I was never a big video gamer. This meant that fantasy-style games were not really fun to me (obvious exception: Mario Kart), and technical, realistic games (like NBA 2K series) were too difficult for me. But NBAJam met all the needs. Hoops, but not technical.
I also loved the decision making that was required by the game designers (and then by the player, upon selecting his team) to narrow the roster down to 3 players, 2 of which would start. Perhaps I’m simply feeling nostalgic, or perhaps it that NBA has supposedly (d)evolved from Big 3’s to Big 2’s, but I’m in the mood to think through this coming season NBAJam-style. Here’s my breakdown of the NBAJam roster for each team, with brief commentary.
Atlanta Hawks: Trae Young, John Collins, Kevin Huerter
Trae is obvious and Collins provides height and Kevin Huerter allows the Ringer to be happy. Young team and exciting. (Obviously, if you can go “all-time,” Vince Carter becomes possibly the greatest Jam player of all time!
Boston Celtics: Kemba Walker, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum
Obviously, choosing between Tatum and Jaylen Brown is the most difficult. But when in doubt, go Duke. Would Tacko Fall be the most amazing Jammer ever?
Brooklyn Nets: Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Caris Levert
Yes, I’m putting injured players on the rosters. With KD on the roster, it makes it an easy decision. In a surprise move, have you noticed they could almost spring a second team: Joe Harris bombing deeeep. Jarrett Allen’s fro (and game). DeAndre Jordan at…er, just kidding.
There was a day when I took great pride that Joe Dumars bested Michael Jordan as GM. I still love me some Joey D (despite Darko), but I take less pride in our fleecing Rip Hamilton. Maybe, maybe, you could argue Scary Terry…but even that is a stretch.
Chicago Bulls: Zach LeVine, Wendell Carter Jr, Lauri Markkanen
Zach’s hops would be killer on Jam, and no one plays D anyway. Carter and Markkanen would be a crazy tall lineup and be fun. Honorable mention: Otto Porter (makes tons of $$$ to not decisively make this list) and Coby White’s coiffure.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Kevin Love, Matthew Dellavedova, Larry Nance Jr.
Collin Sexton and Darius Garland are like the Tatum/Brown duplicity struggle and because I like the idea of Cleveland being mired in perpetual hopelessness, so I left both off. Why Delly? Because if you’ve played Jam before, you know the grunt sound that is made when a player gets fouled. Delly would have the ability to foul the point of hearing the life leave his opponents.
Dallas Mavericks: Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis, Boban Marjanovic
So far, the biggest drop off from the top 2 to player number 3. Honestly, we know Bobi isn’t the true number 3…but oh my goodness, would anything be more fun?
Denver Nuggets: Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokic, Gary Harris
How does this team have a Plumlee and a Zeller? Also, the Paul Milsap underestimation continues. Could this be Michael Porter Jr’s year to edge into the top 3? Bol Bol and Jerami Grant are also potential players. Not a newsflash, but this is a roster!
Detroit Pistons: Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond, Luke Kennard
(Full disclosure: Detroit is my team. I’m also an irrational Kennard fanboy. This will be his breakout year!) (More disclosure: I’ve never been able to get excited about Reggie Jackson…ever.) Point Blake with Dre’s D. Kennard from way downtown. I think this is legit. Sekou, Joe Johnson (remember, going all-time with 1/2 Man, 1/2 Amazing?) and Thon. You could do worse. (You could also do better.) But you could do worse.
Golden State Warriors: Wardell Stephen Curry II, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green
No injury consideration. Even with, Steph, Dray and D’Angelo Russell is a solid trio. Fortunately, you only have to play 3 guys in the NBA too. Wait. What’s that? Oh. This could be a championship Jam team (maybe the favorite), but lack of bench will kill them this season.
Houston Rockets: Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Clint Capela
Probably the most obvious trio and easily one of the most obvious starting two. And not because the rest of the roster is trash, but because Russ and Beard are so obvious. There’s some serious depth here, but just like I don’t think it would be fun to play on a team with Russ OR James (let alone both!) I don’t think I’d enjoy playing with this Jam team either.
Indiana Pacers: Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner
Everyone complains that Sabonis and Turner can’t be on the court together, but I think I would maybe put Dipo “on the bench” and start a Jam team of Sabonis and Turner. The height and power could be kind of fun. Again, if you want to take Oladipo out for injury, then Malcolm Brogdon isn’t a terrible consolation prize.
LA Clippers: Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Lou Williams
Do you need size when you have the Klaw and PG13? This is obviously a pretty scary duo, and you don’t have to wrestle much with Lou Williams or Montrezl Harrell if you want to assume that with injuries (if we want to be inconsistent) there’s no way Leonard and Paul are both healthy at the same time.
LA Lakers: Lebron James, Kyle Kuzma, Dwight Howard
Yeah, I know I left Davis off their roster, but it was for three reasons: 1) I hate the Lakers. 2) You should be stuck with “I’m tanking and want traded AD” performance for Jam, thus he’s not worthy of a starting three. 3) Dwight and LAL are perfect for each other. He must be on the roster. (PS, this team is still bad. They’ve taken “Big 2” to the extreme. LBJ and AD is all they’ve got, unless you believe in Caruso!
Memphis Grizzlies: Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr, Andre Igoudala
Top 2 are a piece of cake. I don’t know that I’ve ever been as torn up trying to come up with the third piece. I am a giant Grayson Allen believer, but I absolutely love Iggy’s arms and look for any excuse to see them on a screen, even if animated. (Seriously, my wife gets a little jealous of the way I look at Iggy’s arms.)
Miami Heat: Jimmy Butler, Justice Winslow, Goran Dragic
Udonis Haslem is still on this roster. Udonis Haslem is still on this roster. Seriously, he may still be playing by the time Bobby Bonilla quits getting paid by the Mets. I could be talked into Meyers Leonard or Bam Adebayo for that third place, mostly because I’m bored with Goran on the Heat. This is the oddest roster of quality supporting cast players, but still, feels like a random chemistry experiment.
Milwaukee Bucks: Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez
I’ll admit it. I didn’t enjoy putting Middleton on my list either. He deserves to be there, but it does feel like a compromise. Brook Lopez just for his craziness and three-point range. You could put Eric Bledsoe on the roster, but I’m assuming Jam is more like the Playoffs than a random game in mid-January. What’s that? That’s not the Antetokounmpo that I want? Speaking of; couldn’t the Bucks sign some Plumlees and Zellers and change their name to the Milwaukee Sibs?
Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns, Jeff Teague, Andrew Wiggins
Yes, I can never remember where to put KAT’s hyphen. Yes, I put Teague in front of Wiggins. Yes, I’m still salty that Wiggins never became 70% of what we thought. This is the only team I think should really be going after Chris Paul.
New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, JJ Redick
Duke! This team has serious depth (read: Jahlil Okafor, Frank Jackson). Seriously though, Lonzo and Favors are exciting, but Jrue Holiday is the real deal. This has the makings of a good Jam team, but I don’t think people are giving enough credit to the full roster either. (JJ does not miss the playoffs. It doesn’t happen.)
New York Kazoos: RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, Dennis Smith Jr
They are not as bad as the Hornets but I will……zzzzzz (Sorry. Fell asleep.)
Oklahoma City Thunder: Chris Paul, Steven Adams, Danilo Gallinari
Perhaps computer animators could add a “yell at your own team” feature for Paul to make it more life-like. Let’s be honest, Adams was spawned specifically for the purpose of being on Jam. I like Gallinari, if only his back hadn’t been ripped out Mortal Kombat style. Honestly, if this team can limit Paul’s “intensity” (read: hemorrhoidal personality), they could be fun to watch.
Orlando Magic: Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, DJ Au–I just can’t do it
Let Gordon fulfill his dream of Point A-aron. It’s scary how so much of this team’s destiny depends on Markelle Fultz. Yikes.
Philidelphia 76ers: Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris
Folks, this is your NBA Jam champion. (Yes, I know the NBA nerd herd would want to swap out Simmons and Al Horford.) While I think they have a good team, I don’t this is an NBA champion roster. Guys, they have a player named Haywood Highsmith. If that’s not an ABA sounding name, what is?
Phoenix Suns: Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, Ricky Rubio
This team is the NBDL roster I was expecting. You could even argue that Dario Saric could slide into a spot or even Frank Kaminsky could provide some comedic effect. But I don’t see how this is going to work. I hope Rubio is not wasted here. So much of career was just thrown away in bad places.
Portland Trailblazers: Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Pau Gasol
Since defense doesn’t matter, and because we can throw Pau into some kind of cryogenic freezer for Jam, this team becomes much better in NBA Jam universe than they can in the real league. You may argue that Zach Collins counters the issue that we can’t reverse Pau by 35 years in real life. I counter that they have Hassan Whiteside so chemistry is killed. You counter that Jusuf Nurkic belongs above Paul. I counter that they have Hassan Whiteside so chemistry is killed. I win the argument.
Sacramento Kings: De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Marvin Bagley III
Can you imagine how fast Fox would be on Jam? He would just be a streak on the screen. Buddy bombing treys from “way downtown.” Personally, (but I know I’m in the minority), I’d love to throw Harry Giles III in the roster instead (and hey, I still stay “DUKE!”). Speaking of; Sac should trade for TimeLord (Robert Williams III) and Glenn Robinson III and I’m sure James Ennis III wouldn’t be too expensive. Team Trey!!!
San Antonio Spurs: LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan, Derrick White
This may be the hardest team. No one wants to admit LaMarcus fits on this list. DeMar deserves to be on there, but his game isn’t very fun for Jam. Belinelli would be fun to put on there, just to see if the animated version also looks like a bad guy from “The Saint.” Let’s be honest, Lonnie Walker IV should be on there, simply because if Sacramento goes Team Trey, you’re only going to be able to beat them with an IV. (Is that the highest NBA suffix in history? Is it too soon to start a Kickstarter for Lonnie Walker V’s personal trainer?)
Toronto Raptors: Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol
Again, Father Time only plays road games in NBA Jam, so Gasol and Lowry are safe bets. On a different note, I played my son in NBA2K19 tonight and he played as all-time Raptors. It had Amir Johnson on the roster by not Chris Bosh. What is that?
Utah Jazz: Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Mike Conley
I smile when I type that Mike Conley is on this team. I wish NBA Jam would let you put all three on the court at the same time. But short of Joe Ingles, who else does this team have? People are hot on the Jazz this offseason, but am I missing something? If we’re going to say GSW lacks the depth to go deep, how are people saying the Jazz can?
Washington Wizards: Bradley Beal, John Wall, Isaiah Thomas
Uh, this can’t be good. Yeah, without the injuries, I guess Beal & Wall is fun..but we’ve seen it doesn’t really work. I guess really you should put Rui Hachimura on this squad just to get some height. But wow, without injuries this is bad. With injuries, this is really bad. With a season-ending injury (or 6), they would be almost as bad as Charlotte.
So what do you think?
- Biggest snub?
- Most overrated?
- Best team?
- Biggest real NBA, NBA Jam gap?
The season is right around the corner and it’s heating up…Boomshakalaka!