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Michael Jordan announced a pickup team he calls "unbeatable" in a promotional spot for a video game Thursday.
So Mike, you picked your team. If life in any way turned into a pickup game, we know who you'd run with: Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Scottie Pippen, Hakeem Olajuwon and yourself.
"I got no chance of losing. None at all," you say. Really?
Not sure if you were in GM/owner mode when you built this team. Or were you thinking how games would play out if the five of you all walked into a gym or decided to show up at Rucker?
Never having a chance of losing is a bit extreme.
I have a team that I'd easily take my chances with. One that I think has "got a chance" of beating yours or at the least would give your team a run for your and Magic's money.
Give me Penny Hardaway, Allen Iverson, Larry Bird, LeBron James and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Any day, any court, any time. Not saying that they'd win a majority of the games against your squad, but they'll definitely -- in certain games -- let that "unbeatable" theory R.I.P.
Now I would never go out on a ledge and say that in a pickup game my team would never lose. Anyone who puts together a team made up of Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan, Julius Erving and Gary Payton could easily walk onto a court at 11 a.m. and and stay until there's no light to play by.
Again this is pickup -- with no refs, timeouts, clock or shot clock, no home-court advantage and no coach. There is no distinct advantage or disadvantage one squad might have over another. Especially if all the players mentioned are in their prime and injury-free.
And with just raw skills going against one another, the games would basically be all about matchups. Matchups where offense rules over whatever defensive strategies and concepts you may have in mind. Which is why I know my five could hang with and take some games off of you and yours on any given Sunday thru Friday.
Allow me to break this down:
• Penny, when he was Penny, was Magic 2.0. Penny's athleticism and size and a legit outside jump shot give no clear advantage to Magic in a pickup game. Yes, Magic was a greater player and winner, but in a pickup game, it would be a wash. Magic during his whole career never had to play against a point guard like Penny. He'd give Ervin fits.
• Now I know you are thinking, Mike, that you would kill Iverson in your matchup against him. He's too small and can't do anything to stop you. That is true. But the reason I chose A.I. (over Kobe) is because he's the one player who creates the same matchup problem on offense that you, in turn, create for him on defense. He's the only one who can score at the same pace as you -- even with you guarding him. Your advantage is size and strength; his is speed and craftiness. In a game like this, you do have an advantage -- but it's slight, no disrespect. You don't have the same advantage as in an NBA game. A.I. might take it back to the Kenner League on you. Let me put it this way: He couldn't stop you, but you couldn't do anything with him. If you were to average 30 points in a pickup game that ended at 32, A.I. would average 28.
• I love Worthy. He'd be impossible to stop on the break because no one his size could keep up with him. Plus, you have him on the court playing with Magic, which would be magic. So I totally get why you picked him. Brilliant. But what is Worthy gonna do with Bird? Seriously. With Kareem and LBJ putting in work on the blocks, Bird will be perched all over dropping 30- and 35-footers like layups. Bird gives my team the one thing you forgot on yours: lethal outside shooting. Which in pickup ball, as you know, changes everything. Cats get more frustrated and psyched out of their games when someone is raining jumpers on them than they do getting dunked on. Just from the psychological pain Bird will put on your team, I'll take that advantage. It would be funny watching you all argue over who's going to guard him next after he hit like his fifth "Bird Range" shot in a row.
• LeBron James versus Scottie Pippen may be the one where there really is no advantage. My team, I admit, doesn't have a true defensive stopper. With Pip, you have a guy who can change the course of a game defensively. D does win championships; it very rarely wins pickup games. That's why I like LeBron in this situation. Even with Pip guarding him and using his length and intellect, Bron has a way of scoring in volumes. It would make it impossible for Pip to stop him each time they played. If Pip shut him down inside, Bron would take him outside; if Bron's jump shot wasn't falling, than he'd get it in on the break and have Pip running. Plus, Bron gives me a second ball handler (and now Magic is chasing Penny around trying to stop him from scoring). This Bron/Pip matchup may be the only one I can't outright call, but in a game against your squad LeBron (along with maybe Bernard King) is one of the only players I know for sure who would give Pippen serious problems.
• In a video game, Olajuwon probably kills Abdul-Jabbar. But if it were to happen without a programmer, we both know this would be one battle that would never end. The two best, greatest, most well-rounded and complete centers ever would find ways to figure each other out and proceed to do whatever was necessary to get the best of the other. I really don't know how you could choose one over the other. It's too close and they are too similar in skill, mindset, ability, approach and will. And still, with Olajuwon being my favorite center and the one I feel is the greatest ever, since you took him first, I'm going to go with the six-time MVP argument. Plus, we've seen what happens whenever Abdul-Jabbar plays with a point guard who revolutionized the game. First Oscar Robertson, then Magic, now Penny. I like those odds. History has my back.
So there you go "$." The five-on-five of life. Let it play out in your mind and still tell me I'm wrong. Or better yet, admit that you may not have been right. What did you say again?
"I got no chance of losing. None at all."
Instead of begging to differ, I'll just say this: When my team wins, don't forget to shake their hands before you scream, "Run it back! Double or nothing!"