Thursday, November 8, 2012


Back in 2011, SLAM magazine released a special issue called "Slam presents NBA Battles," in cooperation with NBA2k12 which had recently been released and featured a collection of unlockable legends teams.

With the likenesses of Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan on the cover of 2k12, the motto in the ad was "15 Legendary Teams. All of Today's Squads. One Big Question: Which is the Greatest Team of All Time? END THE DEBATE."

I have recently finished simulating and playing through the matchups prescribed in the magazine for this years' NBA2k13 game. Though not all of the exact same teams and players remain, the matchups are intriguing as always and worth the argument.


Magic Johnson < LeBron James
LeBron's cutting down on his outside shooting, but his shot is still much more effective than Magic's shotput. I used the 86-87 Lakers rather than the 91 ones for a younger Magic, but Kareem isn't in 2k13 so that put L.A. at a disadvantage but also turned Magic into the definitive option. LeBron carried the ball in the full-court as well as Magic did, and was able to drive the lane better as well.

Isiah Thomas > Chris Paul
Both PGs defended hard, but Thomas was all over the court on both ends and his shot seemed to be hitting more consistently than CP3's. Thomas was also longer and larger and it worked to his advantage as the tough Pistons shut down Lob City led by Zeke.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar vs Hakeem Olajuwon
Due to contractual disputes KAJ, Dr. J and C-Webb don't appear in 2k13. Too bad because when I matched them up in 2k12 last year it was an epic battle with Kareem coming out on top, scoring more than Hakeem and defending him hard enough not to have his dreams shaken very often. Does Kareem forfeit this one? probably...

Larry Bird > Dirk Nowitzki
The obvious matchup for the obvious reason, Legend killed Dirk on both ends grabbing rebounds, distributing, and scoring from all over the floor. Dirk never really got it going, and even when matched up with each other defensively the 6-9 Bird didn't have a problem with the height advantage of the 7-0 Nowitzki. One of the more lopsided matchups, especially Celtics over new-look Mavs.

Elgin Baylor vs Julius Erving
The contract dispute with 2k13 kept Dr. J out of this game, (another forfeit?) but when they went head to head in 2k12 Baylor came out on top thanks to his more dependable shooting.

Patrick Ewing vs Yao Ming
So sad this matchup would never come to be. Yao likely would have won, and that's no slight to Ewing, but Yao simply dominated videogames his entire career. A 7-6 guy that could shoot from anywhere remotely close to the rim and get it in, and was a defensive nightmare with his titanic frame? We'll chalk it up to Yao in his honor, though he likely forfeits this one. Maybe he'll be in a future 2k game as a legend.

Wilt Chamberlain < Shaquille O'Neal
Big bodies collided for Laker post domination and Shaq really bullied the Big Dipper. When Shaq put his shoulder into Wilt, he wilted. Through Chamberlain had his moments, Shaq was more active on both ends, and free-throws were a wash.

John Stockton < Deron Williams
D-Will dominated his Jazz counterpart with size in a head-to-head matchup that isn't about running a team. Stock just couldn't keep up to Williams' scoring, and while he got a sneaky bucket or two Williams showed his overall game and wins the individual matchup.

Oscar Robertson > Jason Kidd
To be fair, the Big O was in his prime in the 1970-71 season that he represents in the game, while Kidd is now 39 years old and past his prime. The triple-double threats were both all over the floor, neither shooting from very deep, both hitting the boards, but Robertson took over the game while Kidd was forced to defer too often.

Bill Russell < Dwight Howard
The greatest defensive player of all time against today's greatest big man wasn't as close as it should be. Dwight is a hulk in the video game and his size allowed him to crush the 6-9, 215 Russell who is actually the same size as Howard's Laker teammate Devin Ebanks. Dwight still has work to do to become a reliable offensive force, but his skills were enough to win this contest.

Karl Malone > Amare Stoudemire
The size and strength of Malone let him bully Amare. Amare wasn't as fast or athletic as he was in his prime as a member of the Suns and just couldn't bang with the likes of Malone. 

Jerry West < Dwyane Wade
No disrespect to the logo, but Wade crushed this matchup. West occasionally got free and launched a jumper that was sure to go in, but Wade dominated in the open court using strength, speed and ability to finish around the rim to win this one convincingly.

Allen Iverson > Derrick Rose
Rose, if healthy, is a great point guard with a lightning-quick crossover and a developing jump shot. That being said, he's no AI. Though the Bulls won the matchup and Rose led them in scoring and was usually able to get to the rim, Iverson erupted for the highest point total of any of the matchups. He shot from all over the floor, and always got his shot off even while contested. Iverson is a scoring machine in 2k13.

Scottie Pippen < Kevin Durant
Even the 1995-96 Pippen coming off two seasons as the Bulls alpha dog couldn't slow Kevin Durant, an absolutely lethal video game player. Duant's unique combination of size (6-10), long arms, quickness, and unstoppable jump shot including three pointers let him score on anybody. Pippen is an all-time great defender and did an admirable job, but couldn't match KD's production on the other end.

Michael Jordan > Kobe Bryant
In 1998 MJ was 35 years old, pretty close to Kobe's current age of 34 making this a great time to compare the two. They played a pretty similar game, but Jordan was just a little more effective all-around, especially on the defensive end. Kobe shot from deep a little more often and had success, but Jordan got to the rim and scored on jumpers and turnarounds. This matchup was actually very close in 2k13, but Jordan narrowly edged his wannabe.


1985-86 Celtics < 1997-98 Lakers
Though the mag matchup has the much more formidable 2000 Lakers, the 98 Lakers are the ones to make an apprearance in 2k13. The team matchups are much more objective than individual matchups; if you win, you win. In this one, the Celtics front line of Parish, McHale and Walton were demolished by Shaq, Kobe showed flashes of brilliance, Bird was Bird but wasn't transcendent, and Derek Fisher was the surprise player of the game as the Lakers narrowly won.

1988-89 Pistons > 1997-98 Spurs
Again, the mag matchup features a later edition of the Spurs with young versions of both Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, but an old David Robinson. In 1998 The Admiral was still averaging 21.6 and 10.6 and Duncan was coming into his own. This game was closely contested with the brilliant defence you might expect until Joe Dumars won the game in spectacular fashion with a buzzer-beating three.

1964-65 Celtics > 1984-85 Sixers
Maybe it had something to do with Dr. J's absence fromt he game, but 2k13 went with an edition of the Sixers two years later than the mag matchup 83 version. The Moses Malone vs Bill Russell contest lived up to its billing, but the difference was KC and Sam Jones in the Celtic backcourt who took over the game and won it for Boston with a late burst of scoring.

1971-72 Knicks > 1986-87 Lakers
Clyde lit it up in this game, taking it to the rim against a Kareem-less Laker team that still had plenty of showtime. Magic wasn't all that effective in the game and both teams had significant contributions from the bench, but Frazier was the real difference.

1971-72 Lakers < 1995-96 Bulls
The ultimate matchup of the 69-win Lakers and the 72-win Bulls was pretty close, but Wilt wasn't able to dominate like you'd assume. The Bulls perimeter defenders harassed West and Gail Goodrich, who had a decent game. Jordan set up Pippen more often than normal and let him do the bulk of the damage. Close, but not close enough for the second best team of all-time, as the most dominant team of all proved why.

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