In honor of it being Video Games Day, I wanted to take a quick moment to talk about something that has bothered me for some time: The lack of good memories I have with any Washington basketball team in the best basketball video game during my formative years.
It’s bad enough the Wizards’ all-time team in NBA 2K18 is woefully lacking, but the issues with Washington having good virtual basketball team have been an issue ever since video games started including real-life players. The first few games with real rosters (Tecmo NBA Basketball, NBA Showdown) featured Washington at arguably their lowest point as a franchise. No one was firing up their NES or Sega so they could run post-ups for Pervis Ellison.
Things got much worse with the introduction of NBA Jam, a true game-changer for fans of sports video games. It made games much more accessible for the casual fan who didn’t know how to run a five-man offense, and it evened the playing field because you only needed two good players to be competitive, instead of five.
Almost every team could cobble together a pair solid players who could give even the best combos a good run, but not the Bullets. In the original version of NBA Jam, Washington has Tom Gugliotta and Harvey Grant, which ranked 26th out of 27 teams in a ranking by Deadspin.
Not only are Gugliotta and Grant one of the least talented combos in the game, but what few skills they had overlapped each other. They were both combo forwards who lacked athleticism and playmaking ability, which are critical in a game like NBA Jam. So not only were they not good, they weren’t even fun. At least Blue Edwards could throw down some cool dunks for the Bucks.
Things got slightly better in NBA Jam: Tournament Edition, when Chris Webber was included on the team, but even then you didn’t get to pair him with Juwan Howard or any kind of a decent playmaker who could get the best out of Webber’s talents. It winds up being more a cruel tease than anything else.
Even when EA Sports decided to reboot NBA Jam several years back for newer consoles, it was still disappointing for Wizards fans. Yes, you get John Wall, but you can only pair him with dreck from the start of Washington’s rebuild like Yi Jianlian, Andray Blatche, and the bearded ghost of Gilbert Arenas.
The Wizards’ struggles in NBA Jam are just one of many examples of how the team failed to connect with a generation of fans as the NBA was starting to explode in popularity during the 90’s. Though the team has done a good job in recent years of making up for lost time, I’ll never get those hours back that I spent trying to take down Charles Barkley and Dan Majerle with Googs and Grant.