It’s been quite a while since a new arcade-style basketball game was released for home consoles and it’s a niche that Saber Interactive’s is hoping to fill with NBA Playgrounds, a 2-on-2 playground basketball game reminiscent of old-school games like NBA Jam and NBA Street. It seems to have the full support of the NBA since the game will include a roster of current and historic NBA superstars. You’ll be able to sink threes with MVP Steph Curry, rack up a triple-double with Russell Westbrook and slam dunk with Lebron James. Each of the 30 NBA teams has at least three active players, plus retired NBA legends such as Shaq, Magic Johnson, and Wilt Chamberlain. The roster is no doubt impressive and Saber aims to add hundreds more in post-release updates, but being huge fans of basketball here at Goomba Stomp, we couldn’t help but notice a few crucial players missing on the initial roster. It’s safe to assume that players like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant will eventually be added into the game if not already included as an unlockable player, however, our team here at GS can’t help but hope they include the following players in the near future.
In the sluggish transitional period between the genius of Jordan and the torrential beauty of the modern NBA’s offense, there was an entirely different era of basketball, the era of the mid-range jumper. While anathema to modern NBA ideals regarding offense, there were players in NBA history whose dependence upon the shot, especially in the defense-laden slug-fests of the early millennium, allowed their teams to compete. Richard “Rip” Hamilton was one of those players.
The Detroit Pistons leaned heavily upon Rip’s talents when they captured the title in 2004 and went to Conference Finals for six straight years, depending on every point he could muster to compete. The Man with the Mask scorched opponents in the mid-range, averaging around 18 points a game while carrying the offensive load on a Pistons roster laden with defense-oriented players like Ben Wallace.
While perhaps not as relevant in the modern NBA, Rip’s focus on the midrange jumpshot would make for an interesting addition to NBA Playgrounds. Rip’s famous game, along with his even-more-famous facemask, would add variety to a game sure to be dominated by 3s and dunks. While he may lack the name recognition of Iverson or Shaq, Rip Hamilton is more than deserving of a roster spot in a game attempting to bridge the gap between generations of basketball greatness. (Izsak Barnette)
One can help but think that given NBA Playgrounds features 360 different types of dunks for players to perform, Saber Interactives must have plans to eventually include the Godfather of the modern dunk, Julius Erving in the game. While Connie Hawkins, “Jumping” Johnny Green, Elgin Baylor, Jim Pollard and Gus Johnson performed spectacular dunks before Erving’s time, Dr. J brought the practice into the mainstream. The man was a highlight reel and he demonstrated that there can be great artistry in slamming the ball into the hoop.
His ability to perform spectacular dunks was, of course, a highlight of his resume but putting aside his powerful jams, what many people forget is that Julias Erving was a well-rounded player. Quick and athletic, Erving took to the court with a game that featured graceful spins, dramatic jump shots, nd fancy passing. He was efficient and deadly from all around the court and he led the league several times in rebounding and blocked shots. He became the veteran leader of the 1982-83 NBA champion Sixers after leading Philadelphia to the NBA Finals three other times and even at age 36, Erving still filled the box score in his final season. And yet what is so incredible and tragic about Dr. J’s career is that we don’t have footage of his prominent years since the first five years of his professional career were spent in the ABA which didn’t have the resources to document every game he played. One can’t help but wonder what it would have been like to see him in his prime, tearing apart the ABA before the league eventually shut down. One thing for sure, few athletes performed with the grace and style of Erving — and few athletes speak about the game of basketball as lovingly and poetically as he does. The man is a true icon and without a doubt, one of the all-time greatest. (Ricky D)
Over the past few decades, the game of basketball has transcended North America and become a worldwide sensation. Foreign talent from around the globe has populated the NBA and changed the way people view the game, and NBA Playgrounds’ current roster does a great job of showcasing that talent. Guys like Dirk Nowitzki, Kristaps Porzingis, and Goran Dragic are excellent foreign-born players, but I would love to see Sixers power forward Dario Saric added to the mix. Saric is an incredible talent. A 6’10’’, there aren’t too many players with the skill set Saric brings to a team. His court vision, elite passing ability, and complete offensive game make him the clear choice for 2017 Rookie of the Year. The guy can flat-out ball, but there’s also another reason I feel he deserves a spot in Playgrounds: his commitment to mastering the game.
Saric signed a long-term contract with the Turkish club Anadolu Efes in 2014, just days before being drafted 12th in the NBA Draft. While Saric played two seasons in Europe before coming to the U.S., he passed up a ton of cash on the final year of his deal to come play for the Sixers in 2016-17 purely to develop his game and build chemistry with his future teammates. Dario played out the 2016 season in Turkey, joined the Croatian national team in the Olympics, and then came to Philly to play his rookie season in the NBA without taking any breaks. He then played in all 82 games for the Sixers, even while battling injuries in meaningless games in April. That’s a ton of basketball! Dario is an excellent player who loves and works hard at the game. He represents the NBA’s growth worldwide and would be a great addition to NBA Playgrounds. (Tyler Kelbaugh)
I harbor a minor addiction to NBA Jam on the SNES, so I was already pulling out my wallet when I heard about the release of NBA Playgrounds. Being born and raised in Seattle, seeing a few Supersonics stars was a welcome sight, and Shawn Kemp was the first name that caught my eye. In a 2-on-2 basketball game like this one, I fully expected to see his dynamic partner—Gary Payton—there as well. It’s a wonder that he was left out and I would’ve loved to recreate their explosive offensive pairing in the comfort of my own living room. Payton’s brash personality is perfect for NBA Playgrounds. With players jumping at least 20 feet in the air before slamming it home over a defender, the game almost begs for some trash talk among competitors onscreen as well as off. On the defensive end, I’m hoping Playgrounds will be just as demanding. Payton was the older generation’s Kawhi Leonard, a two-way player that could generate offensive numbers on top of locking down the opposing team’s offense. Swatting away an attempted dunk is just another way to assert your dominance on the court. It’s definitely appreciable that Saber Interactive included some old-school players alongside today’s superstars, but 2-on-2 is all about dynamic duos. To split up Kemp and Payton is almost sacrilege to the franchise that an entire city is begging to resurface. But seeing a Sonics jersey in action again is reason enough for me to pick up NBA Playgrounds, even if it’s just on a cartoon court. (Andrew Tabalbag)
Here’s the full roster of players included in the game:
Karl Anthony Towns
Mike Conley Jr.
Otto Porter Jr.
NBA Playgrounds launches May 9 for $19.99 on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One.