Remember playing NBA Jam as a kid in the arcade? Remember how the net would catch on fire if you made three or more shots in a row? Real NBA players may never be able to light a net on fire, dunk from half court, or shoot 3-point bombs while they do a flip in the air, but more than ever before, the skill set of modern players today resembles NBA Jam more and more each day. Accumulated knowledge that builds on the basketball IQ of players from yesteryear, empowers players today to jump higher, dribble with more creativity, and shoot better than ever before.
All of this makes watching basketball on television look like you are watching basketball on NBA Jam. The NBA world has never seen a player like LeBron James who is a combination of Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. LeBron’s physique is literally the type of physique that you would create if you were able to build your own fictional player.
Or take for example, Russell Westbrook. Gone are the days of John Stockton who was a pass first point guard that played his entire career under the rim. Westbrook represents a new breed of point guards that have rockets on their feet and therefore play above the rim and not below it. Never before has a point guard looked like he had a personal vendetta with the rim. NBA fans have never seen a Kevin Durant type either who is a 7-footer that plays like a shooting guard with his fade-away 3-pointers and his ability to penetrate into the paint like a point guard.
The game of basketball is evolving as basketball players evolve. And that’s a good thing. That’s what makes watching basketball so fun. The following list of players are doing things that are out of this world and seemingly impossible for even other NBA players to do.
*All stats are from ESPN.com and are correct as of March 17th.
14 Rudy Gobert – Utah Jazz
Since trading away Enes Kanter and putting Rudy Gobert in the starting line-up, the Utah Jazz are 12-3. They are the hottest team in the NBA and it is all because they have inserted their 22-year-old shot blocking center to man the middle. Gobert is 7-1 and has the longest wingspan and hands in the NBA. He looks like Stretch Armstrong when you watch him play and his ability to erase shots near the rim make him superhuman. It goes with out saying that he would've been a great partner to a smaller scorer in NBA Jam.
13 Kyle Korver – Atlanta Hawks
Korver may be the first player in NBA history to average 50-50-90. That is a 50% field goal average, 50% three-point average, and 90% from the free-throw line. Korver is one of the deadliest shooters in the league and can take over a game with his sharp shooting. Who wouldn’t want to be Korver in a video game with his ability to shoot from anywhere on the court. Korver would be one of those guys that could light the net on fire. multiple times within a game.
12 Giannis Antetokounmpo – Milwuakee Bucks
The Greek Freak is just that, a freak of nature. Giannis is only averaging 12.3 points per game, 2.5 assists per game, and 6.6 rebounds per game this season, but those averages are escalating each and every game as he learns the in’s and out’s of the game. But most of all, Giannis has great length and size, which is something you cannot teach. His ability to finish at the rim on offense and block shots on defense makes him one of the best two-way players in the league.
11 Hassan Whiteside – Miami Heat
Whiteside is probably the pick-up of the year this NBA season. He was playing in China and Lebanon before getting picked up by the desperate Miami Heat. And he has made it known loud and clear that he belongs. Whiteside recorded his first career triple-double with 14 points, 13 rebounds, and 12 blocks. A few games later, he recorded 24 points and 20 rebounds. Whiteside cleans up the glass like he is the only one in the paint rebounding, which makes him a stat stuffer like most players in video games.
10 Zach LaVine – Minnesota Timberwolves
LaVine showed what he could do during the Dunk Contest and it was jaw dropping. His effortless dunks made him look like he could literally fly. LaVine is still raw when it comes to manning the point guard position, but his skillset is undeniable. LaVine’s jumper is quickly improving because he can elevate over anyone, which enables him to get his shot off at any time and in any circumstance. But more importantly, it is his ability to finish at the rim that makes him out of this world.
9 Blake Griffin – Los Angeles Clippers
Griffin doesn’t want to be solely known as a dunker anymore, so you will find him drifting off into the perimeter from time-to-time. But his bread and butter is still at the rim finishing in the paint. Griffin continues to dazzle NBA fans with his ability to not only dunk, but to dunk on people. He is one of the biggest threats for embarrassing defenders by posterizing them. Imagine being able to use him in the original NBA Jam? Anytime you'd be near the paint he'd be able to leap up for an incredible dunk.
8 Klay Thompson – Golden State Warriors
Klay exploded for 52 points on January 23rd, which also included 37 points in the third quarter alone. Was there anything this season that resembled more of a video game than what Thompson did to the Kings during that quarter? Thompson literally didn’t miss a shot during that third quarter and there was even a video made of that quarter in the style of the original NBA Jam. If the net could catch on fire, it would have gone up in smoke and disintegrated that game.
7 DeAndre Jordan – Los Angeles Clippers
The NBA world has never seen a DeAndre Jordan who is shooting over 70% from the field and finishing nearly everything within 10 feet from the rim. This season, he is averaging 11.3 points per game, 14.7 rebounds per game, and 2.2 blocks per game. Players who average double doubles are rare and it makes Jordan's unique talent even more evident. When Jordan dunks the ball, it looks like he is playing on a Nerf hoop in his bedroom. He is one of the most athletic big men in the game today.
6 Anthony Davis – New Orleans Hornets
AD is still only 22-years-old and he has already become an MVP candidate. This season, Davis is averaging 24.7 points per game, 10.4 rebounds per game, and 2.9 blocks per game. Remember the last entry, where we said that players who average double doubles are rare and precious commodities? There is really nothing that Davis cannot do on the floor. He runs like a guard and blocks shots like a center. He has virtually no weaknesses and his strengths are only becoming stronger and stronger every game.
5 Damian Lillard – Portland Trailblazers
There is nothing more fun than bombing three’s and dunking on people in a video game. What makes Damian Lillard so awesome is that he can do both. Lillard has already established himself as one of the most clutch players in the NBA. Just check his highlight reel from last season's postseason. In fact, there have been some games where he not only won a game with a three-pointer, but he won a game with a dunk. He is already one of the deadliest players in the league.
4 LeBron James – Cleveland Cavaliers
Like everyone else, we fail to appreciate just how great LeBron truly is. LeBron is virtually perfect. He is one of the few players in the NBA that can legitimately guard every position on the floor and play every position on the floor. Even at 6-9, he is still one of the fastest and most explosive players in the game. This season, LeBron may not look like what he used to, which is normal as he creeps over the age of 30, but make no mistake, he is still the best player in the game.
3 Russell Westbrook – Oklahoma City Thunder
Is there any player in the NBA that plays with as much anger and passion as Russell Westbrook in the NBA today? To give you an idea of just how special and freakish Westbrook is, he got four straight triple-doubles in a row and then he got two more four games later. Those are video game worthy stats and not just regular video game stats, we're talking about 'the game being on easy mode' stats. Westbrook has clearly demonstrated that he is capable of being a number one option on a team.
2 James Harden – Houston Rockets
Some think that Harden is a little bit ugly to watch because he shoots too many free throws, but that is because the only thing that can really stop Harden are fouls. But if you try to play Harden one-on-one, he will leave you on an island with his sick handles and his elongated Euro-Step. Harden has one of the best step back three-point shots in the league, which resembles a video game the way he effortlessly flicks his wrist. On top of that, his lack of defensive ability (which has changed recently) resembles our feelings about playing video games. No one wants to defend, we only want to hit threes and try alley-oops!
1 Kyrie Irving – Cleveland Cavaliers
Fresh off of a 57 point game against Tony Parker and the San Antonio Spurs, which was the NBA’s season highest scoring mark, Irving let the country know that he is one of the most dynamic point guards in the league. During that game he was 7-7 from downtown and 10-10 from the free throw line. But more importantly, he was absolutely clutch, which you want in any video game player. If you're using the Cavs in an online game of NBA 2k15, you want to give Kyrie the ball and let him chuck it up.
1. Stephen Curry - Golden State Warriors
Curry makes three-point shots like they are lay-ups, and they are not only three-point shots right near the line, but from virtually anywhere on the floor. His ability to shoot off the dribble is just astounding. But what may be the most underrated part of Curry’s game are his ball handling abilities. When Curry dribbles the ball, it is like watching an old school And-1 tape. He makes the game look simplistic and easy, like you really are watching a video game when you watch him play.