James is a law student from Tacoma, Washington. He is a lifelong Seattle SuperSonics fan, but is still able to enjoy the NBA, perhaps more objectively, without his favorite team. Check out his great work at Shut Up and Jam.
Nathan Verney came up with a great idea in the comments section of a previous post, so I thought I’d take him up on it. Like any kid growing up in the 90s, I was very fond of NBA Jam. It introduced unforgettable catch phrases like “Boomshakalaka” and “He’s on Fire!” (a phrase that I might add is still used on college campuses throughout the country). Everyone has their favorite team and strategy. I played as the Pistons because, for some unknown reason, Isiah Thomas was a perfect 3 shooter, so I would shoot only 3s and hope Bill Laimbeer would rebound my misses.
But what if these were real teams playing against each other? Who would be the best? The arcade version was based on the 1992-93 season, so all the numbers are used from that season. Also, since players didn’t get tired (as long as you didn’t hold the turbo button too long), there weren’t injuries, and no one could foul out, I think WP48 is the proper measure rather than total wins produced.
Since Nathan’s comment focused on the worst tandems, I think that is a good place to start.
The 5 Worst NBA Jam Tandems
5. Milwaukee: Brad Lohaus and Blue Edwards, .059 Average WP48.
Really? Midway couldn’t have thought of a better player from the Bucks than Brad Lohaus? Eric Murdock would have been the best choice, but there are a number of others to choose from. To be fair, Milwaukee was a pretty bad team in ’93, so you can’t complain too much.
4. Boston: Reggie Lewis and Kevin McHale, .057 Average WP48.
Somehow Midway managed to make a playoff team one of the worst teams in its game. Lewis was productive, but McHale, who was way past his prime, gets the dubious distinction of being the only player not named Lohaus to be in NBA Jam after posting negative Wins Produced numbers. Midway should have used Robert Parish and Dee Brown to keep a respectable team respectable.
3. Detroit: Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer, .057 Average WP48.
Well, they were good in the game at least. Both players were past their prime by 1993, and both were surprisingly unproductive that year, considering the ceiling each reached in previous seasons. Rodman and Dumars would have been the best choice; Midway really screwed the pooch on this one since Rodman had the highest WP48 (.410) of any player in the league that season.
2. Dallas: Derek Harper and Mike Iuzzolino, .050 Average WP48.
Dallas and all of its 11 wins was by far the worst team in the league in ’93. Would anybody have heard of Mike Iuzzolino if not for NBA Jam? Has anybody heard of Iuzzolino even after NBA Jam? These questions may never be answered, but one thing is clear: Dallas is one of the worst teams in the game.
1. Sacramento: Wayman Tisdale and Spud Webb, .048 Average WP48.
What do you expect when your team’s average height is 6’2”? Neither of these players was ever very good in the NBA and ’93 was no exception. Sacramento was really bad and the game couldn’t have made them much better, but Lionel Simmons would have saved them from being worse than the historically bad Mavs.
The 5 Best NBA Jam Tandems
5. Orlando: Shaquille O’Neal and Scott Skiles, .229 Average WP48.
Shaq was a monster. And Scott had just enough skiles, err, skills, to boost the Magic into the top 5. Denver, New York, and Portland were all very close behind. Midway would have been better off using Nick Anderson in place of Skiles, but then I wouldn’t have been able to make that joke.
4.Cleveland: Mark Price and Brad Daugherty, .255 Average WP48.
What do you get when you cross a sharp shooting point guard and a solid big man? A good NBA Jam team of course! Cleveland was one of the better teams in the ’93 season and in the game.
3. Houston: Hakeem Olajuwon and Kenny Smith, .269 Average WP48.
If I wasn’t using the Pistons or my Sonics, you could bet I was using Houston. Why? Because Hakeem was a beast! In fact, he led the league in Wins Produced that season (and ranked 3rd in WP48). Smith was the second most productive player on Houston, making this team a force to be reckoned with.
2. Phoenix: Charles Barkley and Dan Majerle, .278 Average WP48.
Had Midway used Cedric Ceballos instead of Majerle, Phoenix would have been through the roof. Still, they’re one of the best teams in the game, thanks largely in part to Barkley’s 0.391 WP48, which was second in the league. The 1993 MVP was no role model, but he knew how to shut up and jam.
(Editor Arturo’s note: Come on now, you know what’s coming :-))
1. Utah Jazz: John Stockton and Karl Malone, .315 Average WP48.
Come on, what did you expect? Arguably the most famous dynamic duo in basketball history, the league has never seen two players play together so well for as long as Stockton and Malone. They are two of the best players ever to not win a title, but you can bet if the NBA did a real season with the NBA jam teams, the Jazz would have won it all.
As a final note, had Jordan been in the game instead of Horace Grant, the Bulls would have been at .309, just behind the #1 Jazz. Jordan and Pippen did produce more wins overall than Stockton and Malone.
All NBA Jam Teams Ranked by WP48
In case your favorite playable pair didn’t make the cut, here’s the fill list ordered by WP48
|Team||WP48||WP||Player 1, WP48||Player 2, WP48|
|Utah||0.315||39.2||Stockton, .287||Malone, .343|
|Phoenix||0.278||34.2||Barkley, .391||Majerle, .164|
|Houston||0.269||33.6||Olajuwon, .380||Smith, .157|
|Cleveland||0.255||27.1||Price, .220||Daugherty, .289|
|Orlando||0.229||29.3||O’Neal, .324||Skiles, .134|
|Denver||0.227||27.8||Mutombo, .298||Ellis, .156|
|New York||0.227||24.9||Ewing, .237||Oakley, .216|
|Portland||0.225||20.1||Drexler, .275||Porter, .175|
|Chicago||0.216||26.6||Pippen, .243||Grant, .188|
|San Antonio||0.212||26.9||Robinson, .312||Elliot, .111|
|Indiana||0.193||24.3||Miller, .183||Schrempf, .202|
|New Jersey||0.17||19.3||Coleman, .245||Petrovic, .094|
|Philadelphia||0.163||19.8||Hawkins, .170||Hornacek, .155|
|Golden State||0.163||15.5||Hardaway, .178||Mullin, .147|
|Miami||0.153||16.8||Seikaly, .216||Rice, .089|
|Atlanta||0.138||14.0||Wilkens, .173||Augmon, .102|
|Seattle||0.134||13.5||Kemp, .243||Benjamin, .024|
|Charlotte||0.116||15.1||Johnson, .178||Gill, .054|
|LA Lakers||0.105||10.9||Divac, .182||Worthy, .027|
|LA Clippers||0.099||12.0||Manning, .040||Harper, .157|
|Washington||0.096||10.9||Gugliotta, .088||Grant, .103|
|Minnesota||0.069||8.2||Laettner, .105||Person, .032|
|Milwaukee||0.059||6.9||Lohaus, -.014||Edwards, .131|
|Boston||0.057||7.6||Lewis, .116||McHale, -.002|
|Detroit||0.057||4.9||Thomas, .016||Laimbeer, .098|
|Dallas||0.05||3.8||Harper, .021||Iuzzolino, .078|
|Sacramento||0.048||4.6||Tisdale, .023||Webb, .072|