*This column was originally posted in The Inkwell and on its website.
Last week the PlayStation 4 came out and Michael Jordan gave his all-time starting five for a pickup basketball game, that included: Jordan, Magic Johnson, Scottie Pippen, James Worthy and Hakeem Olajuwon. In a promotional video for the video game NBA 2K14, Jordan said on his team, “I got no chance of losing. None at all.”
The talks of pickup basketball and video games brought me to a different time and place than most. While the new video games with all the life-like graphics and technology that make the game look like you’re watching the Miami Heat play on ESPN are fantastic, I can argue that the greatest game came out 10 years ago on PlayStation 2, GameCube and the original Xbox.
For those of you who sat in your parents’ living room playing the modern-day marvel Xbox in 2003, you would surely know I’m talking about NBA Street Vol. 2.
The NBA Street series of video games brought current and past NBA legends to the streets, with a couple street legends as well. In this game, there were no plays or layups, but instead the objective was to break ankles, swat shots and pull off double alley-oops. What more could you ask for from a video game?
I remember Yao Ming, who stood 7-foot-6, seemed like he was as big as the hoop and blocked every shot without even jumping, Allen Iverson crossed his opponents over so bad they had to crawl off the park court and Michael Jordan came flying in wearing his 1985 short-shorts and gold chain. Oh, and don’t even get me started on the street legends.
Clifford ‘Stretch’ Monroe was considered “the best not to make the NBA.” He sported a 1970’s afro and his dunking skills were maxed. Biggie Little had some of the dirtiest handles around and stood only 5-foot-4. His signature move, called “Biggie Littles,” was him doing a handstand on the ball and luckily I never tried that outside. The last of my favorite street legends was Bonafide, who had his rebound skills maxed out and had crazy hops for dunks.
With the legends of the streets and of the NBA, combined with a soundtrack that featured Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth’s ‘They Reminisce Over You’ and Lords of the Underground’s ‘Chief Rocka,’ NBA Street Vol. 2 is a classic.
OK, enough reminiscing back to the sixth grade, I want a pickup team that will make MJ eat his words that they have “no chance of losing.” Here’s my starting five for a pickup basketball game: Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Dr. J, LeBron James and Wilt Chamberlain.
The first two picks are the same as Jordan’s and it starts with Magic. He was a 6-foot-9 point guard whose eyes could see 360 degrees. Magic averaged 19.5 points, 11.2 assists and 7.2 rebounds per game over his career. Could you imagine the passes and alley-oops Magic would dish to these guys?
Michael Jordan is… well, Michael Jordan. You can’t have a basketball team without him. The man is simply the greatest ever as he averaged 30.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game over his career. Jordan would bring his signature dunks and scary competitiveness to the streets.
I fought every inch of my body to not put Larry Bird over Dr. J, and if this is an all-time greatest players starting five, I’m taking Bird. However, you can’t have a street team without the doctor. He was the king of the ABA, which was pretty much street ball on an indoor court, by winning three MVPs and then won another one in the NBA. Over his ABA and NBA career, Dr. J averaged 24. 2 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game.
LeBron James is the only current player in my starting five. He’s another athletic freak at 6-foot-8 and 250 pounds, with the ability to play every position. James would be another highlight play waiting to happen and his defense would be vital against a Pippen or Worthy. Currently for his career, he is averaging 27.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game.
Anchoring down my team would be big Wilt Chamberlain, at 7-foot-1, with street ball experience with the Harlem Globetrotters before going to the NBA, and maybe a little too much street cred with all the women he supposedly slept with. Chamberlain has his number 13 retired by three different teams after averaging 30.1 points, 22.9 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game.
So, hey MJ, this team better make you think twice about having “no chance to lose,” because you’ll be asking my team to run it back after we take Rucker Park from you and your guys.