NBA 2K11: How a Michael Jordan Lakers team would fare with Boston, Miami; 95-96 Bulls superior to current Lakers
Lakers forward Ron Artest says he can't wait to buy NBA 2K11 because it features his rap single "Champion." Lakers forward Kobe Bryant says in an ad he can't wait to buy the newly released video game so he can add Michael Jordan to his team. And I couldn't wait to play it either so I could see how such a scenario would turn out.
NBA players, Bryant among them, like the video game because of its realistic game play and graphics.
You may be left scratching your heads about how on earth I maneuvered a trade involving Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic for Jordan from the '95-'96 Bulls team. It's like this: Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak somehow acquired Pau Gasol and a second-round pick from Memphis in 2008 for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Marc Gasol, Aaron McKie and two first-round picks. So don't consider this far-fetched, even if the Lakers prove unsuccessful in getting Vujacic off the books before this season's trading deadline and the move puts the team way over the luxury-tax threshold.
With M.J. and the Black Mamba side by side, I pitted the Lakers against the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat, the two Eastern Conference teams I thought had the best shot in meeting the Lakers in this season's NBA Finals. The results: The Lakers beat Boston rather handily, 103-85, but lost to Miami 105-99.
I also matched up the current Lakers team with the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls team that still holds the regular-season record for most wins (72), a feat this year's Lakers team, Heat team or any team won't surpass anytime soon. And the Bulls proved their dominance in that one, with M.J. dropping 56 points in a 114-106 victory over the Lakers.
Clearly things didn't turn out the way Bryant would've imagined in the ad below.
Below the jump, watch the highlights for yourself.
Game 1: Lakers' 103-85 victory over the Boston Celtics
Lakers' top performers: Bryant (36 points, 13-of-24 shooting), Jordan (29 points, 12-of-24 shooting)
Celtics' top performers: Kevin Garnett (15 points, seven-of-22 shooting)
What happened: Bryant and Jordan playing side by side brings an immediate thought: They will produce way too many SportsCenter highlights in a 48-minute game. The duo's insatiable work ethic would do wonders for a team's hunger and intensity in both practices and games. And there would likely be some friction over who gets to run the team.
Against Boston, the two formed a perfect combination, finding their own shots when they were open. With Jordan starting at shooting guard and Bryant at small forward, both worked in the post position with ease. (On a side note, the Lakers starting lineup featured Andrew Bynum at center, Pau Gasol at power forward, Bryant at small forward, Jordan at shooting guard and Shannon Brown at point guard. Derek Fisher has strong feelings about starting. But Lakers Coach Phil Jackson thought Fisher and Lamar Odom would provide valuable leadership for the second unit.
It truly gave the Celtics fits as they were outscored 26-18 in the third quarter and 36-15 in the fourth quarter. Boston's frustration went beyond Bryant and Jordan. The Lakers' defensive intensity proved too much, as Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen set a 17-of-46 clip (36.9%).
Game 2: Lakers' 105-99 loss to the Miami Heat.
Lakers' top performers: Bryant (31 points on 12-of-23 shooting), Gasol (26 points on nine-of-18 shooting and 24 rebounds), Jordan (24 points on 10-of-24 shooting).
Heat's top performers: Bosh (34 points, 14 rebounds), James (26 points on nine-of-24 shooting), Wade (18 points on six-of-18 shooting)
How it happened: The game featured multiple lead changes, multiple dunks and multiple momentum shifts that really could have gone either way. But the game became more lopsided in the end for three reasons. Miami led 89-79 with 7:14 left in the game after going on a 13-0 run. Jackson waited to insert Bryant, Jordan and Fisher in the lineup until the 2:43 mark, with the Lakers trailing, 98-88. And though Jordan's baseline jumper, Bryant's three-pointer at the top of the key and Bryant's mid-range jumper cut the lead to 100-96 with 55 seconds remaining, the team misfired afterward on numerous opportunities.
Gasol grabbed the rebound off Wade's missed three-pointer on the next possession and threw an outlet pass to Fisher. He found Bryant open on the near-side perimeter, but his three-point attempt hit off the front rim. Jordan then attempted an open baseline jumper, but that shot hit off the back iron. With the Lakers trailing 102-96 with 14 seconds left, Bryant's trey from the top of the key went off the rim. The last few plays didn't feature Bryant and Jordan hogging the ball and fighting over who would be the hero, however. It actually showcased two superstar players not afraid to take the open shot. Unfortunately for the Lakers, the ones that seemed automatic for them most of the game fell short in the final minutes.
Game 3: Lakers' 114-106 loss to the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls.
Lakers' top performers: Bryant (35 points on 15-of-29 shooting), Gasol (26 points on 12-of-22 shooting and 13 rebounds.
Bulls' top performers: Jordan (56 points on 27-of-36 shooting), Pippen (33 points on 13-of-28 shooting).
How it happened: For the last two seasons, some in the media and the team itself wondered if the Lakers were capable of surpassing the Bulls' 72-win mark they set during the 1995-96 season. But the Lakers fell short in reaching that mark, finishing 65-17 in the 2008-09 regular season and 57-25 in the 2009-10 regular season. It proved several things, including: The Lakers don't exactly share the same personality as the Chicago Bulls. Jordan's demand for winning universally trickled down to the rest of his team, while Bryant's demand for winning only partially trickles down. It also proved that milestone a false barometer anyway because the Lakers weren't equipped to reach it, and they won an NBA championship anyway. When it comes this year's Lakers team, owner Jerry Buss boasts it may be his best team yet. But they're still not good enough to surpass the 95-96 Bulls.
The answer: Jordan. He dropped 56 points because of his brilliant shooting and quickness toward the basket, and possibly because Jackson (of the Lakers) may have zinged him for getting favorable treatment from officials. Then again, that probably wouldn't have happened considering 11-ring Jackson wouldn't have dared to criticize Jordan, and three-ring Jackson likely would have said something back.
The Lakers weren't completely out of it. They did hold an 88-87 lead with 9:53 left in the game, Bryant held his own against Jordan, scoring 35 points and a few highlight reels at Jordan's expense, and some of Gasol's 26 points came on late-game putbacks. But Jordan scored at will and rarely missed.
-- Mark Medina
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