NBA Playoff Preview: “NBA Jam” Edition


LeBron's Miami Heat would probably be even tougher to defeat in "NBA Jam" than they are in real life, though they would be just as hated. (Credit: EA Sports)

The NBA Playoffs kick off this weekend, beginning a seemingly endless summer-long quest to crown this strange, lockout shortened season’s champion. Sixteen teams will battle in best-of-seven series until only one remains. The ratings will be high if some teams advance (Miami,New York) and low if others do (San Antonio,San Antonio). But due to the unorthodox nature of the regular season, it’s difficult to adequately preview the playoffs, as teams will be afforded more rest than they’ve had all season. Instead, I present a totally different, fictional preview: if the NBA Playoffs were “NBA Jam.”

In case you were born yesterday, “NBA Jam” was (technically, still is) an immensely popular arcade game that pitted hoops teams against each other in 2-on-2 games with three-minute quarters. Each squad had three players from which to choose. There was no out of bounds, nor were fouls called. There were dunks that involved jumping 30 feet in the air, turbo buttons and flammable basketballs. And there were Clintons (Hillary’s got a wicked cross-over).

resented below is how I would foresee the playoffs going this year if “NBA Jam” rules applied. Remember that the following skills are extremely valuable in this virtual world:

  • Dunking from extreme heights
  • Three-point shooting
  • Dribbling quickly without getting stripped
  • Rejecting a shot while coming out of nowhere
  • Basically nothing else involving defense

These skills are rather different from the actual playoffs, where team defense is king and 1080-degree tomahawk jams are less useful, though still appreciated.

*Note: This preview assumes we are playing traditional “NBA Jam” rules, and not “NBA Jam Tournament Edition,” which featured hot spots that could quadruple the value of any shot. I’m a civilized person, after all.



1)     Chicago Bulls: Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer – Rose can get to the rim and Deng is a decent long-range shooter, but the Bulls real-life strengths (defense and depth) are rendered useless. Not a good fit for the East’s No. 1 seed.

2)     Miami Heat: LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh – The early favorites. If anyone ever chose to play with Bosh, he or she would be banned from video games for life.

3)     Indiana Pacers: Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert, Paul George – I chose George because of his dunking skills. Hibbert is like playing with a young Patrick Ewing on “NBA Jam” (not a good thing). However, if he gets a flat top, I’m sold.

4)     Boston Celtics: Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett – Rajon Rondo, perhaps Boston’s best player, was left off because he can’t shoot and Garnett’s size was needed. Allen is a very dangerous player from long range. Unfortunately for Garnett, saying offensive things to opponents is not a part of this game.

5)     Atlanta Hawks: Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Marvin Williams – Al Horford would have easily made this roster, but he’s out for the first round, which is as far as the Hawks will go, despite Josh Smith’s awesome dunks.

6)     Orlando Magic: Ryan Anderson, Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson – Good lord, this is a bad squad. With Dwight Howard out for the playoffs with a bad attitude back, the Magic’s big man here (Anderson) is someone who never crosses the three-point line.

7)     New York Knicks: Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler – Jeremy Lin is out until at least the second round, so a tough roster decision is averted. Fortunately for the Knicks, Amare’s fragility is not factored into “NBA Jam” performance.

8)     Philadelphia 76ers: Jrue Holiday, Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand – Yikes.


1)     San Antonio Spurs: Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili – This team will be as boring in “NBA Jam” as they are in real life.

2)     Oklahoma City Thunder: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka – Even if James Harden didn’t suffer a concussion, I would stick with Ibaka because he is an athletic freak and Durant/Westbrook cover what Harden brings to the table. Another top squad.

3)     Los Angeles Lakers: Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum – If you think Kobe is ever going to miss, then you’ve never played “NBA Jam” before. Metta World Peace is a hidden character, along with the Obamas, Kim and Kanye and two Jack Nicholsons. One is from “A Few Good Men,” and the other is from “Something’s Gotta Give.”

4)     Memphis Grizzlies: Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Rudy Gay – A scary team both in real life and in this simulation. Fortunately for the Grizz, Rudy Gay’s effort is always 100 percent in “NBA Jam.”

5)     Los Angeles Clippers: Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Caron Butler – Your alley-oop button will get stuck with this team. Even though Vinny Del Negro can’t mess them up here, they can’t shoot all that well.

6)     Denver Nuggets: Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, Aaron Afflalo – Don’t sleep on this team. Lawson has wheels and Gallo can shoot.

7)     Dallas Mavericks: Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion – A team that would be much better if you could clone Dirk, which I’m sure Mark Cuban has tried before.

8)     Utah Jazz: Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Gordon Hayward – My opinion of Haywardwould be immensely higher if he made that last-second heave in the 2010 NCAA title game to beat Duke.



Chicago over Philadelphia – The Sixers just don’t have an advantage here. Brand is not stopping Rose from getting to the rim and Deng can shoot over Iguodala.

Miami over New York – Unfortunately, Melo’s midrange game doesn’t translate. LeBron yoking on Amare’s face does. New York would advance against any other Eastern team.

Indiana over Orlando – Howard would have changed this. Especially because his prima donna ways wouldn’t matter in a video game.

Boston over Atlanta – Josh Smith is the most fun to watch, but Joe Johnson is not stopping Ray Allen’s three-point barrage.


San Antonio over Utah – I feel asleep, what happened?

Oklahoma City over Dallas – The Dirk-Durant match-up is closer than you think, but Westbrook tortures Terry, and Marion can’t score enough to make up the difference.

L.A. Lakers over Denver – Lawson’s lack of size results in him getting repeatedly rejected by Gasol and Bynum. Kobe can’t miss. Bad match-up forDenver.

Memphis over L.A. Clippers – Even though in real life, Z-Bo would just deck Griffin, Blake successfully dunks on every attempt.  However, Memphis has the skill to shoot it from the outside (Gay) and the size to dunk with immunity (Gasol and Z-Bo).



Boston over Chicago – Rose gets to the rim when KG is out of the game, but the Bulls’ team defensive skills matter not when Pierce and Allen catch fire.

Miami over Indiana – Bosh may even get some minutes here.


Memphis over San Antonio – Z-Bo + Gasol > Old Duncan. Gay torches Parker and Ginobili.

Oklahoma City over L.A. Lakers – Really close here, but Durant has the length to force Bynum and Gasol to do those boring, non-turbo, two-handed dunks. Westbrook is too fast for Kobe.


Miami over Boston

LeBron’s combination of size, skill and speed is the difference maker.

Memphis over Oklahoma City

Probably a shocker, but Gay can handle Durant to a degree while Westbrook’s outside shooting isn’t consistent enough to overcome his inability to get to the rim.


Miami over Memphis

Since LeBron can’t disappear in this format, the Heat just outrun the Grizzlies (as they would have to do in real life). Wade gets beat by Gay’s size but no one can stop “NBA Jam” LeBron.

Miami is the champion? Not boomshockalocka.


Author: R. Byrnes

Ryan is the founder and editor-in-chief of Yi! News.

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