NBA Jam, the new measure of basketball prestige

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NBA players are evaluated in a variety of ways: the traditional box score, advanced metrics, All-Star appearances, All-NBA team honors, MVPs, championships, etc. But the latest measure of not only sheer basketball ability, but player charisma and popularity, is inclusion in the revamped NBA Jam game set for release later this year.

There hasn’t been an NBA Jam title in arcades or for home consoles in over 15 years, which makes this the first title in the Jam mold for NBA players of a gaming generation. So many of the league’s young players grew up not only playing Jam, but a vast assortment of basketball games since. But the glaring difference between this series and newer titles that strive for realistic graphics and true in-game simulation is not only the cartoonish aesthetic of the former. Perhaps even more important, for the purposes of the players, at least, is Jam’s exclusivity.

Rather than featuring every player in the league (and even unsigned free agents) like the 2k series or NBA Live, the original Jam only had a two-player tandem to represent each team. The new installment looks to continue in that tradition, though by allowing fans to vote on the three players they’d most like to see in the game through the game’s official website.

So it was only a matter of time before the NBA Jam generation, weaned on video games and the internet, caught wind of the online voting. Kevin Love wasn’t shy at all about expressing his desire to be in the game…or the lengths he’s going to to make sure that happens. From ESPN’s Jon Robinson’s piece on NBA gaming (via First Cuts):

“I went online and kept refreshing my computer and voting myself into
‘Jam,’ I’m not going to lie,” said Kevin Love. “‘NBA Jam’ was my
favorite game growing up, so I was on there all day voting for myself.
I used to play as Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton or Karl Malone and John
Stockton. I never even imagined that I could be in ‘Jam.’ I just want
to get that team fire, get that blue ball … it’s going to be cool.”

But it’s not just Love. Robinson also has quotes from an excited Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, two superstars who hardly have to worry about making the cut. NBA players have a chance on a nightly basis to make their mark in NBA history, but this goes beyond that. The original Jam was a flat-out phenomenon, and a chance to be in the reboot offers not only a solidified place in basketball lore, but cements a player’s status in pop culture as well.

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

Associated Press
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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.