- Marc Stein, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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Oct. 5 is going to be a pretty momentous day around here. I'll have the privilege of watching John Wall's first NBA exhibition game from my usual press-row seat in Dallas mere hours after the release of the video game we've all been waiting for: "NBA Jam."
Turns out you have to endure only another month without Jam because EA's highly anticipated resurrection of the arcade classic is hitting stores in two formats ("NBA Jam" for the Nintendo Wii and another version of Jam bundled into "NBA Elite 11" for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360) precisely four Tuesdays from today.
I've already prattled on long enough about how much this means to me personally back in this Weekend Dime submission from March, when I ran through the rosters I hoped to see in Jam at the conclusion of EA's fan voting.
But I do have a little something new to pass along to help start getting you in the mood for Jam's arrival: Trusty sources in the gaming community have been kind enough to leak the official rosters, which we can share in two installments. First it's the East, with West rosters to be revealed next Tuesday.
A few FYI notes to set things up:
• Most teams have three current players and at least one legend.
• Nine teams have been granted a fourth active player in cases when EA deemed fan voting too close to call.
• Some teams do not have a legend on the roster, either because of contractual restrictions -- legends must still be a member of the National Basketball Players Association to be included in the game -- or because of a team's relative lack of history.
• Another factor in legends selection: Players who appeared in the original arcade version in 1993 (listed here) were preferred.
• I'm told that there will be the standard array of hidden players that will have to be unlocked.
To the teams
Legends: Dominique Wilkins and Spud Webb
I voted for Jamal Crawford over Mike Bibby in my March exercise, but it's hard to quibble too much when the Hawks have such a tasty lineup. Smith was born to be in this game, and the presence of Nique and Spud as legends gives Atlanta three irresistibly explosive options for a game of two-on-two.
Legends: Larry Bird and Kevin McHale
You think Doc Rivers has problems in real life with all the big names (and egos) the Celtics have stockpiled? Try choosing only two Celts at a time from this six-pack. Boston's roster is one of the nine that include four current players instead of three because fan voting was so tight. Combine that with the fact that Bird was never in the arcade versions of Jam, and you can understand why the game's designers didn't try to wedge Shaquille O'Neal on this roster, too. (Although we have to believe that Shaq, in a nod to his l-o-n-g history with Jam, is among the hidden characters who can be unlocked.)
Mascot: Rufus Lynx
As stated in the March piece, Charlotte's signature duo of Wallace and Captain Jack picks itself. The mascot, meanwhile, is included because the Bobcats, after just six seasons of existence, don't have anyone who qualifies as a "legend" in EA terms. As for our previously stated hope of unlocking a secretly stashed Michael Jordan as a Bobs player impossible now that MJ is contractually tied to another game.
Jordan's status as the face of "NBA 2K11" means he can't appear as a Bulls legend, either, which is going to crush some gamers no matter what the consolation choices are. But I would think the six Bulls you can choose, with Pippen and Rodman included, should soften the blow at least a little. Right?
Our advice to Cavs fans still reeling from The Decision: Sticking to the combo of Price and Daugherty -- Cleveland's original twosome in the first arcade version of Jam in 1993 -- just might beam you back to a happier time B.L. (Before LeBron). It's worth a try to escape, at least electronically, from the LeBron-less present.
Legends: Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer
The same principle used with the Cavs applies here: Detroit's legend duo of Zeke and Laimbeer, same as the original arcade twosome in 1993, will undoubtedly appeal to Pistons fans more than the current crew although I'm somewhat stunned that there are four current Pistons instead of three and that Ben Wallace isn't one of them.
Legend: Detlef Schrempf
The tough times continue for Pacer People. Contractual obstacles prevent EA from making the obvious selection of Reggie Miller as Indy's legend -- apparently because Reg isn't an active member of the NBA players' association -- so that spot went to his co-star in the original arcade setup: Schrempf. Far harder to explain is why Ford snagged the third spot among current Pacers instead of the imposing Roy Hibbert.
Back in March, when EA invited fans to vote for the three-man squads they wanted to see in Jam, these were the other Heaters on the ballot besides Wade: Michael Beasley, Jermaine O'Neal, Udonis Haslem, Mario Chalmers and Quentin Richardson. Don't think South Floridians will mind, in other words, that the game's designers took the liberty of choosing LeBron and Bosh for them. (P.S. Rice and Seikaly repped Miami in the first arcade version in '93, which I'm told is indeed the main reason they were selected over, say, Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway in the legends spots. Nostalgia.)
Mascot: Bango The Buck
I repeat: Two lefties (Redd and Jennings) with irresistibly quick releases to pair with our soccer-loving pal Bogut will almost certainly make this one of my go-to teams. But, yes, I naturally do share your disappointment that contractual complications appear to have prevented us from getting even one Bucks alumnus to fill the legend void. (I would even have settled for EA bringing back the original/immortal duo of Brad Lohaus and Blue Edwards from the arcade version.)
Legends: Kenny Anderson and Drazen Petrovic
The bad news? EA's full Wii version of the new Jam had to be wrapped up before Lee was dealt to Houston as part of the four-team deal in August that landed Darren Collison in Indiana. So subbing him out for a current Net will be possible only in EA's "NBA Elite 11" simulation title for the PlayStation 3 and XBox 360 that will include three modes of "NBA Jam." The sensational news? The late, great Petrovic's appearance as a legends pick, after Drazen teamed with Derrick Coleman in the maiden arcade version, is a beautiful touch.
Harrington's free-agent defection to Denver, like the aforementioned trade involving Courtney Lee, came too late for Al to be removed from the Knicks' roster on the Wii version and replaced by a lefty we can't resist: Anthony Randolph. The consolation here: Who doesn't want to see Ewing and Orlando pupil Dwight Howard go at it?
Legends: Nick Anderson and Scott Skiles
Howard can't foul out in this virtual world and doesn't have to shoot free throws. (Neither, for that matter, does "legend" Anderson.) And with gritty, gutty Skiles available, perhaps you can look past the fact that neither of Orlando's other present-day top guards -- Jameer Nelson or J.J. Redick -- made the cut. The Magic, quite simply, are going to be a Jam handful.
Legends: Julius Erving and Allen Iverson
When was the last time the actual Sixers were as dynamic and enticing as this fivesome looks? My next question: Will Iguodala, Brand or Turner get any Jam run when you can go with the tag team of Dr. J and A.I.?
Mascot: The Raptor
If you thought Toronto took a real-world hit when Bosh bolted for Miami, check out the Raps' Jam roster. No legends to bail out the Raps that Bosh left behind and no Leandro Barbosa, even. Unless you're a gamer residing in Canada or Italy, can't see you choosing this team much.
Legend: Manute Bol
Arenas wasn't on the ballot for fan voting because of the handgun debacle last season that got him suspended for 50 games, but he's been digitally reinstated to good standing to team up with that Wall kid. EA also has added Bol, who passed away in July, as a Wiz legend to make this team even more fun.
Marc Stein breaks down the East rosters for the upcoming version of "NBA Jam."