Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Looking Back to Move Forward

The Association begins its 2008-2009 season tonight, with headliners such as Kobe, Lebron, and the Boston Three Party being featured in the nationally televised games.  It's Commissioner David Stern's strategic placement of his superstars along the TV schedule that inspired this piece, and it has nothing to do with basketball reality...for the most part...

If you're around my age and older, you have seen how basketball video games have evolved over the years and systems.  From Arch Rivals to Double Dribble to Bulls vs. Blazers to NBA Jam to NBA Live/2k, the evolution of hoops and the Shoot button have been remarkable.  I'd like to focus on one of my all-time video game characters, regardless of genre.  That is Roster Player.

For those of you that don't know, Roster Player is the created character on the NBA Live series that replaced His Airness once his name became bigger than virtual reality.  Due to licensing issues—in other words, due to Jordan being Jordan—SG #62 took the place of Michael Jordan on the NBA Live series until the 2002 edition, when Jordan was a member of the Wizards (at small forward).  While Jordan may have legally removed his likeness and name from the game, millions of players believed that His Airness was so great that even video games couldn't contain his godlike abilities.  To me and others I knew, Roster Player further added to Jordan's legacy; to the point that my freshman intramurals team at Pitt was called the "Roster Players."

But I have a few questions.  First, let's examine the Association's two most dominant players: Kobe and Lebron.  Even with their superhuman talents, are they so superior to the rest of the basketball world that they can remove their likenesses from basketball games?  Would Kobe and Lebron even do something like that?  Would NBA Live and NBA 2k game sales drop because the two brightest stars would instead be Lakers SG #27 and Cavaliers SF #21?

To me, I don't think there will be any player that will earn the same reverence that Jordan had to the point that he will be above video games.  For that reason, Michael Jordan will have unrivaled respect in my basketball eyes.  The way he was so far ahead of time both on and off the court was impeccable.  And while Lebron seems to have the same mentality, the fact that he isn't the first to do it will be a hinderance to him when his legacy can be justly compared to Jordan's.

So when you watch the games tonight, nod your head in respect to Michael Jordan.  And give another head nod for Roster Player.  In fact, watch this for a nostalgic remeberance of His Airness.


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