Over on the Cube's Facebook page, I asked people what topic they'd like me to talk about next. My brother jokingly suggested I talk about the NBA, since I've been playing NBA 2K11 a lot recently and any basketball fan in the world should play it and try that "MJ: Creating a Legend" mode where you control rookie Jordan. Rocky suggested that I do a JLA/Avengers dream team. It's hard to create such a dream team without any restrictions, so when I asked for restrictions, he said I should tie it in with my brother's NBA suggestion and create an analogue to the 1992 Dream Team, the only true Dream Team in history. In other words, I have to create a team from the JLA and the Avengers that could stand up to any foe, and I had to use these guys as a template for the membership:
And I thought this sounded fun. As a rule, I know the Dream Team is all men, but for any women reading the Cube right now, I had to put in at least one woman. I also had to use characters who had been members of the JLA and the Avengers in the past. So no Silver Surfers, for example. In other words, if they're not in this big cover by George Perez, I can't use them.
So let's get started.
IRON MAN as ISIAH THOMAS
I know what you're thinking. "Isiah Thomas? He wasn't on the Dream Team." That's right; he wasn't. Isiah Thomas was a great leader, a great shooter, and a dirty defender, never afraid to get more physical despite the fact that he was very undersized. He was also an unlikable character, and if you believe the stories, at least two members of the Dream Team went out of their way to ensure that he wouldn't make it in.
There are only two characters from DC or Marvel whom a higher-ranking member would actually ask to be kept off the team, and who are both great long-range attackers, defenders, and leaders. One of them is Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern, who spent some time possessed by a yellow fear demon, and the other one is Iron Man, who just has a history of dickery. I don't think isiah Thomas was ever possessed by a yellow fear demon, so Tony Stark gets the unfortunate recognition as the big intentional omission.
(I realize that this makes it about the third article where I seem to be writing off Green Lantern, but he really does always get to be the guy who almost always makes a list and just doesn't. Seriously, no agenda there. I love the Lanterns.)
CAPTAIN AMERICA as MAGIC JOHNSON
Magic Johnson is the greatest point guard in the history of the NBA. Put it simply: that means he is the game's greatest tactician. He can surmise where everyone is at any given time, set the pace for his team, and set up attacks better than anyone ever could before or since. The only character in the history of both DC and Marvel who can fit that job description is Captain America, who as a soldier in World War II got all the tactical training he'd ever need. In fact, in the JLA/AVENGERS crossover, Captain America was almost unanimously elected to lead the two teams into the final battle. The one vote against him? His own.
Captain America would also have been a good pick for Michael Jordan, the NBA's greatest athlete and player, but no one else could have been Magic Johnson, and there's another suitable candidate for Jordan. In 1992, Michael Jordan deferred to Magic Johnson. I don't see Captain America deferring to anyone, ever.
SUPERMAN as DAVID ROBINSON
David Robinson, "The Admiral," was the backup center for this team, meaning they didn't use him as much as maybe they should have. He was also the strongest center for his time (before Shaquille O'Neal showed up) and one of the most athletic (Hakeem Olajuwon was the other one, but he was Nigerian and therefore was not a member of the Dream Team), making him very versatile for his position. That kind of combination can only be filled out by the Man of Steel, who, aside from being the strongest character on either team, also has an array of other superpowers that he could use in the unlikely event that he runs into someone who's even stronger.
Being the backup center is even better: if there is any one member of this team I don't want to use unless I absolutely, totally have to, it's Superman.
David Robinson is also known as one of the nicest people to ever step foot on a basketball court, and that just supports the case for his being Superman that much more.
HAWKEYE as LARRY BIRD
Larry Bird is the greatest shooter, ever, in the history of the NBA. He also works well in the low post and can scrap physically if he had to.
Clint Barton, Hawkeye, is the greatest shooter, ever, in the history of the Avengers. And if we put him up against the greatest shooter, ever, in the history of the Justice League, Hawkeye's been trained by Captain America in hand-to-hand fighting, while Green Arrow is an unbearable windbag.
Of all the people I had to pick, this was the easiest choice.
THE MIGHTY THOR as PATRICK EWING
Patrick Ewing, like David Robinson, is strong and versatile, though not as much as the Admiral. He is, however, more experienced, more rugged, and generally tougher, willing to pick fights if he had to. The guy who fits that description is the Mighty Thor of the Avengers, and it does make sense to start off an attack with him with Captain America as the team's tactician, since the two are teammates of the highest caliber.
THE FLASH as JOHN STOCKTON
John Stockton had two tricks: he passes really, really well, setting up his teammates for better opportunities to attack, and he can also intercept the ball and swipe at it with lightning quickness, which is how he became the NBA's all-time leader in assists and steals.
To be able to set up teammates for attacks, you have to be able to survey the situation immediately in the span of a microsecond. To be able to anticipate what the enemies are going to do next, you need lighting quickness and sharp reflexes.
Given that criteria, John Stockton can only be the Flash. We'll make it Wally West just because I like him better than Barry Allen, and because he works much better with my next pick.
SHE-HULK as KARL MALONE
Karl Malone was the backup power forward, whose entire game was based around just that: power. He and John Stockton were one of the greatest duos in history.
I originally had Wonder Woman on here, because she is Wonder Woman, but ultimately I went with She-Hulk. Because although She-Hulk and Wally West have never interacted, to the best of my knowledge, can you imagine the dialogue between these two when they're working together? I would pay to read that. That would be so fun. Get Dan Slott on that crossover, tooto pronto.
THE HUNTRESS as CHRIS MULLIN
Chris Mullin is a guy whose membership in the Dream Team was questionable at best. He was often compared to Larry Bird, but in the NBA, he had an attitude problem and was just not as good.
The Huntress is a character whose JLA membership is solely due to her connections, specifically because she has an attitude problem and is not as good as Hawkeye.
For anyone complaining that this team has more DC characters than Marvel characters, keep in mind that this is one of the selections.
CAPTAIN MARVEL as CHRISTIAN LAETTNER
Christian Laettner, a center, played backup to David Robinson and Patrick Ewing. Thus, whoever took this spot has to play backup to Thor and Superman. Captain Marvel's power set fits that bill.
More importantly, Christian Laettner was the best college basketball player of his time, and then went on to the NBA where he pretty much fumbled into mediocrity. Doesn't that sound a lot like being the most successful comic book character ever, then being bought by DC Comics, who then proceeded to pound you into mediocrity?
Again, for anyone complaining about this team having more DC than Marvel characters, keep in mind that this was one of the selections.
THE MARTIAN MANHUNTER as SCOTTIE PIPPEN
Scottie Pippen is the greatest all-around player in the history of basketball. He could play every position on the court and is also, in the entire dream team, the second-best tactician next to Magic Johnson. He had no weaknesses to his game, and even if he wasn't the best at any one particular thing, he was the best at having all of the necessary things put together in one package.
J'onn J'onnz is the most versatile member of either the JLA or the Avengers, able to do — well, anything. He's also got an incredible tactical mind, and even Batman defers to him when it comes to planning.
When you want to replace anyone on the basketball court, you can look to Scottie Pippen. When you want to replace anyone in the JLA or the Avengers, you can look to the Martian Manhunter.
As an aside, does anyone else feel that the Martian Manhunter was created by a five-year-old? "Um, um, he can fly, he's really strong, he can do everything that Superman can, he can change shape, he can read minds, and um, he's scared of fire."
THE THING as CHARLES BARKLEY
Charles Barkley was the starting power forward for the Dream Team, so anyone who represented him on the JLA/Avengers dream team would have to be strong as well. But let's not kid ourselves: the true value of Charles Barkley is not in his style of play, but in his personality. Charles Barkley is hot-tempered, entertaining, takes no gruff from anyone, and is funny as all hell.
Given all that, the only character who could be Charles Barkley is Ben Grimm, the ever-lovin' blue-eyed Thing.
NIGHTWING as CLYDE DREXLER
Clyde Drexler was the Dream Team's backup shooting guard, meaning he would come in to replace Michael Jordan. Drexler could do everything Jordan could do; he just wasn't as driven, and by all accounts, he was a nicer guy off the court than Michael was. But he was an excellent sharpshooter, he could lead, and he was almost always the man on his team.
Nightwing fits that bill perfectly, being the man on the Teen Titans and coming into the JLA to replace Batman only when he's sorely needed.
BATMAN as MICHAEL JORDAN
Were you expecting anyone else? Michael Jordan is the greatest and most dominant player in the history of basketball. More than his training and conditioning, he and his teammates credit his mental toughness and his will to win. For Michael Jordan, basketball was life, and everything else was secondary. The only thing more important was winning.
Although you could make the case for Captain America as the better athlete and fighter, we (1) need Captain America to be Magic Johnson, and (2) need to recognize that Batman is just so much more driven than Cap is, more obsessed, and takes it harder on himself whenever he even comes close to losing.
How could this have been anyone else?
There it is. The NBA/JLA Avengers Dream Team! Thoughts? Agree? Disagree? Let me know!