – Slim Charles, The Wire
Slim Charles strikes me as a Kawhi Leonard type, lanky and deadly, but slightly more vocal. I base this on no evidence whatsoever but I know it deep in my soul.
SF – Jackson Vahue, Oz
This is admittedly kind of cheating on at least two levels because a) Jackson Vahue was an NBA All-Star before he was incarcerated and b) he was played by actual NBA player Rick Fox, but I just put a deceased 20-foot-tall monster at center so let’s just let this one go.
SG – Richard Harrow, Boardwalk Empire
Richard Harrow did not seem very athletic and has notable character and injury concerns (highly trained hitman, missing half his face). But words like “marksman” and “sniper” get thrown around so much to describe excellent three-point shooters that I feel like it should work the other way, too, and Richard Harrow can rain down threes like J.J. Redick.
PG – Preston “Bodie” Broadus, The Wire
Back when Russell Westbrook was in the early stages of his career, when he was playing with Kevin Durant and everyone had an opinion about who should have the ball at the end of games (especially Russ, who felt very strongly that Russ should have the ball), the “Russell as Bodie” comparison was everywhere. With good reason, too. They’re both brash, confident, and occasionally reckless, qualities that got Bodie killed on the streets of Baltimore, but also earned Russ an MVP on the court in Oklahoma City.
G – Seth Bullock, Deadwood
Putting Seth Bullock on the team helps in two ways:
- Most of the roster is criminals, scoundrels, and murderers and I think having a Wild West lawman would be at least a baby step toward creating order and preventing this all from becoming a worse version of the old Jailblazers teams
- Between Deadwood and Justified, things usually turn out pretty well when you have Timothy Olyphant in a cowboy hat
G – Kevin Garvey, The Leftovers
Kevin Garvey appears to be in impeccable physical condition despite only jogging like three times, at least one of which was to get cigarettes. The bigger deal here is that I kind of like the idea of an unkillable favored son of the Lord on the roster. Gotta imagine that’ll come into play on close foul calls.
G – Arya Stark, Game of Thrones
Between her diminutive stature, physical agility, and cutthroat streak as a competitor, I see her as a kind of ruthless Earl Boykins, coming off the bench to roast the other team’s second unit for 16 points in 11 minutes but then sitting down the second they start posting her up too much.
Although, maybe “ruthless Earl Boykins” isn’t quite right. Arya does have a list of people she wants to murder, after all. Maybe the better description here is “Tiny Kobe.” Either way, this will be fun until the referee calls a travel on her and she dons the face of a rival player — let’s say, oh, Steph Curry — and slits his throat at mid-court two weeks later. She’ll probably be suspended!
G/F – Bronn, Game of Thrones
Bronn absolutely has a dominant old guy game that relies mainly on floaters, hook shots, and mid-range jumpers that he banks in with alarming frequency. Also, he’d be a great quote. A great quote. This is an underrated part of team construction. You need one guy the media loves because he’ll say just whatever the hell he wants, preferably in a charming accent that is dripping with sarcasm. I’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating: NBA Twitter would love Bronn.
F – Brienne of Tarth, Game of Thrones
Brienne is very tall and very skilled. She is capable of defeating foes with brute force and with finesse and skill. It is my belief that she is the closest to LeBron James of anyone on this roster and when we swap out Wun-Wun for her at crunch time we will become a small ball nightmare for opposing teams. I would use the phrase Death Lineup” here, but again, feels a little inappropriate and on-the-nose on a team filled with literal murderers.
F – Alcide Herveaux, True Blood
I have seen exactly zero episodes of True Blood and my goal is to keep that streak going until I die, but I do know that I will always make room on my roster for a werewolf played by Joe Manganiello. Any roster. Basketball, baseball, a team of highly-skilled master criminals who will help me steal priceless works of art, whatever. And I’m not totally out of line here, either, because werewolves have a history of being really good at basketball, as we learned from the movie Teen Wolf. Joe Manganiello is way taller than Michael J. Fox, too. I see no flaws here.
C – The Mountain, Game of Thrones
Every team needs an enforcer, a goon to come off the bench and use his six fouls fast and hard to protect the smaller, more skilled players. The Mountain is our Charles Oakley. The only tricky thing will be keeping Arya from trying to kill him. This is why we have Timothy Olyphant in a cowboy hat. Lots of moving pieces here.
COACH AND FRONT OFFICE
Coach – Prop Joe, The Wire
General Manager – Al Swearingen, Deadwood
I have no idea how much or how little Al Swearingen knows about advanced stats and analytics, but I do know that this team will come out a winner in every trade and most free agency negotiations if Al is on our side of the table. Will we lose a draft pick here or there for violating league rules? Definitely. Will we be forced to pay huge fines for trying to bribe or blackmail the referees? Absolutely. Will it all be worth it? I mean, probably? Ask a New England Patriots fan if the team’s recent success was worth it. They’ll say yes. Bill Belichick is basically a clean-shaven Al Swearingen. Which brings me to another point: Bill Belichick should really think about growing a huge evil mustache. Just lean into it, guy. You’ve come this far.
Owner – Tywinn Lannister, Game of Thrones
I instantly regret limiting myself to HBO dramas because it means I can’t pick Russ Hanneman from Silicon Valley. Russ would have been perfect. He’s a loud and opinionated young billionaire who earned a fortune in tech. He’s like if Mark Cuban had a super-annoying younger brother who wore a body spray called, like, Scorpion or something. I would pay good money to see him and Al Swearingen argue over a draft board.
But alas, I must abide by the rules I created and go with Tywinn Lannister. Yes, he was technically broke or broke-ish by the time his run on the show ended, but if I can bring people back to life I can sure as heck make them rich again. It’s not that I think he’d even be that great of an owner, really. He’d probably be an awful authoritarian jerk and picking him means Cersei will be sneaking around trying to juggle three or four underhanded schemes and power grabs at once. It’s just that I have this image in my head of a TV broadcast cutting to a shot of Charles Dance sneering down toward the court from his luxury box as the team blows a 13-point fourth quarter lead and it’s a little perfect.
Yup, this will work just fine. Lace ’em up.