Boomshakalaka! NBA Jam is back!
From the What-Took-Them-So-Long Department, Nintendo has announced plans to remake the basketball video game classic for Wii. Scheduled out later this year, the game is expected to closely resemble the original with the game’s creator, Mark Turmell, involved in the title’s reclamation.
I was obsessed with NBA Jam. I had the Strategy Guide and everything. Now I got my start in the arcade, but once the game was released on Sega Genesis in 1993, I played little else.
News that the game is being re-released has been well received by video game nerds alike, myself included. While waiting for the game’s release, I figured I’d offer my suggestions for team combinations and how they compare to NBA Jam’s original Sega version. Plus some ideas for cheat codes that might add some flavor to the game.
Now, we’ve left out Chow-Chow, Weasel, Will Smith, P. Funk and all the other unlockable characters. But we’re curious to think who to expect this go round. Bill Clinton and Al Gore made appearances and with a President with actual game, you’d think Obama would find his way into Jam. But I digress.
Here they are the prospective pairings ranked from best to worst:
Los Angeles Lakers: Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol
NBA Jam Original Comparison: Vernon Maxwell and Hakeem Olajuwon
I know, I know, Kobe equals Mad Max? Hey, I shouldn’t need to remind any NBA Jam veterans about the capabilities of Maxwell. When Vernon caught fire, he was downright unstoppable. Kobe’s game probably would resemble Clyde Drexler’s the most from the original game. He’s smooth, can get up and is just plain cold-blooded. Gasol is an Olajuwon-like big man with nice footwork and good touch, though The Dream is in another class defensively. Gasol is the type of skilled big man that causes Jam defenses problems. I’d add a cheat code that allows Ron Artest to enter the game from the crowd, rather than going into it. The Lakers certainly would be a popular selection.
Orlando: Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis
NBA Jam Original Comparison: Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson
Poll most video game proficient dudes which original NBA Jam duo did the most damage, chances are Grandmama and Zo lead the list. LJ and Mourning were an unstoppable pairing. One was a force in the paint, the other was a versatile, athletic big man. Enter Howard and Lewis. Howard is one of the most dominant big men in the game, so he’d be an absolute beast in NBA Jam. If you unlock the Superman cheat code, then it’s basically unfair. Lewis is tall, athletic and can stroke the three. NBA Jam gold. Now this duo might be hurt by teams with ultra-quick guards ala a Chris Paul or Steve Nash. Vince Carter would have been an awesome Jam participant five years ago, but we passed in favor of the deep shooter.
Denver: Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups
NBA Jam Original Comparison: Chris Mullin and Tim Hardaway
Quite possibly the best small forward-point guard combo in the original NBA Jam, Mullin and Hardaway always gave opponents trouble. I’m not quite sure Melo will be too pleased being compared to Mullin, but he’ll get over it. Mullin has some street cred. He starred at St. John’s, was a a perennial All-Star and landed on the original Dream Team. He was a NBA Jam stud. As was Hardaway, who possessed a game-changing 3-point mean streak. Chris “Birdman” Andersen would have been fun to play with, but a Melo-Billups pairing could be lights out.
San Antonio: Tim Duncan and Tony Parker
NBA Jam Original Comparison: Patrick Ewing and John Starks
The NBA Jam pairing I learned to hate growing up. A buddy of mine – who was born and raised in Florida but claimed to be from New York – always ran with the Knicks. And they were tough to beat.
Duncan’s game translates well to what Ewing could do in the original game. Parker isn’t nearly as explosive or adept a deep shooter as Starks was, but his superior quickness makes up for it. A non-sexy pairing. How about a code that adds some sizzle that allows Eva Longoria to play the third quarter.
Boston: Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen
NBA Jam Original Comparison: David Robinson and Sean Elliott
Allen gets the nod over Paul Pierce because he’s more of a dead-eye shooter. It would be hard to leave off arguably the greatest 3-point artist in NBA history in a game where an outside shooter can pretty much decide the outcome of the contest. But Pierce has every right to feel upset. Garnett would have been NBA Jam Hall of Fame worthy five years ago. Injuries have slowed the once dominant KG, but he’s still capable of glimpses. In every version of NBA Jam, The Admiral was always paired with a guy solely on the court to hit 3-pointers. Elliott got the nod in the arcade and for Genesis and Super Nintendo. Dale Ellis got the call in Game Boy and Game Gear and Chuck “The Rifleman” Person made the cut for Sega CD. The Spurs philosophy was simple. Inside-out. And it worked. Well.
Phoenix: Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire
NBA Jam Original Comparison: John Stockton and Karl Malone
A crafty white point guard assist artist coupled with a skilled muscle-bound power forward. Works for me. Nash would be scary good in NBA Jam, as would his running mate Stoudemire. They are one of the league’s premier tandems and both guys’ play translates well to Jam.
Cleveland: LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal
NBA Jam Original Comparison: Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant
The original NBA Jam didn’t have permission to use Michael Jordan’s likeness. So they overcompensated and made Pippen absolutely ridiculous. LeBron hands down would be the best player in the game. I’m envisioning dunks from half-court on the norm without a cheat code. The King might shoot 35 percent from 3-point land, but his full court shot making skills would make him almost illegal to play with. Shaq wouldn’t add much to the Cavs couple, but he doesn’t have to. If you enter a character code prior to tip you can switch out Shaq for Gilbert Arenas’ fiance.
Dallas: Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd
NBA Jam Original Comparison: Danny Manning and Ron Harper
A skilled big man with a suspect outside shooting ball handler. Kidd’s shooting (in)ability costs the Mavs duo a shot at being an elite Jam pairing, and he’s definitely a bit past his prime. But Nowitzki would be an absolute bitch to guard. Perhaps Shawn Marion would be a better Jam running mate, but Kidd is arguably a top-50 player all-time, so he gets the nod.
Portland: Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge
NBA Jam Original Comparison: Mitch Richmond and Wayman Tisdale
Roy is an elite shooting guard in the likeness of Richmond, who transformed the Kings’ Jam pairing, which debuted in arcades with Spud Webb instead. Richmond made Sacramento a formidable pairing and I think it gave us East Coasters a greater appreciation for Richmond’s game. Aldridge is an up-and-coming big man and his athleticism makes him a NBA Jam asset. Tisdale was always a bit underrated, but usually held his own against the likes of Hakeem and Ewing. Not an elite big man, but a useful one. Greg Oden is in the game, he’s just off to the side on crutches.
Charlotte: Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson
NBA Jam Original Comparison: Shawn Kemp and Detlef Schrempf
Wallace’s freakish athleticism is tailor made for NBA Jam. Dunking and blocking shots won’t be a problem as he could have a Kemp-like effect. Jackson never met a shot he didn’t like, but he has an impressive all-around game when it comes to shooting, rebounding and passing. And I know some of you think it might a stretch to link Stephen Jackson with Detlef Schrempf, but in Bill Simmons’ “The Book of Basketball,” he gets me closer:
“Foreign players entering the NBA with heavy accents, then picking up a hip-hop twang over the course of a few seasons from being around black people all the time. I call this the ‘Detlef Syndrome” because Schrempf was the ultimate example, by the halfway point of his career he sounded like the German guys in ‘Beerfest’ crossed with the Wu-Tang Clan. It’s just a shame that Arnold Schwarzenegger didn’t train at an all-black gym in the seventies; we really could have seen something special.”
Miami: Dwyane Wade and Michael Beasley
NBA Jam Original Comparison: Kevin Johnson and Charles Barkley
Kevin Johnson and Charles Barkley made purple cool as one of the more fun duos to play with in the original game. Wade’s NBA Jam repertoire would be impressive. The guy can pretty much do everything. Beasley is an offensive whizkid and the Heat definitely would be a fun squad to play with.
Atlanta: Joe Johnson and Josh Smith
NBA Jam Original Comparison: Dominique Wilkins and Stacey Augmon
Like father, like son. Atlanta old is Atlanta now. It didn’t take a genius to realize pairing two players nicknamed The Human Highlight Reel and Plastic Man would make a beautiful NBA Jam tandem. Mookie Blaylock made appearances on the Sega CD and Game Boy versions, though we all know we desperately rooted for a Jon Koncack cameo. Smith’s athleticism was made for a game like NBA Jam because he can actually do some of the outrageous moves the game made famous. His blocking and dunking abilities would be off the charts. Couple Smith’s athletic ferocity with Johnson’s smooth, polished game and the Hawks could be a sneaky good team. Johnson is pretty much a do everything guy, with a deadly 3-point game. Watch out for the Hawks.
Oklahoma City: Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook
NBA Jam Original Comparison: Cylde Drexler and Terry Porter
Durant is an absolute star and future league MVP. Rebounding might be a problem against some of the game’s elite big men (Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Kevin Garnett), but Durant’s unique blend of length and guard skills makes him a matchup nightmare. It was hard to find a player comparable to Durant from the original game. It’s just not possible. The Glide was the closest I could get. Westbrook is built for NBA Jam and will roadrunner around defenders and throw down ferocious dunks. The Thunder’s pairing definitely would be a fun up-and-coming duo to run with.
New Orleans: Chris Paul and David West
NBA Jam Original Comparison: Kenny Anderson and Derrick Coleman
Paul’s speed definitely would pose some problems for opposing teams. West isn’t quite the player Coleman was, but Anderson wasn’t in Paul’s class. So it offsets.
Utah: Deron Williams and Mehmet Okur
NBA Jam Original Comparison: Mark Price and Brad Daugherty
You put one of the game’s best point guards on a team with a deadly deep shooter with height and you’ve got NBA Jam gold. Williams isn’t the 3-point shooter Price was, but Okur more than makes up for any deep shooting worries. Pre-NASCAR Daugherty was pretty damn good in the original game, and the Cavs gave people problems. If Okur gets hot, the Jazz would be a prickly out.
Toronto: Chris Bosh and Hedo Turkoglu
NBA Jam Original Comparison: Dikembe Mutombo and LaPhonso Ellis
OK, I’m not saying the RuPaul of Big Men is comparable to Mutombo in real life, but in NBA Jam it’s possible. Bosh is one of the game’s premier power forwards and Hedo showed his value during Orlando’s run to the NBA Finals last year. It’s a nice mix of a great big man and good all-around small forward.
Chicago: Derrick Rose and Luol Deng
NBA Jam Original Comparison: Derrick Harper and Jim Jackson
I’d like to first apologize to Derrick Rose for comparing him to Derrick Harper. The only thing these two have in common is a first name and position. Rose is obviously much more explosive than Harper, but there weren’t too many guards in previous eras with Rose’s athleticism. Jackson was a do-everything player in the game and was an outright assassin from deep. Deng isn’t quite the shooter Jimmy was, but they both provide solid all-around games.
Los Angeles Clippers: Baron Davis and Eric Gordon
NBA Jam Original Comparison: Scott Skiles and Nick Anderson
You’d like to see Blake Griffin in the game, but the No. 1 overall pick won’t play a minute this year, making it hard for me to include him on the roster. It doesn’t hurt that his possible replacement attended my alma mater. Gordon’s 3-point shooting could make him an absolute NBA Jam stud. Baron Davis isn’t as explosive or quick as he used to be, but he’s still more than capable.
Memphis: Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay
NBA Jam Original Comparison: Vlade Divac and James Worthy
Randolph might be a malcontent, but he scores and rebounds the ball prolifically. Paired with Gay’s ridiculous athleticism and high-flying dunking ability, the Grizzles could be a decent play. Randolph’s athleticism, like Vlade’s, won’t wow anyone, but Worthy could fly and there are fewer fliers in the league right now better than Gay.
Indiana: Danny Granger and Troy Murphy
NBA Jam Original Comparison: Chuck Person and Christian Laettner
Call this Team Chuck. Ever watch a Pacers game? Probably not, why would you? If you had, you’d know that Granger and Murphy rarely take any shot other than a 3-pointer. They have to be guaranteed safety to the basket before thinking about driving. While this isn’t ideal for real life basketball, for NBA Jam, this could work. Get either one of these two on fire and the game’s basically over.
New Jersey: Devin Harris and Brook Lopez
NBA Jam Original Comparison: Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer
Harris’ street game might not be up to snuff after getting embarrassed in London a little while back, but he’s still a very talented young point guard. Lopez is a rebounding and defensive presence much like Laimbeer was in his day. The comparison works. I’m satisfied.
Houston: Trevor Ariza and Aaron Brooks
NBA Jam Original Comparison: Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter
Not quite the potent pairing Durant and Westbrook are for the Thunder, but Ariza and Brooks could be a sneaky play. Ariza’s got impressive athleticism for a wing player and Brooks can fill it up from deep. From The Land Of What Could Have Been, Rockets fans could have rolled with a Yao Ming-Tracy McGrady tandem.
Washington: Antwan Jamison and Caron Butler
NBA Jam Original Comparison: Harvey Grant and Tom Gugliotta
Washington Bullets meet the Washington Wizards. And please no Gilbert Arenas gun jokes. Jamison and Butler are both All-Star caliber players that have seen better days.
Detroit: Rodney Stuckey and Tayshaun Prince
NBA Jam Original Comparison: Scott Skiles and Nick Anderson
Stuckey might not be the All-Star some were projecting him to be, but he’s still a pretty darn good player. Prince is wiry, long and athletic, which means in NBA Jam terms, he’s valuable. Not the best pairing, not the worst pairing. Eh.
Milwaukee: Brandon Jennings and Andrew Bogut
NBA Jam Original Comparison: Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer
A leading candidate for Rookie of the Year, Jennings is something like an Isiah Jr. Bogut is more skilled than Laimbeer ever was, but when you’ve got a duo of super quick point guard and slow big white guy, the comparison makes itself.
Sacramento: Kevin Martin and Tyreke Evans
NBA Jam Original Comparison: Reggie Miller and Derrick McKey
This Kings pairing could actually be pretty fun to play with. Kevin Martin can score, score and then score some more. Tyreke Evans is a potential star in the making. Once Martin returns from injury, we should see an improved Evans as he makes a push for Rookie of the Year. Scoring won’t be a problem for this tandem, but facing teams with established big men could be an issue.
New York: David Lee and Nate Robinson
NBA Jam Original Comparison: Rony Seikaly and Harold Miner
Basically I went with a better than average white guy and a Slam Dunk champion as reasons enough for a playing comparison. Harold Miner was nothing more than a stellar dunker. I’ve included Robinson in the game because who else are you going to put on the team? Al Harrington? Chris Duhon? Come on now. Maybe Danilo Galinari has a case. But when you’ve got a 5-foot-nothing dunking guard, you put him in NBA Jam. Robinson’s game would most likely resemble Spud Webb’s contributions in the arcade version when Spud suited up for Sacramento.
Golden State: Monta Ellis and Andris Biedrins
NBA Jam Original Comparison: Dee Brown and Robert Parish
A quick, scat guard with a stiff. That’s what Ellis and Biedrins are and that’s what Brown and Parish were. Love The Chief. Even after uncovering his moniker might have derived from him chiefing marijuana. Perhaps even more so. But he never really did it for me in Jam. Larry Bird retired a year before the game hit the arcades, and I always felt a little bit jilted. How nice it would have been to play with the White Jordan? Chris Mullin would have to do.
Philadelphia: Andre Iguodola and Elton Brand
NBA Jam Original Comparison: Blue Edwards and Brad Lohaus
I can’t think of anyone who volunteered to play with Blue and Brad. Does anyone besides Canadian housewives remember Blue Edwards? I say that because his highly publicized custody battle stemming from his time with the Vancouver Grizzlies was turned into a Canadian made-for-TV movie, “Playing For Keeps.” Like Iguodola, Edwards was known for his dunking ability on the court. The new AI would be a popular player selection. Though Brand is nothing more than a semi-skilled big man these days, and that’s exactly what Brad Lohaus was. A major problem for this Sixers lineup is lack of 3-point shooting and in NBA Jam, that’s a kiss of death.
Minnesota: Kevin Love and Jonny Flynn
NBA Jam Original Comparison: Clarence Weatherspoon and Jeff Horancek
The youngest pairing is also the game’s worst. Flynn and Love will most likely turn into two good pros, but right now they fall short. Had Al Jefferson not been out most of last year, I would have put him in. Plus, trade rumors have Big Al being shopped. So we’ll stick with Love and Flynn. There’s a cheat code that allows you to buyout Ricky Rubio’s Spanish league contract.