By: Nick Gibson and Sam Meyerkopf / @euro_adventures
With the Euroleague and EA Sports (finally) figuring out a way to squeeze our favorite European ballers into the virtual world in NBA Jam: On Fire Edition, it begged the question: which Euro duo would you take into battle if given a choice? With EuroBasket less than 24 hours away, we scrambled for answers. Here’s what we came up with.
1. Ricky Rubio and Serge Ibaka, Spain
I’ve never been too keen on tossing these pass happy point guards into basketball’s arcade fire. Give me Richard Jefferson and Kenyon Martin on those Nets teams of the 2000s and leave Jason Kidd on the bench. Let Ginobili get bcukets along with Timmy Duncan as Tony Parker cheers next to Popovich. But each rule comes with an exception, none more enticing than Ricky weaving in and out of traffic before lofting it up toward the rim as Ibaka hurls himself skyward from the three point line.
The first alley goes to Llull, but scroll to :46 to see Ricky throw one up for Serge.
Expect 2 points and 29 assists from Rubio if Spain scores 50, and a healthy dose of steals and shoves to go with some vintage Ibaka Blocka Flamery on defense. Navarro, Fernandez, Gasol, even Calderon all might produce more wins for España, but this is EuroBasket Jam, where wins and losses are the ugly stepchildren of slams and swats.
Tim Kitzrow Call: Boomshak-Ibaka!
2. Luol Deng and Joel Freeland, Great Britain
A tattooed bruiser and some dude born in the Sudan. This ain’t your daddy’s Great Britain squad, but they’ll make you say Uncle. With enough handles to bring it up the floor, Luol comes equipped with basically everything you need in a Jam player. He’s fast enough to blow by you, strong enough to knock you on your ass and has a set of eyes that could scare the Devil back to Hell. The tea to his crumpets, Joel Freeland acts as the requisite big guarding the rim and boasts a nice enough touch to put it home on those regrettable possessions that end in weak little floaters or hook shots.
Tim Kitzrow Call: Frankly my dear, I don’t give a Deng!
3. Goran Dragic and Mirza Begic
So. Mirza’s not exactly a highflyer. Your point is? You know we’ve all experimented with Yao Ming or Shaq on either Jam or the old school NBA Streets (pick a volume, any volume), and the results weren’t all that bad. Shooting over them is like trying to throw a banana past an orangutan in a cherry picker, and they discover hops once they’re compressed into the 2-D world, making them infuriating to defend. Add all of that to one of the most exciting young guards in the universe and you’ve got yourself a doozy.
4. Andrey Vorontsevich and Timofey Mozgov
Even with Ponkrashov whipping the rock around up top and Kirilenko doing whatever he wants, wherever he wants in international competition, I just couldn’t find it in my heart to leave either one of these rim crushers on the bench. Drey to Timmy, Timmy to Drey. How would you like your poster? Rare? Highlights will be anything but. Timofey might be the closest thing this tournament has to a real-life NBA Jammer, with Ibaka as the only alternative. And for those of you unfamiliar with Vorontsevich, just give it a game or two.
Tim Kitzrow Call: Duck for cover! The Mozgov Cocktail is on fire!
5. Nicolas Batum and Joakim Noah
If Rodrigue Beaubois were making the trip to Lithuania, Vincent Collet’s EuroBasket Jam duo would headline this bunch. But as it stands, Nicolas Batum isn’t a big enough downgrade in the cool department to warrant France’s exclusion. Sluc Nancy’s newest toy is more of a creator than a Portland game might suggest, and there really isn’t much he can’t do with the ball in his hands from a video game standpoint. Joakim Noah fits the mold of the dunk-ready, block-minded center that you want to see in the virtual world, and his hair probably looks even cooler once you unlock Big Head Mode.
Tim Kitzrow Call: Oh Noah he didn’t!
1. Andrei Kirlienko and Timofey Mozgov, Russia
You’re not scoring. Hell, you’ll be lucky if the ball nicks the rim. You’ll start shooting half court prayers just because every shot you’ve put up inside the arc has been beaten down like a mosquito. And need I remind you what the Mozgov Cocktail can do in real life?
If Timofey catches a pass anywhere inside the half court line, look out: he’s going up for a two-handed face fister. The backboard is shattered, and you’ll be running for the stands next time Timofey comes down the lane.
2. Marty Pocius and Jonas Valancinius, Lithuania
I’m just giddy over this Jam pairing. Marty is reckless going to the basket and isn’t afraid to put it down over anyone and Jonas is going to be an absolute monster around the rim. Jonas will be cleaning up so many mid-air passes from Marty that the opponent won’t know who to cover when they both launch toward the basket. On D it won’t matter if you get by Jonas, because those long arms will be following you, and don’t forget, Marty might end up being the best shove artist in the game; nobody will want to cross half court.
3. Rudy Fernandez and Pau Gasol, Spain
Alley-oops, three pointers, big blocks, and vicious slams; that’s what Jam is all about. While Rudy will be running the perimeter spot for this squad, his job will be to spot up for trey bombs, glide by you for some of the most acrobatic slams in the game, or just toss it up to Pau. On the other hand, Pau is my clean up man and shot blocker. Either way, no one will be able to keep up.
Did Emir just throw 12 alley-oops in a row to Ersan? Yes, yes he did. This two-man tandem will wait for you to miss your shot and then it’s off to the races. Defense isn’t their strength, but it better be yours. Both can light it up from deep or put down some face mashers with ease. Play off them and you’ll get a three in your grill or an open passing lane. Play up on them and they’ll race by you. Doesn’t matter who has the ball, they’re deadly from everywhere.
5. Milos Teodosic and Nemanja Bjelica, Serbia
Finally, Nemanja gets his shot at fame. Long, lanky, and willing to hustle everywhere, he’ll make a great sidekick for Milos. Just don’t stop running, Nemanja. Block on one end, alley-oop on the other, steal at half court, dish to Milos for an open trey in the corner. In halfcourt sets, Milos will be surveying things from the top of they key, waiting for Nemanja to take to the air for the finish, and when his man backs off he’ll light him up with a three or casually cross him up before the finger roll. This isn’t the first combo that comes up when putting together a Jam team, but they just might prove to be the most fun.