- Marc Stein, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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You've had a week to digest and debate the Eastern Conference rosters that will be at your virtual disposal starting Oct. 5, when one of the most popular video games of all time -- "NBA Jam" -- makes its long-awaited comeback.
Now, as promised, you get a sneak peek at the West rosters, courtesy again of Stein Line sources in the gaming community.
EA Sports is resurrecting the arcade classic 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) after inviting fans to vote for the players they wanted to see from January through March. As you pore through the results of that voting in the West, don't forget these details and caveats:
• Most teams have three current players and at least one legend.
• Nine teams have been granted a fourth active player, usually 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) received preferential treatment from the gamemakers.
• I'm told that there will be the standard array of hidden players that will have to be unlocked.
To the teams
Mascot: Mavs Man
We could get into a deep discussion about how Shawn Marion or Tyson Chandler is better suited to Jam than Butler. We could also pass along our totally speculative suspicion that Mavs owner Mark Cuban will show up as a hidden character or lament the apparent absence of Shawn Bradley as a legends pick/prime posterization target. But going in any of those directions would steer us away from the only pertinent Mavs topic in this discussion: Mike Iuzzolino! We regret to report that Iuzzolino, unforgettable co-star of the Mavs' original Jam twosome in the 1993 arcade version with Derek Harper, has not been resurrected in 2010 unless he's a secret character that our sources just don't know about.
Mascot: Rocky The Mountain Lion
It's going to surprise some folks that J.R. Smith, frustrating as he can be to coach or watch in the actual NBA, will not be part of a virtual world in which it's perfectly OK to do little else but hoist 3-pointers and hammer down dunks. I also imagine it'll sadden some to learn that the contractual obstacles that complicated legends picks for so many teams have apparently left these Nuggets without Dikembe Mutombo and/or fellow '93 Jam alumnus LaPhonso Ellis. The consolation: Melo will stay a Nugget in this arena no matter what Denver management decides to do with him between now and the February trading deadline.
It seems fairly easy to deduce that the Dubs have four current players instead of the standard three because EA programmers added summer arrival Lee to the trio of Warriors selected in fan voting. Far more important, though, is the fact that the irresistible '93 duo of Hardaway and Mullin remains intact, back to show Monta and D-Lee or Curry and D-Lee how Small Ball Nellie-Style is truly done.
As with Courtney Lee's presence on New Jersey's roster in the Wii version, EA had to complete production before Ariza was dealt to New Orleans in a four-team deal in August that also featured Lee. So subbing him out for, say, Aaron Brooks will be possible only in EA's "NBA Elite 11" simulation title for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 that will include a downloadable version of "NBA Jam." The consolation: Hakeem and Kenny The Jet are back together, just like they were in arcades in '93, which means you can test out Dream and a supersized Yao as a tag team just for fun or see if Suns legend Kevin Johnson can recreate his signature throwdown over Dream from 1994.
Legend: Danny Manning
I am most curious to see how dominant the programming mavens have decided to make Griffin, considering we still haven't seen him in a real NBA game yet. And I am surely more excited than most to see a Clips roster that includes Manning, whose legendary status is unquestioned in Clipperland as well as here at Stein Line HQ, where we will never forget how he was traded to Atlanta on about the 10th day of my new life as a rookie beat writer in the 1993-94 season. (P.S. -- I suspect Baron will be an underrated Jam force who will eventually help Clips devotees get past the fact that Team USA's Eric Gordon apparently lost out in fan voting to Kaman.)
Legends: Magic Johnson and James Worthy
Kobe and Magic on the same team? Four current players instead of three so Artest and Odom both make the squad? Artest playing in a virtual world where it's not just permissible but encouraged to knock opponents over with no fear of David Stern reprisal? I suppose Lakerland dwellars could bemoan the absence of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's skyhook and goggles, but I know what most of you are thinking: The rich get richer. Again.
Legend: Bryant Reeves
Chronic back trouble ended Big Country's career with the Grizzlies before they ever played a game in Memphis. But that unfortunate chapter in Grizz history can be electronically rewritten now that those crazy EA guys -- based in Vancouver, don't forget -- have sneaked Reeves into the new Jam as a potential sidekick to anyone from the Mayo-Randolph-Gay triumvirate.
Legend: Chuck Person
Jefferson remains with 'Sota in the Wii version, a la Ariza in Houston, because his trade to Utah happened too late in the summer for that update. And Kevin Garnett is obviously still playing in Boston, no matter how desperately 'Sota needs him as a legends pick. So someone please tell me that there will be a way to unlock Ricky Rubio as a secret Wolf. Please, please, please.
Legend: Larry Johnson
It was mistakenly reported last week, thanks to a paperwork snafu, that Larry Johnson would appear as a third Knicks legend alongside Patrick Ewing and John Starks. We are pleased to clarify now that Grandmama is actually in the game as a Hornets legend -- after LJ and Kendall Gill formed the original Jam twosome for the Hornets in Charlotte colors back in '93 -- which will undoubtedly please the real-life Chris Paul. After hearing stories about CP3's old Charlotte Hornets Starter jacket as a kid in Winston Salem, I'm fairly sure he'll be partnering LJ when he uses himself in the new Jam.
Legend: Rumble The Bison
Jam addicts are going to be down when they learn that they won't be able to relive old glories with Shawn Kemp. Ditto for the fact that Gary Payton -- who controversially did not appear in the original arcade version -- isn't included in the modern incarnation of Jam, either. Sonics fans, though, will obviously feel way more relief than disappointment that Kemp or Payton (or even Benoit Benjamin) were not made available to the masses under the Thunder banner and will probably rage at me for even mentioning the possibility. (One thing I think we can all agree on: Kevin Durant was too ruthless and dominant at the world championship in Turkey for us to insult him by fretting about how he'll handle getting knocked around by beefier players in a game without fouls and free throws.)
Legends: Dan Majerle and Kevin Johnson
Just being honest: Even as we happily assume that Jam programmers have at last bestowed the power to dunk on our beloved Nash, it's hard to ignore what these virtual Suns don't have. They've got no size, no Charles Barkley as a Suns legend after The Chuckster teamed with Majerle in the original arcade setup and no Suns Gorilla in a game that has given NBA mascots such a prominent stage. Let's just hope Barkley -- or The Gorilla -- is a hidden character.
Legend: Clyde Drexler
Oden will never miss a game because of injury in Jam. That's the good news. His challenge will be convincing Blazers-minded gamers to put him on the floor when they can choose Aldridge ahead of him or the option of teaming up their modern-day face of the franchise (Roy) with a glory-days FOTF (Glide). (P.S. -- Still not thrilled that Nicolas Batum didn't make the cut.)
Legend: Mitch Richmond
The Kings were granted four current players instead of the usual three when the game's designers decided that Cousins deserved to be on the very short list of rookies -- Washington's John Wall and Philadelphia's Evan Turner are the only others -- worthy of landing a roster spot. Richmond, meanwhile, is a worthy Kings legend, but I can only presume that contractual hurdles are what prevented the inclusion of Chris Webber or old friend Vlade Divac in Sacramento's other legend spot. As for Omri Casspi I will reluctantly stop at referring you back to my March rant when he wasn't even on the ballot as an option in fan voting.
Legends: David Robinson and George Gervin
You haven't heard this one too often: I think I'm as excited to see San Antonio play as any team in the game. And it's really all because this is the one team in the game whose two legends selections couldn't be more perfect. Want to reunite Duncan and Robinson? Want to line up the Spurs against Oklahoma City to see all those Durant-Iceman comparisons come to life? Want to see how Gervin might have looked alongside Duncan or Robinson? You can do it all with this lineup.
Figures. There's finally a vehicle to give us the visual for a thorough examination of Utah's pick-and-roll legacy but it arrives after Carlos Boozer defects to Chicago in free agency. Jazz fans will thus have to settle for the original two-man-game-magic of Stockton-to-Malone or plug D-Will in Stockton's place to see how he'd look alongside The Mailman or play D-Will and Stock together just to be adventurous.
Marc Stein breaks down the West rosters for the upcoming version of "NBA Jam."